St Lukeís Evangelical Lutheran Church
Pastor Mark Gartner
Sermon for Epiphany 3 Ė January 23rd and 26th, 2003
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 18At once they left their nets and followed him.
19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.
Dear Children of God,
Has everyone noticed the picture hanging over the table that sits between the doors as you enter into church? I will give you a second to try and remember the picture. Here are some clues. It is a picture of Jesus sitting at a table with 12 of his closest of friends. Are you starting to remember this picture? It is the picture of the Lordís Supper as Jesus sat with his 12 disciples the night he was betrayed. Have you ever looked closely at this picture? Could you remember any of the faces of the disciples? Are there any features that make one or more of the disciples stand out? Not really!
This past week I was walking down the halls of our school and I saw this same picture on the wall. It was a picture of the Lordís Supper the night that Jesus was betrayed. Has anyone seen this picture? As I looked at this picture I noticed very quickly that there were some very distinct differences between the faces of the 12 disciples. What stood out in this picture was that each of the disciples was from a different race or ethnic background. There were blacks and Asians. There were whites and Indians. Some of you might be wondering how someone could go and ruin the Lordís Supper that we all know so well, but letís think about this other picture a minute.
Who are Godís disciples? Was it only those 12 men whom God chose to follow him around for those three years, or does it include others? Were the 12 men who followed Jesus in his ministry better or more special than other people? Would you classify yourself as a disciple? I hope that all of these questions are leading us to think a little about what is a disciple. A disciple is one who follows Jesus. The 12 whom Jesus called were disciples and we are going to see that God is calling disciples today and he will call disciples to the very end of this world. He still wants those who follow him and he still wants those who are going to share his Word with others.
Sermon Theme: Jesus Calls Us To Be His Disciples
If we follow the time line of Jesusí life, our text for this morning follows towards the end of John the Baptistís ministry. John the Baptist for many years had been preaching the message of repentance to prepare the peopleís hearts for the coming of the Messiah. John is to the point in his ministry where he is actually in prison. It is at this time in Jesusí ministry that things begin to move forward. Jesus had been baptized. Jesus had battled the Devilís temptations after fasting for 40 days in the wilderness. He had performed his first miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana.. Because of all the things going on with John, Jesus moved his ministry to the area of Galilee. That is the northern part of the land of Israel.
Now what did Jesus preach? Did Jesus now come with the new and improved message to top that of John the Baptistís? No! He preached as our text tells us the "good news of God." He told the people the "time was now coming, Repent and believe." As we all know very well, the good news that he was preaching was the news that the Savior was here and that the Savior was going to die to take away the sins of the world. For thirty years Jesus had kept mostly quiet and wasnít very public in his ministry, but now the message was very public and his message was there for all to hear. He was preaching the Gospel message of Jesus very clear and very boldly.
As we think about the message of Jesus we realize that if the message he spoke was the prefect message, then why would we want to change or stray from his message at all. We need to boldly and clearly proclaim that all people are condemned in their sins. We need to call everyoneís sins what they truly are, SINS! We need to proclaim for all to hear the message that a Savior came into this world for you and for all the world. Isnít it interesting that the message we preach today hasnít needed an update or a new and improved. It is the same as if it were coming form Jesusí mouth itself.
It is with the true Gospel in mind that God started to call men to be his followers. Our text says, "As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 18At once they left their nets and followed him.
19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him." These men must have been men who had been exposed to the saving message of Jesus. The Gospel had worked in them and they listened to Jesusí gospel invitation to follow and be his disciples. The trusted that the words that Jesus spoke were the perfect words and that Jesus was their perfect Savior. As we see the actions of Andrew, Peter, James and John we see actions that are motivated only by a complete trust in God. They left their work and their families to follow the one who had called them.
As we sit here today we also can see the gospel at work. The Lord has called each one of us here today to be his disciples. He has come to us with the message of the good news of Jesus. It is through this saving Gospel that our Lord and Savior has changed our sinful hearts top be hearts filled with a desire to serve our Lord and Savior. Our hearts are filled with a desire to be disciples and followers of Jesus. We want to follow his ways and spread his Word. We want the world to see our lives and see our actions.
2. He calls us to follow him
None of us sitting here today has left our jobs to follow our Savior, but all of us have given up something. We have given up our desire to serve our sinful nature and the things of this world. We have given up the desire to earn our way into heaven. We have given up our desire to live for this world. And with the faith worked in our hearts we are eager to follow our God.
Jesus knew that his ministry was going to be short. He knew that he needed to train people to continue making disciples of all nations. He used the twelve people that we call the 12 disciples to begin this work. He knew that they would be the men who would take over when he left this world. He knew that in three short years he would not be on this earth and longer. Who would take over? These men as well as all the other disciples he had called to faith would.
As we live our lives on this earth we realize that he has called each one of us to be his disciples. God knows that he has left his kingdom work to the disciples of this age. He has a purpose for each of us sitting here today. But we might think to ourselves that we are not qualified to be one of Godís disciples. We might think that I am not quite ready to this kind of disciple work, but we are. We are ready, because God has been training us through his Word and Sacrament for a lifetime. He is strengthening our faith and our desire to serve him every day that we are alive. Through the faith in our hearts we can follow Jesus without hesitation or question, just like the disciples did. Iím sure that the disciples had moments where they wondered if they were qualified and ready to follow Jesus, especially when their leader was leaving this earth, but God the Holy Spirit made sure that they were ready. God the Holy Spirit makes sure that we are ready to follow him and share his Word with others. He makes us ready and sends us out armed with the Gospel found in the Word and Sacraments.
As we follow him, Jesus has one purpose or mission. He wants us to be the people that are going to go out into the world and preach the saving message of our Savior. He wants us to be fishers of men. I donít know about you, but I am a pretty bad fisherman. When I take my son to fish down at the pond just down at the end of 3rd street, I donít really know what I am doing. But I know the basics and we cast the line in and we catch fish, sometimes even pretty good-sized fish. If the truth were told, I think that the fish find us, rather than saying we catch fish, but the end result is the same. In the same way, I think that there are some of us who think we are pretty bad fishers of men. But we all know the basics of how to tell others about heaven. As we share our faith personally and through our lives we are casting out the line of salvation into the world and God the Holy Sprit is working and he makes disciples of people whom we have given the Gospel message. We arenít making men disciples, but God is. Just look at our own lives. He has worked faith in our hearts and we are going to be the oneís that boldly and confidently go out into the world to make disciples of all nations.
This can also be done as we think of the ways that we can support the work in Godís kingdom. When was the last time that we have sat down and prayed that God would bless our missionaries in foreign and home mission fields. When was the last time that we even thought about the sacrifices that some of the missionaries and their families endure to preach Godís saving Gospel. Please pray daily that hey would remain faithful and strong in their work. In the same way how many times have we thought of our offerings both to St. Lukeís and to our Synod more as something we have to do, rather than thinking about it in the terms of mission work. All to often we think about giving so that the light bills are paid and our staff is paid, rather than thinking about how our dollars are being used to go and make disciples of all nations. Where do our pastorís and teachers come from? How do we afford to send missionaries to the many foreign countries? It is through the faithful thank offerings of people like you and me. May the Lord give us the strength through his word to be fishers of men with our words and our actions. He has called us to be his disciples. He has saved us and strengthened us through is Word. May we seek to serve hymn every day as we follow him. Amen