Today’s story is Matthew 4:12-25.
Jesus walks in the footsteps of John the Baptist. Interestingly enough we do not hear of Jesus ever baptizing anyone. Obviously Baptism is not all that important to Jesus. He does continue John’s preaching but he runs away from Nazareth to Capernaum. That is exactly what his disciples will be doing once he is arrested and killed.
At the lake running into his first two disciples strange things happen: Why would they without the sign of a doubt forfeit their livelihood and give up their families? Jesus asks them to give up their jobs and not provide for their families anymore. That is not a preacher encouraging decent behavior – he’s a radical. Family values – none. Work ethic – none. Kingdom of heaven – everything!
And then the story sounds pretty much like the story of a pop star with groupies and everything. So Jesus continues John’s ministry just a whole lot more successful. All of a sudden something amazing happens: “Large crowds followed him from Galilee and the Ten Towns, from Jerusalem, Judea, and the land on the other side of the Jordan.” Jesus’ ministry gains traction not only in northern Israel but also the Judean south. Jesus reuniting the kingdom of Israel and Judah for the first time since King David.
Even more amazing is the fact that people from the Decapolis join him. Jesus ministers to non-Jews, pagans, heathens, Romans. Unthinkable in his day and age. John would not have approved. That is a radical message of inclusion: Those strangers, foreigners, enemies, people that look and speak different from us, God’s chosen people, they should be included in the kingdom of heaven, even with their views of sexuality? – YES!