Sermon on Matthew 4:17-23
Text: From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
18 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. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
There are some people who like to go and fish occasionally. There are also those people who would rather fish than do anything else. You know the type of person I’m talking about. Perhaps you even fit that description. Can you imagine how thrilled that type of person would be if you ran across an ad that read “Wanted — Fisherman.” This would now be their life’s work. Well, in reality, we do have such a sign posted. As we note the Calls of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, we also want to see how it might apply to us. We want to focus our attention on those within our congregation that might have the gift to serve God in a special way. Today we look at WANTED: FISHERMEN FOR GOD’S KINGDOM 1. Filling A Position That God Created and 2. Using The Equipment He Has Provided.
The events of our text took place about a year after Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the wilderness. Though we would not be able to tell that from our reading of the book of Matthew, the Gospel of John fills in some details of that year. From John, we learn that, during that year, Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding in Cana. He cleansed the temple in Jerusalem of the moneychangers. He also had the nighttime conversation with Nicodemus, when he spoke the well-known passage, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” During this year, Jesus also came into contact with John the Baptist’s disciples, one of whom was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. Jesus, Andrew and Peter were acquainted with each other.
Now, however, a change was going to take place in that relationship. We read in verse 18, “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.” Apparently, after their learning sessions with Jesus, these men went back to their occupation of being fishermen. Here Jesus finds them going about their daily business. The same holds true for James and John, whom Jesus talked to that day. In verse 21 we read, “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets.”
Something was going to change. Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Before this point, they had been Jesus’ disciples, that is to say, they were his learners. They received information from him. Now, however, they were to do more than learn from him. They were to go. They had a mission; a job they were to carry out. They were to go from being fishermen to fishers of men. Their catch would no longer be fish from the Sea of Galilee. Now it would be people, people for the kingdom of God.
What was their reaction? After Jesus spoke to Peter and Andrew, we read in verse 20, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” After Jesus spoke to James and John, it says in verse 22, “immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” This is not to say that James and John left their father in a lurch. Nor does it say that James and John did not love their father or care about the family business. However, they realized that something of greater importance was to be their lives’ work. They were to be fishers of men.
So also today Jesus calls some to be fishers of men. He calls some into the public ministry as a pastor or teacher. The position has been established. The wanted sign is out. There is still a need for pastors and teachers in our synod. Presently, it might not seem that urgent. At present we have about the number of pastors and teachers graduating as there are places for them to go and serve. So, does that mean that we don’t have to worry about it? Well, when you look at the upcoming classes of men who are studying for the public ministry, the numbers are getting smaller. There is an ever-increasing need for early childhood education teachers. What about the future? What if we do not continue to encourage young men and young women to study for the public ministry? Will we have to cut back on ministry because there is not enough manpower? It appears that this is very cyclical. There are times when there are more workers than Calls. That happened when I graduated from our seminary. It wasn’t too long thereafter, though, where there were not enough graduates to fill all of the positions. Will we be ready for that portion of the cycle when it comes?
For that reason, I would like you to consider this. Are there children within our congregation, who might have the gifts and abilities necessary to carry out this task? Children, have you ever considered being a pastor or teacher? If there are those with the gifts and willingness, what are we doing as a congregation and individuals to encourage them? Could we, should we, be doing more?
Consider the men that Jesus called for apostleship. It does not appear that these men had any special outward qualifications. They were common, everyday laborers. However, Jesus didn’t ask them to prepare themselves. He promised to make them workers. He would teach them what they needed to know. We can’t always judge by outward qualifications. God may take what seems to be the most unlikely person and turn them into a fantastic pastor or teacher. The apostle Paul was the most unlikely candidate before he was converted. He had even persecuted the church. God, however, called him and made him the greatest missionary the world has ever known.
The task of being fishers of men has been passed on from one generation to the next. The position has been established. The need is there. God, however, does not send out his workers empty-handed. Every good fisherman, it seems, has special equipment, special lures or reels that make their job of catching fish easier. God, also, gives his fishermen the equipment to carry out their task. We see Jesus using the equipment in verse 17, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” We note that Jesus’ message was the same as that of John the Baptist. They proclaimed the Word of God. It is that Word of God which other fishers of men used to make you a part of God’s kingdom. There have been many faithful pastors who have served these congregations for the past one hundred plus years. The message, however, has been the same. The message is that of Law and Gospel.
We have had our sins exposed for what they are — rebellions against our holy God. Every selfish motive, every word spoken out of spite, every time we took something that didn’t belong to us (even if it wasn’t a big ticket item) is all still sin. In God’s law we have seen ourselves for whom we are — lost and condemned creatures, who deserve nothing from our God but an eternity in hell. The law has been spoken loudly and clearly to us.
That, however, was not the only message spoken here. We are an evangelical church, which is to say, we are based on the gospel. The sweet message of the gospel has been proclaimed, not only at Christmas and Easter, but in every sermon, Bible Class, etc. Where the law showed our sin, the gospel showed our Savior. We were reminded again and again that Jesus came to the earth to be our Substitute. We have been taught that Jesus’ suffering and death happened so that our sins would be forgiven. Because of Jesus, we have become the children of God with heaven as our home. God has been gracious to us in sending faithful men and women who proclaimed this wonderful message to us.
Now, who will tell the next generation of God’s love for them? That task doesn’t just belong to someone else. It belongs to us. We are called to do so. God has not only established the position. He gives us the equipment, his Word, to carry out the task.
How does this affect us? We are to encourage our young people to consider entering the full-time ministry of the church. Perhaps, there is a young man or woman considering it, but lacks the confidence to do it. We can encourage them. We try to make it possible for them to receive the training that is necessary for these tasks. We also help when we send our offerings into synod. A large portion of those offerings go to help train our future pastors and teachers. This is important, but it is not the most important thing we can do. We pray that God would bless his church with faithful men and women who will serve his people in the pulpits and classrooms of our synod. Not only do we pray, but we look for those people whom God might use in these capacities.
I realize that becoming a pastor or teacher is not at the top of everyone’s list of what they would like to be when they grow up. It wasn’t on mine. I had thoughts of going into the National Park system as a Ranger. We looked into what courses would be necessary for me to do that. However, due to the encouragement of my pastor and others, I decided I would, at least, go to the high school in Mobridge, South Dakota and see what the program was like. There were many who continued to encourage me throughout my studies. I am so very thankful for all of the people who encouraged me along the way. We realize that the pastoral or teaching ministries are not the only ways that we can serve our Lord, nor is it for everyone. However, if there is interest or ability, shouldn’t we do our best to cultivate it? Who knows what may come of it? Maybe there is a future pastor or teacher here this morning. The “Wanted — Fisherman” sign is still out. May we heed God’s call to service. Amen.
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