After John’s Arrest

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Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62: 6-14
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Mark 1:14-20

The call of the first disciples.

 It was after John’s arrest that Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, saying, “The time has come at last—the kingdom of God has arrived. You must change your hearts and minds and believe the good news.” As he walked along the shore of the Lake of Galilee, he saw two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, casting their nets into the water. “Come and follow me, and I will teach you to catch men!” he cried. At once they dropped their nets, and followed him. Then he went a little further along the shore and saw James the son of Zebedee, aboard a boat with his brother John, overhauling their nets. At once he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went off after himPhillips

Last week we read about the calling of the first disciples in GJohn. There we read that two followers of John the Baptist were the first to join Jesus. One of them, Andrew, went to bring his brother Simon to also follow Jesus. I suggested that the unnamed man with Andrew was likely John, who likely went to fetch his brother James. If that is the case, then all four Gospels record the same four men as the first followers of Jesus. I assume in Luke that Andrew joined Simon to haul in the huge catch of fish, though he was not named. Those four also made up the inner circle—the closest followers of Jesus.

When we read Matthew and Luke, we again find the same four names being called. Matthew’s version is the shortest at only 93 words in the Phillips translation. Luke’s version is longer, and he has Jesus teaching to the crowds before he calls anyone. Oddly, none of the Synoptics share details of the calling of the other eight disciples. GJohn does record, as we saw last week, Phillip and Nathanial joining the group.

Many people today, Christian, and non-Christian alike, find these different accounts to be another sign that Christianity is a false religion. As a professional historian, let me assure you that these four documents are reliable as historical records. Their actual disagreements are few and mostly explained by the simple fact that they were writing theology, not history. Luke alone seems to have been more concerned with getting the history right. Even so, he was more concerned with the Truth than mere facts.

If you read any of the numerous works of the First Century that claim to be historical records, you will quickly realize that you have to read between the lines and discount many statements. Bragging was the only way to write.

You may have noticed that only six disciples seem to have been called, yet there were twelve. In Mark 3:13-19, we read, Later he went up on to the hill-side and summoned the men whom he wanted, and they went up to him. He appointed a band of twelve to be his companions, whom he could send out to preach, with power to drive out evil spirits. These were the twelve he appointed: Peter (which was the new name he gave Simon), James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother (He gave them the name of Boanerges, which means the “Thunderers”.) Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Patriot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed himPhillips

Jesus had his ministry moving along before this final selection. We also find this list in Matthew 10 and Luke 6. John, writing years after the other three, sees no need to list the Twelve.

We also note that both Mark and Matthew specifically say that Jesus started his own ministry after the arrest of John.  Luke records Jesus teaching and healing before he calls the Twelve to become Apostles. It appears in Luke that Jesus invited many, perhaps a hundred or more, to follow him, but then chose the Apostles from among the large group. Not until Chapter 7 do we see John again. He is in prison and sends two of his disciples to make sure Jesus is the Promised One. While Luke does not state it, it seems likely that Jesus waited for the arrest to get to work.

Bottom line, the Four Gospels are not in disagreement; they tell the same story from different points of view. We can only speculate about how each author went about putting the story to parchment. We are reasonably sure that the first Gospel was written some thirty years after the end of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew is listed first in the NT because the best evidence in the Fifth Century had Matthew as first. In the past several centuries hundreds of scholars have analyzed the evidence and most now believe that Mark was written first and that both Matthew and Luke had copies of his work to refer to when they did their own.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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