The Bridegroom Chooses His Bride


I. Not Many Wise, Not Many Noble 1-11 – In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul emphasized that among the church at Corinth were not many wise, powerful, strong, and noble. Why, God’s election had gone to the low and despised of the world (1 Corinthians 1: 21-25). We find in the ministry of Jesus this principle of the election of the outcast and insignificant according to worldly power. He had announced his ministry as a demonstration of that by his lesson from the Old Testament (4: 25-30) given at Nazareth.

A. He teaches the Word of God to the plain and simple, not the elite. Jesus was standing by the Lake Gennesaret. He preached the gospel of the kingdom to the sick, diseased, and demon-possessed and could barely find any place to be secluded. The crowd “was pressing around him.”

B. He demonstrates sovereignty over Fish (verses 4-7).

  1. Jesus selected a boat that was the property of a busy fisherman. It was the boat of Simon Peter. Even in the selection of an empty boat, Jesus showed the certainty and purpose of his electing prerogative. He took Peter’s boat and soon he would take Peter’s person. This is at least the second time that Jesus has been with Peter (John 1: 40-42).
  2. He showed that the certainty of saving grace comes only through the proclamation of saving truth. “He began teaching the people from the boat” (Verse 3).
  3. With no fanfare or histrionic posturing, Jesus simply assumes authority over the boat and its owner. The language indicates a strong focus immediately on Peter and is in the imperative case. Jesus is gently but firmly taking command over Peter’s possession and Peter’s trade. He gives two commands and indicates what result will ensue—“A catch.”
  4. Peter gives a gentle remonstration at the command, indicating that his personal experience, both long term as a seasoned fisherman and short term in the immediate failure, were sufficient evidence that nothing was to be gained in the venture.
  • He had heard Jesus’ teaching and addressed him as “Master,” the “one who stands by.” Jesus’ teaching, as in Nazareth, has indicated that the book is about him and he will bring to pass all its promises. He has assumed control of the entire situation. Compare its use in 8:24 where the disciples call on him twice with urgency in light of their absolute weakness and the certainty of their perishing. Their utter helplessness seized them; here utter frustration had consumed their entire night of labor.
  • With little empirical hope of success, but with an intriguing sense of the authority of Jesus, Peter consents to do as Jesus had commanded.
  • Whereas, before there was nothing, in the command of Jesus there was an abundance that overflowed, broke their nets, required the aid of their fellows, and made both boats begin to sink. None but the creator and ruler of this order could have brought about this result.

C. The combination of teaching and power brought Peter to realize the danger of sinfulness in the presence of holiness (verse 8). All merely creaturely effort has produced nothing, was completely frustrated with impotence and failure, but Peter immediately recognized the nature of the power and knowledge that stood before him, veiled in humility. Note the similarity between this confession and that in Matthew 16:16 and John 6: 68, 69. Each confession from Peter arose from the evidence that he had observed: “For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken” (Verse 9) A. T. Robertson points to the etymology of the word and says, “A wonder held him round.” Both extensive teaching and a variety of works of sovereign power had preceded the other later confessions: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God;” “To whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.” In addition, according to the Matthew passage, enlightening grace from on high had penetrated the evidence and the proclamation with conviction. This teaching came not “in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1: 5).

D. Jesus speaks in mercy and indicates his sovereign right over men as well as fish (Verse 10). The language indicates that Andrew was with Peter (5, “we” 6 “They,” 7 “they, them,”). With the word of the exchange of fish for men, Jesus indicated that his purpose for saving men would be as inviolable as was his prerogative over fish. Men are more valuable than fish and will come under no less a manifestation of power and purpose than did the fish in the net of Peter. “Are you not of much more value than they? (Matthew 6:26).

E. His first disciples leave their livelihood to follow him (verse 11). Later, as the cost of following Jesus was revealed as more difficult than anticipated, Jesus told his disciples, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” Paul was not there on that occasion, but also became convinced that it was no loss to follow Christ at the expense of everything else. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3: 8).


II. Reaching the Unclean 12-16

A. A Leper approaches Jesus with a plea and a submissive spirit

B. Jesus indicates his willingness to heal as well as his sovereignty over both disease and circumstance (cf. 4:27). Is Jesus claiming identity with the healer of Naaman?

C. Jesus follows the Levitical code [13:49; and 14:2]; what is the relation between “tell no one” and “Show yourself to the priest etc. as a testimony to them?”

D. News of these miraculous events spread and brought more people zealous for teaching and healing

E. Jesus maintained his awareness and practice of dependence on the Father


III. The Priority of forgiveness 17-26

A. Notice the great interest engendered among the Pharisees and teachers of the law “every village”

B. Notice the zeal and confidence of the friends of the lame man 18, 19  “In our applications to Christ, we must be very pressing and urgent:  That is an evidence of faith” MH

C. Jesus immediately gave him the gift that was the ultimate purpose of his coming, forgiveness

D. The issue of the divine prerogative of such an act immediately come to the front

E. Jesus heals the man to show that even as Son of Man he retains divine authority

F. They glorified God: But was it more for the miracle of healing or the wonder of forgiving grace?


IV. The Forgiver looks for those who need it, and know it: This manifests a grace and power more wonderful than miracles of nature: 27-32

A. Jesus calls Matthew from his booth where he received payments of tax: This is not a miracle of nature but a wonder of grace. As one who sat at the “receipt of custom,” Matthew was a stench to his people and a manifestly covetous individual. He had sold his integrity for a denarius.  The loathsome nature of the taxing power of Rome appeared in the story of Zacchaeus, the “chief tax collector” who was “rich” (Luke 19: Jesus went to be the guest of a “man who is a sinner.” This hatred and sense of uncleanness lay behind the test of Jesus in the question about paying tribute to Caesar (Luke 20: 22-26).

B. Levi [Matthew] followed and invited all his tax collector acquaintances to meet him; compare this to the woman at the well telling the townspeople “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did.” Again, we read the poignant words, “And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him” (28).

C. It is a wonder of grace that Jesus puts himself in the place where he can do sinners good: healing is only a faint reflection of forgiveness.

  1. Matthew knew many sinners of this sort. Note that, according to his financial ability, Matthew gave a “big reception” and invited to it was a “great crowd of tax collectors.” Jesus now associates himself in a social situation with those who had no respect among the strictly orthodox, ruling class of the Jewish community.
  2. In addition to this great crowd of sell-outs to the Romans, “other people” who would have known Matthew and not have resisted his company or resented his occupation were present. Jesus had come to those who, in the eyes of the self-righteous, were hopeless.
  3. Luke records the disgust of the “Pharisees and their scribes” (Verse 30). We find that the appearance of disloyalty to their understanding of Jewish particularity constituted the essence of being a “sinner.” A true spiritual knowledge of the righteous demands of the Law had not been awakened in their soul by the Spirit of God; They considered themselves righteous and did not see the need of the intervention of the Forgiver who had come to give his life as a ransom for many.
  4. In a clear identification of Himself as the physician who would heal those who were sin-sick, Jesus gave the reason for his unintimidated fraternizing with such deeply-dyed sinners. Those who considered themselves as hale and hardy saw no need of a physician. Even so, those who saw themselves as righteous saw no need of the Forgiver, for what had they done that made them stand in need of forgiveness?
  5. For those precisely who smelled and felt the stench of death in their souls had Jesus come. For those who knew that sin brings a more profound and permanently intolerable death Jesus came to provide the day of atonement. On that basis, he issued the call to repentance. Sinners, under the power of the message of forgiving and transforming grace that includes the effectual call of the Holy Spirit remarkably will find forgiveness.


V. Christ prepares his people for the reception of the New Covenant, both its joys and trials (Verses 33-39).

A. Jesus did not require fastings of his followers during the days of his popularity; austerity would come soon enough (33, 34). The austerities required by John of his disciples and the Pharisees of their disciples did not have the sacrifice of the gospel as its driving motivation.

B. Their time of fasting and austerity would come (Verse 35; 2 Corinthians 11:23-33; Hebrews 12:4-11; James 5:7-11; 1 Peter 1:3-9).

C. An attempt to require suffering without establishing the objective foundation will only ruin both the new and the old. Apart from gospel motivation the old seems preferable. 36-39 – But with the fullness of the gospel present no austerity for its sake seems too great; Romans 8:17ff; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18; Phil 1:29; 3:8-11; Colossian 1:24-29.


VI. Application

A. No one comes to Jesus in a gospel way that does not see himself as a great sinner

B. Anyone who comes other than as a great sinner does not come to Jesus

C. Jesus demonstrates that both his humanity and his deity are essential for his redemptive work

D. Jesus throughout his ministry shows that the greatest demonstration of power and wisdom is that which produces forgiveness; This the background of the “greater things” that the disciples would do [John 14:12]

E. Jesus’s great mercy prepares his sheep for the trials that they must endure by showing them the infinite gain of knowing his grace at the cost of worldly approval

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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