This unit focuses on Jesus’ call of the first disciples and continues to put the question of Jesus’ identity and the purpose of his earthly mission front and center. This is the first unit that unequivocally points to Jesus’ divinity.
As the passage opens Jesus is standing by the Sea of Galilee teaching a large crowd. To avoid the crush of humanity, Jesus climbs into a boat and pushes away from the shore to teach (vv. 1-3). This detail gives insight into the increasing popularity of Jesus’ ministry.
When he finishes teaching he tells Peter to take the boat to deeper waters to fish. Note the irony: the son of a carpenter and itinerant preacher tells a professional fisherman that it is time to fish. Not only is it the wrong time (daytime) but the previous night was a waste. But Peter obeys nonetheless, even after pointing out the absurdity (so it seems) of the request (vv.4-5).
The effort, as it turns out, is a success—so much so that the nets broke and the ships began to sink under the weight of the haul (vv.6-7). When Peter sees the catch, he bows before Jesus and asks him to depart.
Peter’s confession and worship reveal that he understood at that moment his need of God’s grace, which is exactly the type of characteristic Jesus is looking for in a disciple. Thus, from now on he will be a fisher of men (vv.10-11).
Sometime later Jesus is in another town when a leper approaches him, bows at his feet, and asks for healing, which Jesus does with the touch of his hand (vv. 12-14). On another day Jesus is teaching in a home (Mark 2 tells us this was Peter’s home in Capernaum) when a large crowd was present, including Pharisees from every village throughout Palestine (v. 17).
While Jesus is teaching, some men bring a paralyzed friend to receive healing. When they can’t make it through the crowds, they go to the roof, dig a hole, and lower their friend to Jesus (v. 18-19).
But Jesus does not heal right away. Instead he surprises everyone and pronounces the sins of the paralyzed man forgiven. The Pharisees understand the significance of that remark as they think among themselves, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (vv. 20-21).
I can almost hear Jesus responding, “I’m glad you asked!”
Jesus knew their thoughts and healed the man to illustrate that he in fact did have the divine authority to forgive sin (vv. 22-26).
Jesus left the home and passed by Levi (Matthew), a tax collector working at his booth. Jesus tells Matthew, “Follow me.” Which he does immediately (vv. 27-28). In fact, Matthew holds a great feast for Jesus, which prompts the Pharisees to complain about Jesus befriending “tax collectors and sinners (vv.29-30).