A Change of Direction (Matthew 4:18-22)
Many of you know I enjoy fishing. Here are two photos of my latest catches from the few opportunities I have had to fish this year!
If I was to ask myself why I like fishing, I would have to say it is because my father built his own boat at our house, and took me fishing. We lived in Nelson, and that part of NZ was very good for fishing. The fish in the photo of me and my grandson are small, compared to what we used to catch.
PP - My father taught me in such a way, that I too, had the skill to catch fish like he did. My father used three methods to teach me:
He would tell me what to do.
Secondly he would show me what to do be demonstrating the particular skill required,
Thirdly he would let me fish and then explain what went wrong if I made a mistake.
Thankfully he encouraged me when things did go wrong.
He would wake me early in the morning, very early, because that was the best time to catch fish and the sea was normally flat.
He taught me how to tie knots on fishing lines, what rig to use for different fish and how to hook the fish.
He taught me patience when the fish were not biting and when they did, how to let them bite before trying to hook them.
The one thing he did not teach me was how to fillet fish, so even to this day it is not my favourite part of fishing. I think one of the reasons for that was that knives are sharp, and as I was young he did not want me to injure myself.
At times it was hard, but in the end really enjoyable and something I am thankful for.
PP - In the time of Jesus, fishing was a family business and fathers would pass on the skill to their sons. So in our text today it is no surprise to read comments like v 22. “They immediately followed him (Jesus), leaving the boat and their father behind.”
It may seem strange that these fishermen left their fishing so suddenly to follow Jesus. However we need to realise they would have already heard of Jesus and seen him as a great teacher.
Understanding the background of Jewish culture is important here.
PP - If a rabbi (teacher) allowed a Jewish young man to become a disciple, the disciple must agree to totally submit to the rabbi’s authority in all areas of interpreting the Old Testament for his life. This was a cultural given for all Jewish young men – something each truly wanted to do.
As a result, each disciple entered a rabbinic relationship with a desire and a willingness to do just that - surrender to the authority of God’s Word, as interpreted by his chosen Rabbi’s view of Scripture.
For example, everyone knew about the broad “no work” injunction regarding the Sabbath. But how should that command work itself out in specific terms? Thus, a real-life question regarding Sabbath observance might be, “May I light a candle on the Sabbath?” Or, “How many candles may I light on the Sabbath?” A real-life question regarding marriage might be, “Can I divorce my wife if…” A real-life question regarding tax collectors would be, “If I know my taxes are going to oppress our people, should I pay them?” The rabbi would authoritatively address such daily practical questions concerning righteous living and that response was understood as coming through Scripture as defined and interpreted by the rabbi. So disciples lived their lives in obedience to their Rabbi's understanding of the Old Testament.
It was a radical, willing, and totally conforming submission to the interpretive authority of the Rabbi.
In the 21st century discipleship is still one part of a Christian's lifestyle.
A disciple of Jesus is one who totally surrenders to Him, and His way of seeing and doing things. As such, a disciple comes with a willing desire to conform all aspects of his or her life to the authoritative Lordship of Jesus Christ.
A person is really only discipled when they can fulfil all the desires of the person discipling them. In NZ we have what we call apprenticeship programs and these last for 3 to 6 years depending on the skills being learned. I did an apprentice of 4 years to become qualified as an Electrical Fitter and Electrician. In an apprenticeship program there are many stages and tests. In the same way Jesus selected his disciples and put them all through a 3 year discipleship program.
Today we have 6 friends being baptised. This ceremony is an outer witness of an inner change of life that has begun. Each person has already become a disciple of Jesus and Baptism is one of the things that a disciple does in obedience to his or her master, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we know even Jesus was baptised in obedience to his heavenly father.
The calling of the first disciples came at the beginning of Jesus preaching ministry. In verse 17 of Matthew chapter 4 we have a summary statement of Jesus message just before he called these fishermen to follow him.
PP - “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of God is near”
Repentance is a change of direction from facing away from God to facing God. Kingdom ministry for a disciple is all about a change of direction for both the disciple and the one being discipled.
Now with this understanding let's look at today's passage.
PP - (Read) Verse 18 to 22 - we have the record of the calling of two sets of brothers.
v 18 Simon and Andrew
v 21 James and John
In both cases v 20 and 22 tell us that immediately they left something behind and followed Jesus.
Simon and Andrew = nets
James and John = their boat and their father
PP - In both cases Jesus called out to them. In the case of Simon and Andrew we know exactly what he said. “Come follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” This was a call to a new and radical form of discipleship.
A disciple is someone who needs to learn new skills.
Fishing for fish, they knew how to do, but 'fishing' for people, was a completely new activity. For Jesus's disciple this was the start of a steep learning curve. They would make mistakes, and have to start again, but in the end the world was turned upside down by the work and power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus 12 chosen disciples.
From today's passage let me answer two questions. The answers to these two questions are very important and they fit with seventh core value of MBCC. This core value was actually written in last week's newsletter.
PP - Personal growth and discipleship that trains and equips to live, act and breathe God's Kingdom and equips others to do the same.
What things did these men have to learn to be good disciples?
What did Jesus do to train these fishermen?
PP - 1. What things did these men have to learn and do to be good disciples? Here are just four.
Trust Jesus and give up their present income from fishing v 18 “for they fished for a living”
Strongest focus on Jesus, and not fishing or family.
Acknowledge and follow Jesus as their Rabbi - teacher and spiritual guide.
Be willing to make changes to their lifestyle and learn new skills.
Remember that in Jewish thinking the disciples were able to discuss matters with the Rabbi but in the end they had to agree to His interpretation of scripture. For Jesus disciples this would be a wild ride for Jesus view of the OT was nothing like the normal Rabbi. Jesus teaching was new, fresh and challenging to the status quo of his day.
Jesus put it this way:
“Not everyone who calls out to me 'Lord! Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in Heaven will enter.”
Just as Jesus learned obedience to His Heavenly Father these new disciples had to learn obedience to Jesus. Jesus put it another way in John 15:16 - 17.
PP - “You didn't choose me, I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my commandment: Love each other.”
PP – Counting the cost, carrying the cross and following Christ in cross-cultural mission is all part of the joy and challenges of being made into fishers of men.
# The story of my struggle in Nelson to return to Japan after 20 years in Japan. It was during the Lord's Supper.
First time in 1974 all new and exciting but the second time, 20 years later we had a fuller understanding of the cost of following.
- Leaving family and friends.
- Schooling issues for Julie and Susan.
- Slow results in Japan.
- Good job at Honda.
- Financial support challenges.
- Experience made it harder not easier.
So what experiences did Jesus put the disciples through, in order to train them to do the will of his Father in Heaven?
2. What did Jesus do together with these fishermen to train them?
PP - Read verses 23 – 25
PP - Travelling and Teaching V.23
When you travel with others you soon get to know them very well. When you hear what they teach almost every day you begin to understand the message. As a disciple you would be learning the power and importance of teaching God's Word in a new and creative way. An example would be Jesus use of parables and completely different interpretations than the normally accepted.
Here is an example: Matthew 5: 43 – 44 (Read) “You have heard the law that says, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you!”
These new disciples would have constantly heard Jesus say “You have heard the law that says..... but I say..”
As a disciple you too must be able to teach those who don't know Jesus Christ new ways of thinking and about life and who Jesus really is.
Heralding and Healing V.23-24
These disciples not only heard the announcing of the good news but they also saw people healed of every kind of disease and illness. Verse 24 gives three kinds of healings – demon possessed, epileptic, paralyzed. Just imagine what they experienced. This was not just head knowledge but real hands on experience that later they too would be commissioned to do. If you are my disciple you will do what I do! Discipleship is not just head knowledge but in a real sense the practical outworking of the Gospel through weak human beings like you and I.
People and Places V.25 (Map)
For Jesus and his disciples, people and places mean no rest from the crowds and very often dealing with people of other cultures. Galilee, Ten towns, Jerusalem, Judea and East of the Jordan River.
Galilee, Jesus' homeland where he is preaching at this time
The Decapolis, literally "the Ten Towns", largely Gentile Greek cities
Jerusalem, the political and spiritual capital of the region – city dwellers
Judaea, the heartland of the Jews to the south of Galilee
East of the Jordan River. This area was inhabited by the Israelite Tribes Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh
Discipleship training meant cross cultural training. It was people focused and involved the word of God and the power of God
As Jesus disciples how are we doing?
It is not our ability that Jesus looks for but our availability.
Are we doing what Jesus teaches us each day, and sharing God's love with those who don't know it?
Are we seeking to disciple young Christians? People see Jesus through us. (Allan Knight's story when in Hachinohe. Corner house - “That's where Jesus lives!”)
Maybe God wants to heal someone through your prayer of faith? Maybe He just wants you to reach out in love and assist someone who is needing care and healing.
Are we willing to sacrifice our time and energy for people from other countries?
Are we loving each other as Jesus commanded us?
Each day, are we walking in close fellowship with Jesus by reading the Bible and prayer?
From Luke 5:16 we see one more very important activity the disciples needed to know about and practice.
PP - V16 “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”
So by the time we get to Chapter 11 the disciples are very motivated to learn how to pray and ask their teacher to teach them how to pray. “Lord teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)
The foundation of discipleship is prayer. It is a life that humbly recognises total dependence on Jesus for power and wisdom so daily asks him for help in prayer.
One aspect of prayer is asking God to show you how to fish for people.
Read Matthew 4:19 “Come follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people”
A true disciple is a person whose life has been so transformed by their encounter with Jesus, that this encounter transforms not only the disciples values, thinking and lifestyle, it also fills their soul with a deep need to pray. To pray that they will be used to make disciples for Jesus.
PP - Jesus put it this way “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Teach these disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
AND I WILL BE WITH YOU!!! Matthew 28:19 – 20