Matthew 4:23-25 (3rd Sunday after the Epiphany—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
January 26, 2014
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel Lesson from Matthew 4:
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
The average American changes jobs 10 times and careers 3 times over the course of a lifetime. Simon and Andrew, James and John changed their careers after Jesus called them to follow as His disciples, whom He would make into fishers of men. Later, Jesus would commission these four, plus eight others, as His apostles, sending them out in His name to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to all people. But you don’t have to make a job or a career change to be one of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus will use you and your abilities wherever you are at in life to be fishers for people.
To begin with, Jesus has already called you to be His disciples. He called you to follow Him with a life of faith. When you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit it is as if Christ said to you, “Follow me.” In Baptism Jesus called you to faith in Him by the working of the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, the Holy Spirit created faith in your heart so that you might believe in Christ as Lord and Savior and so that through faith you might receive the gifts of Christ—forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Christ called you through the waters of Holy Baptism into faith to be His followers, His disciples.
Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John were called to a vocation completely different from fishing. Jesus first called them to the same life of faith to which He has called us, but then Jesus set them apart to be His apostles, His “sent ones,” who would preach to the world the Good News of the forgiveness of sins as a result of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. But the apostles did not always remain faithful. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. All of the other eleven disciples ran away when Jesus was arrested; they deserted Him. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. The Eleven hid themselves away after Jesus’ death, too scared to be seen as one of His followers.
Now, we’ve not been called to be apostles, but we have been called by Christ in Baptism to be His disciples. And, like the apostles, we are not always faithful to our calling to discipleship. We are not always faithful in living the life Christ has called us to live in Baptism. Instead, we revert to our old sinful ways. We continue to allow sin to have mastery over us. This happens each time we yield to temptation, every time we sin and disobey God’s commandments, whether we realize it or not. Listen to God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 6, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-20)
We have been washed in the waters of Holy Baptism. The Holy Spirit has created saving faith in Jesus in our hearts. We are declared by God “not guilty” of sin because Jesus died for us on the cross. He shed His blood to make us the forgiven children of God. Our sins of not always living as Christ’s disciples are forgiven. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have new life in Christ since we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection through baptismal waters. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
In Holy Baptism you are given this new life in Christ, the new life of faith and discipleship. In Baptism, you have died to sin. You have risen to newness of life as you are empowered by God the Holy Spirit “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24) In the faith given you in Baptism, you have the power and the ability to live more faithfully as Jesus’ disciples, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. . . . Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:1-8)
We live out our Christian lives of faith and discipleship with the gifts given to us by God. Not everyone is called to be a pastor or teacher in the Church. We need pastors and teachers “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” (Eph. 4:13) But, just as being a disciple of Jesus was not limited to simply the Twelve apostles, so discipleship today is not limited to pastors and teachers. Every believer in Jesus, every disciple whom Christ calls to faith through the Holy Spirit’s power, serves the Lord in the great mission of saving souls. Each disciple serves and follows Christ with his or her own unique gifts and in her or his own station in life. Christ has called us in Baptism to a life of faith, of forgiveness, and of discipleship whether you are a pastor, a teacher, a business person, a student, a factory worker, a nurse, a retail clerk, a doctor, a laborer, a mother or father, a son or daughter. No matter your vocation, God the Holy Spirit empowers you to live as Christ’s disciples and enables you to use the gifts given to you in the mission of spreading the Gospel.
To help us better understand our role as disciples, I want to share with you a comparison that Dr. Jeff Gibbs, Professor at Concordia Seminary, uses in his commentary on Matthew. Through Baptism Christ calls us to be His disciples. He makes us into “fishers of men.” But, not all Christians have the same talents or gifts, nor do they accomplish the same tasks in the Gospel mission as we “fish for people.” In the Christian Church, in the mission to seek and to save the lost for Christ, some Christians will steady the boat. Some Christians will repair the nets. Still other Christians will actually cast the nets and gather the precious catch of human lives for Christ.
This is just another way of saying what Paul tells us about of life as Christ’s disciples in 1 Corinthians 12, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. . . . For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:4-13)
In Holy Baptism, we have drunk of one Spirit. We have been given faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We have received His forgiveness for all our sins, for all the times we have failed to keep God’s commandments. We have been called into a life of discipleship as God’s redeemed sons and daughters. No matter what station in life you find yourself, no matter what your vocation is, know that you are Christ’s disciples. You are forgiven and you are given the gifts which God wants you to use in His service as you fish for people, bringing them the Good News about Jesus, our Savior. So get in the boat and let’s go! There’s a lot of “fish” to catch for Christ’s sake. Amen.