Matthew 4:21-25 – Teaching, Preaching, and Healing

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, 21 November 2010


17. From then on, Jesus began to preach and to say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.”

18. And as He was walking around along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon (the one called Peter) and Andrew (his brother), throwing a cast-net into the sea, for they were fishermen.

19. And He says to them, “Be here behind me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

20. And immediately letting go of the nets, they followed Him.

21. Now, after He went on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the [son] of Zebedee and John his brother in the boat with Zebedee their father, putting away their nets, and He called them.

22. And immediately after the men left the boat and their father, they followed Him.

23. And He was leading [them] around the entirety of Galilee,

            teaching in their synagogues

            and preaching the good news of the kingdom

            and healing every illness and every infirmity among the people.

24. And the hearsay about Him went out into the entirety of Syria,
and they led to Him everyone who was bad-off, having various illnesses and being held fast by deep pain, and demonized, and insane, and paralyzed – and He healed them!

25. And many crowds followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and beyond the Jordan.

Context/Calling of James and John

21. Now, after He went on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the [son] of Zebedee and John his brother in the boat with Zebedee their father, putting away their nets, and He called them.

         James and John are mending/preparing their fishing nets. The Greek word has the preposition for “down” followed by a word for skilled (artisan) labor. Includes cleaning, mending tears, folding, and storing for the next use.

         Luke tells us that James and John were partners with Peter and Andrew in the fishing business and that they had also been in on the miraculous catch of fish. So all four fishermen were already friends, all saw the miracle together, and all the excitement was over and they were preparing their nets for the next time they would use them.

         Jesus already had met the sons of Zebedee, according to John 1. Jesus selected as followers those He had already built a relationship with and had some time to consider.

         Only after deepening relationships and observing them further will Jesus formalize the relationship by including them among His 12 disciples.

         Jesus was not random about relationships but intentional in building relationships and steering towards making disciples of those who were faithful, available, and teachable.

         We likewise need to be intentional about building relationships and noticing which ones are promising for discipleship. The #1 place to make disciples, of course is among the children God gives you!

         And one of the best contexts to learn how to do ministry is with your own family members! Jesus started with two sets of brothers. Preserving family relationships. Value of ministry with your siblings! Consider doing ministry projects together as a family or at least with one of your brothers or sisters. This was part of Jesus’ pattern for ministry.

22. And immediately after the men left the boat and their father, they followed Him.

         Mark 1:20 informs us that there were other hired hands that were in the boat with their dad, so the brother’s departure did not leave their father unable to continue the family business.

         In the Greek text, the word “immediately” is not next to the word “they followed,” but rather is next to the Aorist Participle, “leaving.” Now, an Aorist participle usually indicates something that happened before the main verb, which, in this case, is the following. This leads me to believe that the brothers’ took proper leave of their father and of their work duties first, but as soon as they were free of these responsibilities, they wasted no time in the priority of following Christ. Entering training for the ministry must not be a reckless, snap decision, but on the other hand, we mustn’t put God off, either.

         The word for “follow” here is derived from a Greek word for a road. Our American fascination with rock stars actually gives us some vocabulary that matches this Greek word in phrases such as “they hit the road with Him” or they became “roadies” in order to follow Jesus.

         And it was definitely a call to a life on the road, for Jesus was embarking with these four fishermen on His first of three tours throughout “all” of northern Israel and out to the surrounding countries around Israel too. v23. And He was leading [them] around the entirety of Galilee (He was going throughout/went about/making the circuit of Galilee)… [show on map]

Notice as they began this itinerant ministry the:

Three things Jesus Did (v.23)

1.      Teaching in their synagogues”

a.       This would be for Jews in their place of worship, sermons deepening their understanding of God’s word.

b.      Examples of teaching events during this time from ATR’s Harmony of the Gospels:

                                                  i.      Jesus teaches with authority at the synagogue in Capernaum (Mk. 1:21-28/Lk. 4:31-37)

                                                ii.      Jesus taught in His own house in Capernaum, filling it with so many guests that the paralytic had to be lowered through the roof. (Mk. 2:1-2/Lk. 5:17)

                                              iii.      Jesus teaches beside sea of Galilee and calls Matthew/Levi to follow Him, then is hosted at Matthew’s house with other tax-collectors (Mark 2:13-17/Mt. 9:9-13/Lk 5:27-32)

                                              iv.      Jesus teaches John’s disciples on fasting and new wineskins (Mark 2:18-22, Mt. 9:14-17/Luke 5:33-39)

                                                v.      Jesus teaches about His relationship with God the Father while He’s on vacation in Jerusalem for Passover (John 5:1-47).

                                              vi.      Jesus returns to Galilee, disciples pick grain for a snack on Sabbath, and Jesus proclaims sovereignty over the Sabbath (Mk. 2:23-28/Mt. 12:1-8/Lk. 6:1-5)

c.       In-depth teaching of those who are God’s people is affirmed in Jesus’ ministry.

d.      If you have children, then the first people you should be looking for opportunities to teach are your own children! Deu 6:7  "You shall teach them [God’s laws] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up…”

e.       Let us keep our eyes open and seize every opportunity we have to teach when we’re at church, when we’re at home, when we are visiting other people’s homes, when we’re driving, and when we’re on vacation, like Jesus did!

Not only was Jesus teaching, he was also…

2.       “Preaching the good news of the kingdom”

a.       This “proclamation” or “heralding” of the Gospel would be out in public places rather than in the synagogues. This would be street-preaching where the gentiles could hear it.

b.      Unlike teaching, preaching implies little prior relationship with the audience. It is sowing the first seeds of the Gospel to new aquaintences.

c.       What did He preach? “Repent & believe for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near” (v17.)

                                                  i.      There is a good King who has drawn near to seek for citizens to join His kingdom

                                                ii.      We may join His kingdom by acknowledging His rules, turning away from rebellion against His rules, and trusting Him to save us from the punishment of violating His rules.

                                              iii.      This king offers lavish love and heavenly benefits that last forever to such people who will honor Him as their king!

                                              iv.      This is the “good news” of King Jesus.

d.      Preaching events during this time:

                                                  i.      Mat. 9:35 mentions that Jesus was preaching “in all the cities and villages,”

                                                ii.      but His preaching at this time is not described in detail in the Gospels; instead, we find an interesting twist: He focuses on getting other people to preach for Him!

                                              iii.      The leper that Jesus healed turned out to be a big-time preacher, telling so many people that Mark 1:45/Lk 5:15 report that every city in the area had crowds that knew about Jesus!

                                              iv.      Jesus spends the night in prayer and selects the 12 Apostles (Mk. 3:13-19/Lk 6:12-16). These are not to be merely followers/disciples, but “Apostles” representatives whom He can send out to preach His message.

e.       Jesus’ preaching, by the way was not haphazard or sporadic.

                                                  i.      V.23 says that Jesus was leading His disciples about the “whole/entirety/all of Galilee.”

                                                ii.      He systematically stopped at every town and village with these four fishermen, intentionally saturating every inch of His homeland.

                                              iii.      That took a lot of planning and perseverance.

                                              iv.      I wonder if we Christians today could pick up on Jesus’ example by systematically canvassing the neighborhoods of our town until every inch of our homeland was saturated with the Gospel?

                                                v.      Are there other ways that we could get the gospel out into the public square so that new people would hear it? My son and I have been dreaming of starting a Christian para-school for our neighborhood. I have also been dreaming with fellow pastors about building bridges into the LGBT community in Manhattan. And then, of course there’s the International Student community, as well as the military community, and people in Yemen and China and other countries around the world. Let’s chase the dreams God gives us and extend the Gospel into new areas!

                                              vi.      Are we also equipping our disciples (and our children) to multiply our ability to preach the Gospel? It is so exciting to see my children share their faith with other kids!

f.       In addition to scripture teaching in churches, Public proclamation of the gospel was modeled by Jesus. But He didn’t stop there; He included a 3rd element in His ministry:

3.      Healing every illness and every infirmity among the people.”

a.      There are a number of words for “sickness” in vs. 23&24 24:

                                                  i.      noson – v.23 illness/sickness/disease

                                                ii.      malakian – affliction/disease/sickness/lit. “softness” so I translated “infirmity.”

         ATR suggests first word had to do with chronic illness while the second had to do with occasional sickness

                                              iii.      In saying that Jesus healed every illness and every infirmity, I don’t believe Matthew means that Jesus healed every person in Galilee, the point is that there was nothing He couldn’t heal. He healed every kind of the “various illnesses” that were presented to Him. Jesus has the unlimited power of God to fix any problem.

                                              iv.      v.24 lists some of the illnesses and infirmities more specifically
kakan = “afflicted/sick/ill/lit. “bad”-off

                                                v.      being held fast by deep pain/taken/afflicted with torments/suffering – even the most painful and chronic illnesses were no problem for Jesus to heal

                                              vi.      demonized/demon-possessed – some (though not all) physical and mental-emotional problems are caused by the influence of unclean spirits.

1.      In these cases, simple medicine or surgery won’t do. A spiritual encounter is what is required to free the afflicted person from demonic influence and reclaim the ground that Satan took in that person’s life.

2.      Jesus has the authority to do this, and He gave His disciples that authority.

                                            vii.      – “those with epileptic seizures” (modern English translations), Greek word selhniazome¢nouV literally means “those influenced by the moon,” The latin root for moon is “luna” and so we get the KJV translation “lunatic.”

1.      Some question whether this is classic epilepsy where a person passes out with muscle spasms, or whether this is some more general word indicating not-very-well-understood problems that are sometimes better and sometimes worse – bipolar manic/depressant disorder, for instance.

2.      Once again, Jesus has the ability to heal even these things with no straightforward physical cure.

                                          viii.      paralytic – this is actually a transliteration of the Greek word paralutikouV. These are the kind of people we see nowadays in wheelchairs because they can’t move their legs – or sometimes their arms either.

b.      “and He healed them”! Physical torment, spiritual bondage, mental problems, muscle and nerve damage, Jesus healed them all! What amazing knowledge and power we find here in Jesus!!!

c.       Healing events during this time from ATR’s Harmony of the Gospels:

                                                  i.      Jesus casts out a demon at the synagogue in Capernaum (Mk 1:21-28/Lk 4:31-37)

                                                ii.      Jesus stays at Peter’s home, heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and heals many other sick and demonized people (Mk. 1:29-34/Mt. 8:14-17/Lk. 4:38-41).

                                              iii.      Jesus heals a leper (Mk. 1:40-45/Mt. 8:2-4/Lk. 5:12-16).

                                              iv.      Jesus returns to his house in Capernaum and heals the paralytic lowered through the roof (Mk. 2:1-12/Mt. 9:1-8/Lk. 5:17-26).

                                                v.      Jesus attends Passover in Jerusalem and heals a lame man (John 5:1-47).

                                              vi.      Jesus also heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Mk. 3:1-6/Mt. 12:9-14/Lk. 6:6-11).

d.      Healing was just as much a part of Jesus’ ministry as was Evangelism and Teaching!

e.       What does Jesus example of healing mean for us today as His followers?

                                                  i.      Does this mean that God wants us going around acting like TV preachers “be healed!”?? I don’t think so. But I do believe that God does want us to notice sickness and brokenness in people’s lives and in the systems of society around us and look to Jesus to bring healing to hurting people and communities.

                                                ii.      Does this mean that we can tell people that it is not God’s will for them to be sick and that true Christians never get sick? Once again, no. We must be careful not to deny the sovereignty of God in everything that happens, but we can always point people to our sovereign God by praying to God for healing and trusting Him through His painful processes of refining us.

                                              iii.      Can we just leave the healing business to the Pentecostals? No. We must maintain a balance between being all about healing and being not about healing at all. Christians who stop preaching and teaching and just focus on healing are not representing the kingdom of God in all its goodness. Likewise, we Reformed folk who just preach and teach are not representing the kingdom of God in its fullness. Both are dangerous extremes, and all-too-easy to fall into!

                                              iv.      As we encounter the brokenness that sin has brought into people’s lives, we need to seek God for how we can minister the good news of God to people through both word and deed. This requires discernment to understand the root cause of a problem, so the first thing we need to do is pray for wisdom.

                                                v.      Sometimes the problem is physical, so we can apply natural and supernatural means of healing. James 5 tells us to pray for people who are sick and seek healing from God in a supernatural way. However, at the same time, the prophets and apostles used medicines and therapies for healing as well, and if we don’t have the expertise to know how to treat the sickness right off hand, then it is good and right to call in the expertise of a physician, just as Paul consulted Dr. Luke in the Bible and told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach problems. I have seen God bring healing supernaturally after prayer ways as well as through natural means. Either way, we should be people who take delight in physical healing as we also share with words the good news that Jesus died for our sins.

                                              vi.      Demonic influence is another matter; no amount of physical treatment will alleviate this kind of problem because it is a spiritual problem. Dr. Charles Neville was a psychiatrist in the church in which I grew up, and he was convinced that some psychiatric problems are caused by demonic influence. This takes some discernment as well. We mustn’t go around attributing everything to Satan, because some of our crazy behavior really is the result of the absence or excess of certain hormones and trace minerals. However, when someone has been involved in things which give ground in a person’s life for demonic influence, such as unchecked anger and unforgiving bitterness (Eph 4:26), or involvement in occultic practices, they may need spiritual deliverance. I do not believe we need to look to complicated rituals for doing this; all we need is to pray and ask God to deliver them and teach them to repent and trust Jesus as a way of life.

                                            vii.      The need for healing in the mental and emotional realm may not be a result of physical or demonic problems, it may be a result of a wrong system of belief that creates chronic life problems. In this case, counseling is a crucial tool in the healer’s toolbox. And this is not just for whackos, everybody needs good council – it is a characteristic of making disciples, which Jesus has called us to do.

                                          viii.      There are other ways that we can address the world with the good news that Jesus heals, such as making laws that are in keeping with the Bible rather than opposed to it so that your community experiences God’s blessing rather than God’s curses. That’s why I ran for KS House this year.

                                              ix.      Creating Biblically-rooted culture that introduces righteousness, grace, beauty, and skill for our unbelieving neighbors to see brings healing into our communities too. I think that the Bethlehem Revisited walk-through nativity is a perfect example of this.

                                                x.      Finally, there are physical needs that we can address. When a tornado or an earthquake hits-whether in Chapman or in China, Christians should be on the scene to meet people in their physical brokenness, bringing the basic necessities of food and water and shelter. We can also do it in small ways, such as helping a friend with a financial need. This is part of healing in the big picture of ministering the good news of Christ in the world.

                                              xi.      As Christians, we should always have eyes for what could bring healing and good news to our communities as we preach the gospel in public and teach our disciples.

The fame of Christ spreads

24. And the fame/hearsay/news about Him spread/lit. went out into the entirety of Syria…

         Remember that Great Trunk Road that went through Capernaum and connected Israel with Damascus Syria to the North?

         Syria, in those days, also included Phoenicia - the land all the way West to the Mediterranean in what is now Lebanon.

25. And many crowds followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and beyond the Jordan.

         This is a huge following gained through Jesus’ healing and teaching and preaching ministry. Not just one crowd, but plural crowds were thronging Him.

         [Show these areas on Map] – this was not just ministry to Jews, but this was also Gentile country.

         The only area not mentioned by Matthew is Samaria – perhaps to keep from too quickly offending the Jewish audience to which He was writing (although we know from John’s gospel that Jesus had a following there too).


QUESTION: Do you want the fame of Christ to spread?

         Jesus told His disciples that He wanted them to be His witnesses to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

         Today, ¼ of the world has still never heard of the good news of Jesus. What are we doing about that?

         We are already doing a lot, so I’m not asking you to take a guilt trip and bury yourself in a frenzy of extraneous activity:

1.      I am asking you to sweep through your life again this Thanksgiving and notice if there are things you need to remove from your life that distract you from encountering a lost world through teaching, preaching, and healing.

2.      I am asking if there are ways that you could more consistently prioritize and uphold these things that Jesus did: teaching, preaching, and healing.

3.      and I am asking you to pray and ask that God would make you alert to these things, passionate about teaching, preaching, and healing, so that you may become skillful and fruitful in them to the glory of our great savior Jesus.