Stories From The New Testament: Chapter 7 - Multitudes Follow Jesus
Shirley King Johnson
It was the weekly Sabbath, and the disciples accompanied Jesus to Capernaum's synagogue (Mark 1:21). As usual, Jesus was asked to read from the sacred scrolls and to teach. He stepped to the raised platform near the center and, taking a chair, accepted a scroll. When He was finished reading He explained the meaning of the scriptures with words that carried unmistakable authority.
A demon cast out
As the service came to a conclusion, a demon-possessed man lurched down the aisle and addressed Jesus. "What business have you coming here?" he challenged. "I know who you are, Jesus of Nazareth." The demon in the man gave a little scream. "You eternal One, have you come to destroy us?" Jesus looked into the wild eyes. "Silence! Come out of him" (verse 25). A convulsion tore the man's body and the man fell to the floor. As the demon left its victim, it made a wailing sound through the human lips. But as the sound faded away, the man's contortions stopped and he sat up, alert and in his right mind. Relatives gathered about him, thanking God for his deliverance. Services were over for the day.
Peter's mother-in-law healed
As they left the synagogue, Andrew and Peter asked Jesus, James and John to dine with them in Peter's home. They accepted the invitation. When they arrived Peter found his wife's mother lying on a pallet in a corner of the back room, running a high fever. Though she was covered with a heavy shawl, she shivered with a chill. Peter asked Jesus to step over to her pallet. Jesus stood over the woman for a moment, waiting for the vacant eyes in the flushed face to see that He was present. "Mother," Peter said softly, "there's someone here to see you." She turned her head and her eyes moved to His face. She tried to lift a hand in greeting but it fell back to the shawl. Bending down, Jesus took the hand in His, rebuked the fever and helped her to rise from the pallet (Mark 1:31, Luke 4:39, Matt. 8:15). Pleased to find her strength had returned, Peter's mother-in-law thanked Jesus and went to help her amazed daughter set out food for the family and guests. After everyone talked for a while, they moved to a table and enjoyed a meal of stewed figs and stuffed fish. After the sun set, a crowd of people began to gather at Peter's house. The multitude grew so large it seemed to represent the entire population of Capernaum. Word of Jesus' presence there had traveled quickly. Far into the night the people came in a patient line and Jesus healed them all (Mark 1:32-34, Luke 4:40).
The Gospel taken to Galilee
The next day Jesus rose well before daybreak and walked to a deserted area outside Capernaum. Finding a secluded place among some boulders, He knelt to pray to His heavenly Father (Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42). He was soon sought out by His disciples and other followers. They asked Him to return to the seashore to heal and teach as He had done in the past. But He shook His head. There were many other people He had to reach. Jesus began an extensive tour of all the villages of Galilee, preaching the good news in the synagogues (Matt. 4:23, Mark 1 :39, Luke 4:44). The report of His miracles spread to adjoining areas and it became increasingly difficult for Him to move about. Curiosity seekers and followers came from Decapolis, beyond the Jordan River, from all of Galilee and from Jerusalem and Judea (Matt. 4:25). Returning to His own house in Capernaum, Jesus was confronted with the usual throng of people who wanted to see and hear Him, or needed healings or demons cast out. As they filled His yard until there was room for no more, He saw that Pharisees and lawyers from Jerusalem were mingling with the crowd. He knew that they were watching to see if they could find evidence that might be used against Him. Blind and sick persons were in the audience, but before He healed them, Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God. As the afternoon wore on, four men removed part of the roofing and let down a paralytic friend on some bedding (Mark 2:3-4, Luke 5:18-19). The noise drew everyone's attention, and Jesus paused in His sermon to watch. When the men laid their burden at Jesus' feet, He recognized their faith and spoke to the sufferer. "My son, your sins are forgiven." The Pharisees reacted to His words as He knew they would. Faces growing dark with hostility, they murmured among themselves: "That is blasphemy! The only One who has power to forgive sins is God." Jesus turned to them. "Why do you think such thoughts? Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Rise and walk'? Please observe and you'll see that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins." He turned back to the paralytic. "Rise. Take your bed and go on home." Finding strength surging through his body, the man clasped the hand that Jesus extended, arose and began to roll up his blanket. He laid it over his shoulder and the spectators made a path for him to leave. The crowd joined him in praising God as he, followed by those who had brought him, left for his own home.
Matthew is called
Later, after a long morning of preaching in a boat at the edge of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus dismissed the multitude and, motioning for the four disciples to follow Him, went for a stroll along the shoreline. Once they were away from the crowds He slowed His pace and began to talk to them about their part in the Work. He explained that He was in the process of selecting a team of men who would learn to live under the laws of His Father's government. He added that once they had learned that government's principles, they would in turn teach them to others. They left the shoreline and turned toward the city streets. As they reached the office of the tax collector for the Roman emperor, Jesus stopped. "Please wait for me here. I won't be long." He crossed the street. The disciples saw Him approach a man who sat on the steps of the office. The day was balmy after a season of rather blustery weather, and the tax collector was enjoying a short break from his tedious work of counting coins and entering figures on tax rolls. The disciples might have reacted as follows: Giving a smothered exclamation, Peter turned to the others. "You don't suppose He's going to ask a tax collector to join us, do you?" All three were staggered at Peter's suggestion. The Galileans looked upon the Jewish tax collectors with contempt. They were mere quislings for the Roman government. "Come to think of it," John said thoughtfully, "I've seen that man at the edge of the crowds when Jesus was speaking. I remember that magnificent robe and the well-trimmed beard. " The three men stared more closely as John continued: "I'm sure that Jesus noticed he seems interested in the Gospel message. We'd better brace ourselves! Jesus just said, 'Follow me.' He's getting up. He's going inside to tell the others in the office that he's resigning" (Matt. 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27-28). "Or taking a leave of absence," James added hopefully. "Maybe he won't like traveling with us." They waited and watched. The tax collector soon came out of the office smiling, and he walked at Jesus' side as they crossed the street to the waiting disciples. Jesus introduced the tax collector. "Andrew, Peter, James and John, this is Matthew. He's one of us." The disciples acknowledged the introduction as cordially as they could. There was a short silence. Matthew's high spirits could not be daunted, however, and he seemed not to notice the disciples' initial coolness. "This calls for a celebration," he said. "A banquet!"
Matthew gives a banquet
Matthew made preparations for an elaborate feast in his home. He invited friends and former colleagues to join him. "Jesus will be there. You'll hear about the coming Kingdom of God from His own lips!" Matthew's happiness set the mood for the event and the banquet was enjoyed by the many assembled guests. While the disciples conversed in the courtyard before Matthew's spacious home, they were approached by certain of the rabbis who had heard about the tax collector's banquet and had gathered to condemn it. "Your teacher is quite a vulgar fellow," a rabbi taunted Peter. "He eats and drinks with sinners. How do you explain that?" (Matt. 9:11, Mark 2:16). "He is not vulgar," Peter defended. "He's a perfect gentleman. He's the most intelligent person I've ever met." "It's the talk of Capernaum!" the rabbi went on. "These people He ate with are wicked men. Yet your Teacher enjoyed Himself with them — eating like a glutton, drinking like a sailor. Why, He laughed constantly and was the life of the party." Beginning to see that jealousy was at the bottom of the ugly charges, Peter gave a short laugh. "He certainly enjoyed the party. Isn't that a pity?" Other rabbis added words of condemnation and Peter denied all charges. Then he felt a hand on his elbow and turning, he saw that Jesus and Matthew had quietly joined them. "Thank you for defending me, Peter, but it isn't necessary." Jesus turned to the rabbis. "Those who are well don't need a physician. I've come to call sinners to repentance, not the righteous." Moving on, He led His disciples up the street to His house. There they sat before a low-burning fire, talking. The disciples had many questions to ask as Jesus discussed the Gospel and what it embodies. Daylight was breaking when they settled themselves to get a little sleep.