After the terrible ordeal in the wilderness, when Satan’s temptations had failed to make Jesus sin, God’s Spirit led Jesus to Galilee. Here He began to preach and teach in the synagogue.
One day, as Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew. They were casting their nets into the sea. “Follow Me,” Jesus said to them, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Andrew had been one of John’s disciples when he preached near the Jordan river. He had heard John say that Jesus was the Lamb of God. He had followed Jesus to see where He lived and had spent the day with Him. Afterward, Andrew had taken his brother, Simon Peter, to meet Jesus. Simon also listened to the wonderful words of this new Friend and believed He was God’s Son. Now Andrew and Peter left their nets and followed Jesus. (John 1)
Later, when these men were walking with Jesus, they saw a man named Philip. Jesus said to Philip, “Follow Me.” Immediately, Philip joined the group and started listening to Jesus. He also decided that Jesus was the Messiah. He thought of his friend, Nathanael, and went to invite him to come and see Jesus.
“Come, Nathanael,” he called, “we have found Him of whom Moses . . . and also the prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Nathanael knew that Nazareth was a very wicked city. It was hard for him to think that the Messiah would come from there. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asked.
‘‘Come and see,” Philip replied.
When Nathanael heard Jesus speak, he also believed and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel.”
Another day Jesus was teaching near the seaside. As He walked by a small town, He saw Levi Matthew sitting at the gate, collecting taxes for the Romans. How the Jews hated these men who worked for the Romans! (Matthew 9:9)
Jesus spoke to Matthew. “Follow Me,” He said. Matthew immediately left his money and his work and followed Jesus. He even made a feast for Jesus at his home.
There were many who believed Jesus to be the Son of God. One day Jesus called 12 of these believers to help Him in a special way. Andrew, Peter and Matthew were among them. The others were James and John (the sons of Zebedee), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James (the son of Alpheus), Thaddaeus (also called Judas), Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot.
Jesus called these men His disciples, which means learners. It was to be a wonderful privilege to learn from Jesus how to teach and heal, to watch Him miraculously raise the dead and feed the hungry. It would later be an honor for them to share in some of the mistreatment and sufferings of Jesus.
Not everyone was willing to follow Jesus when He invited them. One day a rich young ruler came to Jesus with a question. “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked. (Mark 10:17)
Jesus told him to sell what he had and give to the poor. Then Jesus said, “And come, follow Me.” What a wonderful invitation that was: to be a true disciple, to live and work with Jesus wherever He went! But this man was not willing to give up his wealth. He sadly left Jesus and went back to his riches.
The disciples who followed Jesus were not perfect men. Some of them were proud, and some were selfish. Several of them joined the group be-cause they thought that Jesus would someday be the king of Israel, and they wanted to be His important helpers.
But being with Jesus changed these men. They saw His loving ways and kind actions. They noticed how unselfish He was and how He always thought of others first.
John was called “a son of thunder.” He was proud and anxious to get ahead of everyone else. He was quick to criticize others. Being with Jesus changed him into a beloved disciple, who was most like Jesus in his work. After Jesus was gone, John wrote a whole book telling of Jesus’ life and work on this earth without once mentioning his own name. He no longer wanted to be first.
Peter was quick-tempered, self-centered, and easily upset, but following Jesus changed him into a great preacher. He was persecuted, put in prison for his preaching, and finally crucified. But he never gave up his belief in Jesus.
Philip loved Jesus, but it was hard for him to believe that Jesus was truly the Son of God. As he worked with Jesus, he learned to believe. After Jesus was gone, Philip also became a wonderful preacher, leading hundreds to believe in Jesus as their Savior.
Everyone who loves Jesus today and follows His way of living can be a special helper just as the disciples were. By being kind and loving, we can bring other people to Jesus, and they can learn to love and serve Him also.
Some of the disciples wrote down the wonderful words that Jesus spoke. These writings have been saved, and you can find them in your Bible. Matthew, the tax collector, wrote the first book of the New Testament. Find the fourth chapter, verses 18-22 , and read about four of Jesus’ special helpers. (Matthew 18-22) In Matthew 9:9, Matthew tells how he was invited by Jesus to become a disciple. Peter wrote two books. Can you find them near the back of your Bible? Read the first words of each book. You will discover what he called himself.
Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19