4th Sunday after Pentecost Proper A5
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 4:18-20 Sermon
June 8, 2008
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
385 "My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less"
558 "How Firm A Foundation Ye Saints Of The Lord"
552 "Awake My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve"
153 "Jesus With Thy Church Abide"
FISHERMEN FOR GOD'S KINGDOM
Text: "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him."
What do you want to be when you grow up? That's a question that children are frequently asked. The answers can range from amongst various jobs...firefighter, police officer, nurse, teacher, etc. But there does come a time when that question has to be given serious thought, and the answer isn't an easy one. Finding a career in today's world can be a difficult task indeed.
The high schools have just graduated; and those new high school graduates are wondering about their future. College students wonder about their major, and how their education will prepare them for their careers. Even the average American worker wonders too, about such things as down-sizing, job satisfaction, job security, and benefits. Certainly being a shopper in the job market is not easy.
An obvious place to look for employment is in the classified ad section of the newspaper. I opened the classified ads in the Journal-Star this past week, and checked out a few job possibilities: 1) Help wanted: waitress, full-time nights, 2) Dental assistant needed - experience preferred, 3) bus drivers needed at area schools -- must have clean driving record.
Area businesses often let the public know about job openings by listing them in the paper. And today, there are many internet websites where people can look for employment. Probably the least obvious place to look for a job is in our text for this morning. You may not have realized it, but God has given us many job opportunities right in the Bible. And you don't have to submit a fancy résumé or submit to a professional job interview.
For the next few minutes, we will concentrate our attention on this ad: Help Wanted: Fishermen for God's Kingdom. First, we will understand that Jesus places this ad. Then we will hear that Jesus provides the training. So let's take a look at the job that our Lord places before us.
Our text takes place very early in Jesus' ministry. At this time Jesus was about thirty years old. In these verses we have the account of how Jesus called his first disciples. If there had been a classified ad, it might have read: Help Wanted: Fisherman for God's Kingdom. Jesus was the one who placed the ad before those early believers.
Our text for today begins: "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen" (vs. 18).
It's been well documented in the Bible why Jesus came. He came, not to be some kind of divine social worker, but as Luke writes, "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). He'd accomplish this mission all by himself, by being perfectly obedient, and then by shedding his holy and innocent blood for our sins on the cross at Calvary. But he wanted to use others to get this Gospel message of free and full forgiveness out into the world.
Since Jesus had the most important work to do, one might expect him to search for the most powerful, smartest, and the richest people of the world to work in spreading his Gospel. Well, the most powerful people might have been the Romans who controlled the world with their mighty armies. The smartest people might have been the Pharisees who knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards. The richest people might have been the wealthy land-owners who owned many servants.
But Jesus didn't seek them out to be his first disciples. God does not require that his people to have a certain amount of power, knowledge, or wealth to be followers. Instead, he went to the region of Galilee in Israel. Galilee was more like a "hicksville," located in the backwoods of the Roman Empire. Simple people lived there with simple lifestyles. Jesus called everyday people in everyday life to do the work of his Kingdom.
And so he finds Peter and Andrew. Their occupations were commercial fishermen. Fishermen like Peter and Andrew didn't have much formal education or wealth. But they would soon learn what life was really all about.
In our Gospel lesson for today, we read about the calling of Matthew, the tax collector. Of course this drew some attention from the Pharisees. How could Jesus use someone the likes of this sinful and crooked tax collector?
Really it didn't matter who Jesus chose to be his followers. He didn't need workers like an earthly company needs workers. Since he is the Son of God, he could have used his angels instead of sinful people. Still, Jesus knew about their imperfections. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, and the other disciples were all imperfect sinful men.
If a management consultant firm would have done an evaluation on the disciples, it would be interesting what they would have found. Think of how it might read: "Dear Jesus of Nazareth, it is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. These 12 men do not have a team concept. Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. He is not a people person. He is selfish, unstable, and not a team player. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau for his tax collection work. James, the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings, and they have both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale."
This study shows these disciples to be quite different from the sinless, Son of God. Jesus still selected these imperfect men as his workers. In our text we hear how Jesus placed his ad before them. "Come follow me," Jesus said. (vs. 19a)
He personally offered this job opportunity. Jesus had a big job for them to do. He now gave them direction. He had a special interest in them. He loved them, not because they were so lovable, but because of God's grace alone. In fact, he would even die for them on the cross -- not to save them from their human enemies, but from their sins.
What a fantastic classified ad Jesus placed before these men: Help Wanted: Fishermen For God's Kingdom. Jesus places the same ad before us 2,000 years later. Since he has the most important work in spreading the Gospel, you might expect him to search for the most powerful, smartest, and the richest people of our day.
God does not require power, high intelligence, or riches. Instead, he looks for people in everyday life to do the work of His Kingdom. He looks for workers in Nebraska, in metro Lincoln, and in places like Seward, Bee, Staplehurst, and Garland. God makes use of us all.
With Jesus, like Peter and Andrew, we learn what life is really about. It may seem surprising to us, but Jesus doesn't need any of us like a business needs employees. But, in his all-knowing wisdom, he still calls us to be his followers.
Jesus knows about our imperfections. We are all sinners living in a sinful world. How often do we show our sinful imperfections? All of us are in the same boat as the disciples. We have been selfish, doubting, and have placed other loyalties like money and pleasure above our loyalty to Jesus. We too are a far cry from the sinless Son of God. Still, Jesus personally offers us this job opportunity through his Word. He tells us to follow him. He gives us the strength and direction we need through his Word.
Jesus has a special interest in us. He loves us and has given his life for our sins. Paul writes in II Corinthians 5,14: "The Love of Christ compels us." Therefore, his love for us moves us to listen to his classified ad, Help Wanted: Fishermen for God's Kingdom. Jesus has placed this ad before us.
Not only did Jesus place this help wanted ad before Peter and Andrew, he also promised to provide them with job training. Our text reads: "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men" (vs. 19).
Jesus' job opening for them was special. He would spend the next 3 years teaching them by preaching and showing them miracles. As they would constantly be around him, He would prepare them for service. Jesus told them that they would be fishers of men. Instead of fishing for bass, trout or perch, they would fish for men, women and children. They would do this by preaching the Good News that Jesus has saved everyone from their sins, and that through faith in Jesus as one's personal Saviour, they would see heaven. This simple Gospel message was the powerful net.
We note Peter and Andrew's reaction to this job opportunity: "At once they left their nets and followed Jesus" (vs. 20). They knew this job was too good to pass up. They knew there were oceans of people who needed to hear the Good News. These people were dying and going to hell because they didn't know they had a Saviour. These disciples followed him immediately wasting no time. They also left their financial future by leaving their nets behind. Jesus graciously extended this help wanted offer. By his grace through faith, they accepted it!
As Jesus offers his Help Wanted sign to us, he also promises job training. Even in 2008, He says to "Follow Him and He will make us fishers of men." His job opening is special to us. We may not get to be with Jesus physically for 3 years to prepare us for his service, but we have something that is just as precious. We have the Bible, God's inspired and inerrant Word summed up in 66 books. By studying his Word, in our private devotions and Bible studies and in our worship services, God prepares our hearts for service in his Kingdom.
Many people have answered this request of the Saviour by training and going into full time church work. Certainly there's always a need for qualified pastors and teachers and missionaries. But being a fisherman for God's kingdom is in no way limited to the public teaching and preaching ministries.
More importantly, God wants to use all of us to proclaim his saving Gospel message. We are all God's fishermen when we are a Christian example-patient, honest, and helpful to others in the way we live our lives. We all are his fishermen when we support the work of his kingdom. We do this by praying for missionaries, pastors and teachers, and giving of the first-fruits of our offerings. We are his fishermen as we invite a friend, relative, or acquaintance to come to hear about Jesus Christ. And most certainly we are his fishermen when we tell others about our Saviour, and what our relationship is with him.
So what is our reaction to Jesus' job opportunity? Is it like Peter and Andrew's reaction? Is it like Matthew's reaction? We know that Jesus' classified ad to be his fishermen is too good to pass up. There are still oceans of people who need to hear that they have a Saviour from sin.
May God give us the willingness to be his fishermen immediately. And may he give us the strength to be his fishermen as we live our daily lives. The next time you open your newspaper and scan the classified ads, let that be a reminder of the job that God has placed before all of us to be his fishermen. And instead of stories of "the one that got away," you tell others about your personal Saviour, Jesus Christ who has saved all of us from sin.