THE PLACE which Jesus chose for his home, after being driven away from Nazareth, was Capernaum. This was a large city on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Only one city beside the lake was largerTiberias. That was a new city, built by Herod, the ruler of Galilee, and named after the Emperor Tiberius at Rome. But Tiberias was not a Jewish city. It contained temples to idols, its people were foreigners, and very few Jews were willing to live within its walls. Then, too, Herod Antipas lived there in a palace which he had built, and Jesus did not wish to be near Herod.
But Capernaum was a Jewish city, and Jesus felt that his work was to be among the Jews. At least four of the early followers of Jesus lived in Capernaum; two pair of brothers, Simon and Andrew, the sons of Jonas; and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. These four men were partners with Zebedee in the fishing trade. They owned a number of fishing boats and had men working for them. The lake was full of fish, and many people all around it lived by fishing. The fish in the Sea of Galilee were good food, and were sent to all the nearby cities. It is said that one emperor at Rome, not long after this time, had sent to him every week a barrel full of fish from the Sea of Galilee, for his table in the palace.
The people of Capernaum had heard of Jesus, for all those who went up to the feasts in Jerusalem brought home reports of this wonderful teacher and healer of the sick. Wherever Jesus went, crowds gathered around him to listen to his words, and especially eager to see if be would do any of his wonderful works.
One morning while Jesus was walking on the beach, he met some of his followers. Having now come to their own home, these men had gone back to their old work, as fishermen, and their boats were lying upon the shore.
The men had been fishing in the night before, and they were now washing their nets upon the beach. Jesus spoke to one of his followers, Simon Peter, to push his boat a little way out into the water. He did so, and then Jesus sat down in the boat, while a great Crowd stood on the shore, but within reach of his voice. Then from the boat as a pulpit he talked to the people on the shore. What he said at that time was not written down; but it was very much like his teachings as given in the Sermon on the Mount, which may be read in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the gospel by Matthew. There is no doubt that in his talks in many places to different crowds, Jesus often gave the same teachings over and over again.
After Jesus had ended his speaking to the people, he said to Simon, who with the other fishermen was standing beside him:
“Push out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch of fish.”
“Master,” answered Simon, “we worked all last night and caught not a single fish. However, if you tell us to try again, I will let down the nets.”
They did so, and now their nets took in a great shoal of fish, so large a number that the nets began to break. Then they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and helped to pull up the nets and to empty the fish into the boats. So many were the fish that they filled both the boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw all this, he was struck with wonder and with fear, for he felt that this had been done by the power of God. He fell upon his knees in the boat to Jesus, saying :
“O Lord, I am full of sin, and am not worthy of all this! Leave me, O Lord!”
But Jesus said to him and to the other three men with him:
“Do not be afraid; come after me; and from this time you shall be fishers of men.”
Ife meant that they were now to leave their nets and their boats, to stay with him; and after learning from him, they were to go out and show men the way out of sin into the Kingdom of God.
As soon, therefore, as they had brought their nets and their fishes to the land, they left them with Zebedee, the father of James and John, and with the hired men.
From that day these four men stayed with Jesus and went with him on all his journeys, listening to his words, until from hearing them often, they learned them and could repeat them to others.