Matthew 4:17-22 Discipleship


In this passage, we find some of the basic, and yet most profound, aspects of discipleship. A disciple is a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of his teacher. Therefore, in discipleship, we should expect to find a similarity in doctrine between the teacher and his followers and we should see a similarity in the lives of the disciples and their teacher. In the first part of this lesson, we see the “teaching” of discipleship an in the second part, the “following” of discipleship.

The Teaching of Discipleship

Matt 4:17 – Although Jesus wasn’t literally a disciple of John the Baptist, he did let John baptize him before entering the ministry. Consequently, you would expect the gospel that Jesus preached to be the same as John preached. And that’s true. Jesus preached, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In Matt 3:2, John preached exactly the same thing, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This identical preaching marks one of the basic principles of discipleship. The disciple is going to follow the preaching and teaching of the fellow that trained him. Jesus taught Paul what to preach (Gal. 1:11-12). Paul taught Timothy what to preach (1 Tim 1:2-3). And that doctrine came right out of the scripture, which we have today (2 Tim 3:14-17). Then, Paul told Timothy, in 2 Tim 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Hence, to this day, we still follow the Pauline epistles, and we preach and teach the things that Paul taught his disciples. We haven’t had to come up with new doctrines in order to be effective disciples of Jesus Christ. Men who have veered into new doctrines are not real disciples of Jesus.

The Following of Discipleship

When Jesus found Peter and Andrew casting a net, and James and John in a boat mending their nets, he called them and they followed him. He wanted to make them fishers of men. Since this universe is covered in water (Ps 148:4) and God’s throne sits on a crystal sea above this body of water (Rev 4:6), men that lead souls to Christ essentially fish them out of the water and land them on the shores of heaven.

In studying the lives of Peter, James and John, we find an interesting truth about discipleship: the closer you follow the Lord Jesus, the more your life will conform to his, even unto suffering and death (Phil 3:10). You can see in the Bible a progression in the lives of these disciples that sets up a pattern for us.

Beginner, Jn 1:40-42, Bringing souls to Christ.

Intermediate, Matt 4:18-22, Forsaking something and following Jesus.

Advanced, Lk 5:2-11, Forsaking ALL and following Jesus.

1 Note: The disciples followed Jesus in Matt 4 before Peter’s mother-in-law was healed (Matt 8:14-15). There they forsook their NETS. Luke’s account takes place later, after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed (Lk 4:38-39). There the disciples forsook ALL.

There are some great benefits to forsaking all and following the Lord.

Witness the power of God, Mk 5:35-42, The raising of Jairus’ daughter.

Witness the glory of God, Matt 17:1-9, The Mount of Transfiguration.

Receive the teaching of God’s word, Mk 13:3-8, Olivet discourse.

Enjoy fellowship with God, Mk 14:33-36, Garden of Gethsemane.

In times of great trial and temptation, a disciple is particularly susceptible to an attack from the devil. Peter was warned about this in Lk 22:31-32. At that time, he followed the Lord afar off (Matt. 26:58) and ended up denying him. But, thank God, he was given a chance to be restored to his discipleship (Jn 21:15-17).

One of the great honors of disciples who forsake all and follow the Lord is that they are given the opportunity to enter into the Lord’s suffering (1 Pet 2:19-21). James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:1-2), Peter glorified God in his death (Jn 21:19), and John was exiled to Patmos (Rev 1:9).

In the end, the disciple who forsakes all is rewarded, the same way Jesus promised to reward his disciples in Matt 19:27-30.