Matthew 4:12-25: Only One Gospel
Read: Matthew 4:12-25
Matthew invokes Isaiah 9:1-2 as being fulfilled by Jesus’ itinerant preaching ministry. Jesus travels through the regions that were historically occupied by the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali and adds how Jesus will honor the “Way of the Sea”, the gentile Galilee, and beyond the Jordan – all places that Jesus had been. Matthew 4:25 lists the first century names of the places that the Isaiah prophecy lists. Jesus’ fame spread the more broadly he traveled and the people, both Jews and gentiles, came from all over to hear him preach and be healed of their infirmities.
Matthew notes that Jesus preaches the same gospel as John: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). This message is what Matthew also calls the “gospel of the kingdom” in verse 23. In a manner of speaking, this is showing that Jesus’ message and John were preaching about the same thing, which was about the coming Messiah. The main difference was that Jesus is the Messiah and John was his prophet. Interestingly, interspersed between summary statements about the message that Jesus was preaching is the calling of the first disciples. Here, Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James (John’s brother), and John to be his followers, and he declares that he will make them “fishers of men”. They too would become evangelists in the same manner as Jesus and John were. The fulfillment of this is seen in the book of Acts and even beyond Acts as the gospel has been carried to the ends of the earth.
The unity of the message that John and Jesus preached is also underscored by the message that Paul preached too. In Galatians 1:6-24, Paul says there is but one gospel, and Paul himself claims to have received this gospel by direct revelation from Jesus himself before he started to preach. He later came in contact with Peter and James (Jesus’ brother), two of the leaders in the church in Jerusalem. Paul preached this gospel for 14 years then went back to Jerusalem where Peter, James, and John all affirmed the gospel that Paul preached and appointed him as the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter and John were both present that day when Jesus called them from fishing and heard him preach the same gospel John did (Galatians 2:1-10).
The biggest difference between what John preached, what Jesus preached, and what the apostles went out and preached was tense: John was looking forward to the Messiah, Jesus is the Messiah, and the apostles were looking back Jesus. In all cases though, they were all looking forward to the second coming of Christ when Jesus will come in glory, as Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 9. He will be on David’s throne and will be given titles of honor and praise like “Prince of Peace” and “Wonderful Counselor”. Christians today are in the same boat as the apostles were, looking back to Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. If one is a Christian, then one is a “fisher of men” who is a gospel proclaimer sharing the same message that has been passed down through the ages and the future of hope eternal life. Christians thereby should be about the task of fishing for men so that even more can come to know the one gospel Jesus proclaimed and be saved!
Lord, make me a fisher of men!