Now when Jesus heard that John was arrested, he went to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum, which lies alongside the sea in the area of Zeb´ū•lun and Naph´ta•lī. 14 This fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet said:
15 Land of Zeb´ū•lun and land of Naph´ta•lī,
alongside the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,
16 the people who lived in the dark have seen a great light,
and a light has come upon those who lived in the region and in shadow of death.
17 From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”
18 As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 20 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 21 Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zeb´edee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zeb´edee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
23 Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people.
Today is the third installment of our witnessing series. Two weeks ago, we began with our calling to be witnesses. Jesus calls us his witnesses, to speak about the faith we cherish. In Acts 10 he even commands us to witness. Witnesses are called to make a case – a case for Christ. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last.” [John 15:16]. Last week we explored the idea that we are qualified to be Christ’s witnesses by what we’ve seen and heard and experienced. God has given us what we need to witness – our spiritual gifts - which allow us witness with integrity. Whether in hospitality or compassion, leadership or encouragement, our first-hand story of faith is sufficient, and all that is needed.
In Matthew 4 we find Jesus beginning to gather the disciples – that is a team to do the work, preparing for when he would leave this earth. The Musical Meditation this morning, “Follow Me,” was a beautiful representation of the call of Peter and Andrew, James and John. In the last verse the words are, “All you people now come along, hear Jesus calling and join his song.” We are not to just listen, but truly JOIN the song. Your voice is important! Each voice adds a unique and harmonious component to the song – the song of faith that will lead others to faith.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:9 tells us, “We are God’s coworkers, …” Paul is talking about individual roles in this section. We each have a role to play and are each interdependent with others and with God to get the job done. Hear verses 5-8. “After all, what is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants who helped you to believe. Each one had a role given to them by the Lord: 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. 7 Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor.” In an agrarian image, we are reminded both of the importance of each person doing their job and of the role of the miracle of God’s intervention in growing disciples. The reward is to see the family of God growing, and how our little part is used by God to bless other lives.
Matthew’s image is of fishing. In these first disciples they are all four of them fishermen along with their fathers. In verse19, Jesus tells Peter and Andrew that he will be fishing for people. Again, bringing people into the family of God. Later in Matthew’s Gospel (13:47) Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to fishing. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish.” This image is of throwing the net wide – bringing in all kinds of people. Consider the twelve that Jesus gathered to himself. There’s Peter - confident, strident, outspoken, truly an extrovert. Peter is the natural born leader with a tendency to speak first and think later. Then there is John. John is a very relational, sensitive, caring, and deep-thinking person. Who is it that Jesus chooses to care for his mother after his death – John? And then there is Matthew. Matthew is the tax collector redeemed from a life of graft and usury. Matthew is called from a world of cheating and taking advantage of his fellow countrymen into a life of service for others. We are all kinds of people with all kinds of weaknesses and all kinds of talents. It takes all kinds to invite all kinds. Consider The setting of this section in Matthew. The time frame is when John the Baptist is arrested. John’s time of witnessing is coming to an end. The place is Galilee. Jesus settles in the area of Capernaum, which happens to be a fulfillment of something that Isaiah had spoken hundreds of years earlier. Here, Matthew is foreshadowing the ministry and inclusion of the Gentiles. The setting places Jesus in “Galilee of the Gentiles.” On one hand, all are invited to share in the Kingdom of God. Jew, Gentile, Samaritan – you and I are all invited. On the other hand, Jesus is reminding us that all can be utilized by God to further extend the invitation. In the courtroom image we’ve been using – the case is made by all the witnesses taken together – the evidence as experienced by each.
Think about a jigsaw puzzle. [Slide] On the PowerPoint slide each piece is identified by a word. “Compassion … Perseverance… Radical Change… Encouragement… Motivation… Peace of Mind… At the conclusion of the slide it says, Each of us has something to add to the picture of faith-filled living.” Each piece adds to the total picture. In this case the picture if of the earth. Each piece has a portion of the earth on it. The picture is not complete without all the pieces. We each hold a piece of what the Kingdom looks like. The world needs to see our piece.
“Come and follow,” Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “and I will show you how to fish for people.” Jesus will show us how to witness!! Again, in the Musical Meditation “Follow Me”, the last line is, “He will show us the way to go, so come follow and don’t be slow.” Peter and Andrew were already fishing. Jesus wanted to change their focus. James and John were repairing their nets when Jesus called them to be agents of repairing lives. The flow of Matthew’s account has as the very next verse (after James and John “left the boat and their father and followed him”), Jesus travelled and taught and “he announced the good news of the kingdom…”. Jesus would show us first that Our witness needs to be good news! I so often remind myself that I am not inviting people to meet “Community Federated Church.” I am inviting them to meet Jesus! When Janna and I were in Okinawa in 2003, we attended the Ginowan Church. There was a point where our translator stopped translating because it was only announcements. After the service, the church has a wonderful pot-luck luncheon our on the lawn of the church. Janna and I were approached by a young man. He was sad for his church. It seemed to him that, instead of being a church filled with the Spirit and doing wonderful things for the Kingdom [my words, not his exact words], they were merely interested in fulfilling a laundry list of mundane tasks. He wanted them to be witnessing for their faith.
So, what would Jesus lead us to witness? In Luke 4:14 and following we find Jesus’ first public sermon. In it he identifies his purpose. “He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
19 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Jesus chose this particular scripture because it defined his purpose. As we read it, we realize there are meanings behind the literal meanings of the groups he identifies. The poor are also the spiritually poor who have no guiding force, no higher purpose. The prisoners may be prisoners of addiction, guilt, shame, or self-defined limitations. The blind are also those walking in darkness, stumbling about. The oppressed are also those held down by circumstances or crushed under responsibilities. Do you know anyone who needs the good news of Jesus Christ? Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor, release the prisoners, help the blind to see, and liberate the oppressed. When we introduce people to Jesus, he can do just that for them. What has Jesus done for you? How have you seen Jesus at work in your life? Watch for Jesus’ nudge to witness to someone around you. He knows who needs your witness, your part of the picture of the Kingdom of God. Our job is to introduce them to our gentle and powerful friend, Jesus. Together, we can make the case for Jesus Christ and invite the world to join the song.
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Pastor Paul Grossman