Matthew 4:12-23; Isaiah 9:1-4; 1st Corinthians 1:10-18
Last Sunday, I shared with you about the transitions that happen in the Second Sunday of Epiphany, and one of those transitions was the one from John to Jesus. Our Gospel today opens with the news that John is in prison and Jesus moving from Nazareth to Capernaum. And, “from that time on, Jesus began to preach “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The news of this Kingdom of God needed to be spread, therefore, Jesus needed help for this enterprise, and it is interesting where he went to get it: a fishing town.
We can see from the beginning that Jesus did not work in isolation. He called followers whom He later called His disciples. A disciple is not a simple follower; a disciple is someone who wants to be like his or her teacher; it is someone who will continue doing and teaching what his or her teacher did and taught.
I want to look at a few essential things in our gospel lesson to better understand Jesus’ call to his disciples because this is also our call. First, notice that the men Jesus called were busy fisher men, they were working. Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the lake; and John and James where in a boat with their father. Notice that He did not call men standing around, looking for something to do. Jesus did not go to the marketplace or a plaza looking for unemployed people to be His followers, He went to a workplace.
Second, He called them to do something they knew how to do well, “to fish.” The difference was in what they were going to “fish.” Jesus changed their purpose.
Third, those He called were models of what He wanted His followers to be like; they were examples of what can happen when ordinary people are open to the possibility of God’s transforming love. Those first disciples were the early Church, the first assembly of believers.
Disciple is a word we do not hear or use much often. Matter of fact as soon as Jesus was crucified His followers were called “Nazarenes,” “Christians,” or those “belonging to the Way” I have no problem with those names as long as we do not forget what they mean. Nazarenes are those who follow Jesus from Nazareth; Christians are those who follow Christ or the definition I once heard of Christians: Christians are “little Christ”; the way means those who live the way Jesus lived.
Nowadays, we are also called by different names –Christians, alleluias, believers, born again- and to all those names we are called, we must add the name of our denominations. We are Christians Methodist; Christians Baptist; Christians Mennonites; Christians Catholics and we can keep going and going with many and many more names. I believe that with all those names we are called, we have lost or at least forgotten the meaning of who we are. We have forgotten our path and our purpose. In the Old Testament, when Israel forgot their mission and who they had to serve and worship, Jeremiah gave them the solution. Jeremiah 6:16 says: “Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” We must go back to the ancient path. That path begins by remembering who we are: we are disciples, followers, men, and women willing to live like Jesus -our Master and Savior- lived. We are part of the great lineage of Peter, Paul, Stephen, Silas, Pricilla, Phoebe, Mary, and so many others.
We are disciples with one commandment “go and make disciples.” Yes, I know you are busy and have a lot of work. So did Peter, Andrew, James, and John. When we realized we are disciples, we make time to do our work; to do what our Master wants us to do.
When we decided to follow Jesus, our purpose in life changed, He gave us new meaning. Paul reminds us that in Galatians 2:20 “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.
When we decided to follow Jesus, we became examples to the nonbelievers of how Jesus disciples live. Once again, listen to Paul in 1st Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Yes, we can be Jesus, yes, we can live like Jesus. One example of this is Stephen. Listen to his finals words; they reflect Jesus’ final words also: he said, “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. Differently, he repeated Jesus’ words from the cross. Being a human is not an excuse not to try with all our hearts and mind to be like Jesus.
My brothers and sisters let us remember that we exist to proclaim the message of faith in Jesus. And we proclaim it in a world of sin and unbelief, and every Sunday here in Redland United Methodist Church, we have the opportunity to demonstrate through our service to the world and our worship to the Lord that here in this place, we are disciples of Jesus. Here in this place, we count ourselves with the great cloud of witnesses of God’s love, faith and hope; here in this place, we believe that there is more good than bad in this world, and with God’s help, we can continue transforming our world.
My brothers and sisters, as Jesus’ disciples, we exist as a beacon of encouragement among people who can all too quickly become discouraged. We live in a dangerous world filled with violence, and disappointment and many Christians have already given up. Today God has a message all of us “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Today, our Master, Savior, has a message for us “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus’ disciples exist to call people to faith in a God of love and purpose. How crucial it is that we believe in a God who expects something of us. Remember, He expects us to share His message of love, His message of hope. He expects of His disciples to be agents of His kingdom; to be examples to those who do not believe. Remember, people will follow Jesus, first by our testimony, then for what He will do in their lives. I will finish today with one quote from pastor Charles Stanley, “God’s plan for enlarging His kingdom is so simple – one person telling another about the Savior. Yet we are busy and full of excuses. Just remember, someone’s eternal destiny is at stake. The joy you will have when you meet that person in heaven will far exceed any discomfort you felt in sharing