According to St. Luke, after the shepherds left the scene of the newborn Jesus, “they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed … .” This message was that of the angel: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” This tells us that the shepherds let it be known to the people in the neighborhood, at least, that the savior, the Messiah, had been born that night in Bethlehem. Matthew tells us what Herod did later, after the magi departed: “He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under … .”
These incidents tell me that people living in the area knew, or at least strongly suspected, that the promised Messiah was finally in their midst. It’s my guess that they also knew, or at least speculated, that this Messiah somehow escaped the massacre and at some point in the near future would appear publicly among them and begin the mission of salvation. So the anticipation and speculation that had been there for so long now greatly intensified.
Now fast-forward thirty years to the time of John the Baptist. After Jesus, now thirty years old, was baptized by John, the Spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove and a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” (Matt 3:16-17). I can imagine that the mad anticipation and speculation grew even more. The people, at least those witnessing this baptism, now realized that Jesus was the one. I’m betting that the word spread far and wide at this point. Of course, Jesus fled into the desert for forty days. This probably meant that there was a cooling-off period. People probably looked for Jesus but couldn’t find him. What happened when he returned from the desert? Matthew says that “Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt 4:17). This might have included his appearance in the temple described by Luke where Jesus spoke to the congregation gathered to hear him. After reading from Scripture, he said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). This was an admission by Jesus himself that he was the Messiah. Following this, Luke tells of several cures and healings that occurred at the hand of Jesus. (Luke 4:31-41).
These observations tell me that many people now believed that Jesus was the long-anticipated Messiah. It was apparently a relatively easy matter now for Jesus to get people to follow him. We see in Luke, Chapter 5, how easy it was for him to call Simon (Peter) and his partners, James and John, to follow him as his first apostles. They were fishermen by trade and Jesus worked a fishing miracle in front of them. They “left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:1-11).
As you probably know, I love to read between the lines. Sometimes, things make so much sense. How was it that Peter, James, and John were so willing? Well, if I already knew a lot about Jesus, from birth to baptism to preaching, to cures and healings, and his admission that he was the Messiah, and now a fishing miracle .... that would be enough for me.