Matthew 4: 18-23
Jesus Calls His First Disciples
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 send you out to fish for people.” 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.
Jesus Heals the Sick
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Matthew 4:18-23New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.23 Jesus[a] went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news[b] of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
In today’s scripture passage, we hear Jesus calling his first followers. Because we have read the rest of the story, we know these are four of Jesus’ disciples but this passage does not call them disciples. What I think is important for us to note is that Jesus seeks out these individuals. They are in the midst of doing their jobs, going about business as usual, and honestly, there is no indication of a prior relationship with Jesus. But Jesus calls and they respond. Will you?
Let us pray.
Gracious God, help us to open our hearts and minds to hear what you have to say to us this day. Help us to listen for your call and respond as faithful disciples. Amen.
So, what we are looking at in this passage is a calling. For many of you, when you hear someone talking about being called, they are talking about full-time Christian ministry as a profession. And we think that way because here in Matthew we hear Jesus calling the first four of his disciples. We hear Jesus call Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. They drop what they are doing and follow Jesus. But “nothing in this text suggests that it is a special call to apostleship.” This passage is an example of how each one of us is called to become a disciple. And our call to discipleship can be just as disruptive as it was for the twelve who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry.
Most of us have our lives mapped out. We know what we want to do and where we want to go. We have goals to achieve, money to make, people to impress. We have families to support and children to raise. “But the kingdom of heaven does not exist to serve us. We exist to serve the kingdom of heaven.” The goal of the kingdom is not to serve us in being more effective and productive in our jobs. Our work is truly effective when it serves to express the will of God.
Jesus’ call to these four men, the first four disciples, was intrusive to their lives. All four were working. James and John were actually working alongside their father. “The fishermen are already at work, already doing something useful and important, thus they are not looking for a new life. Jesus’ call does not fill an obvious vacuum or meet an obvious need in their lives, but, like the call of prophets in the Hebrew Bible, it is intrusive and disruptive, calling them away from work and family.” In this story of the calling of the disciples, and the ones recorded in the other Gospels, Jesus disrupts family structures and disturbs patterns of working and living.
But Jesus disruption in our lives is not so we can admire him or accept his principles. It is not even for us to accept him as our personal Savior. Jesus disrupts our lives so we will follow him. People become believers by the power of Jesus’ word. They follow him because he has spoken to them and his word generates faith. “The barest essentials of the call story are this: Jesus summons with irresistible authority and the men respond with radical obedience.”
Jesus’ call to “Follow me” can come at any time, to anyone. “Jesus summons people from the fabric of family relationships and from the midst of the workaday world into a new set of relationships and to a new vocation.” It may not be necessary for all to leave professions and possessions behind, but all must leave the world they control behind and enter the new world into which Jesus invites them.
Your church staff has encountered this summons. And some of us have left behind successful careers other than ministry to answer God’s call. I have an undergraduate degree in Economics and Sociology. I was busy working as a retail buyer. I was very successful in my job, getting good reviews and raises and had moved my way up to Vice President of Buying. But I hated it. Going to work each day was a hassle. The people I worked with were nice enough, I really liked my boss, but I just was not happy. Then a major life event happened. My grandfather, who had been the main male in my life since my father’s death, died. The people I worked with knew his importance in my life. And yet, this supposedly Christian company demanded I come in the office the day before the funeral and be back to work less than 12 hours after the funeral. It just felt wrong. So, I started praying, I mean really praying, asking God what he wanted me to do. I knew there was more. And that is when I really listened and I heard God saying “Follow me.” I had heard this before during college but had chosen to ignore it. This time, I answered. It wasn’t easy. I faced the challenge of being a working adult trying to pay for more education, make a living and do what I was called to do.
Jesus’ call for each one of us, and I believe we are all called, can be lived out in different ways. Some are called to full-time Christian ministry, some are called to volunteer ministry and have jobs to pay the bills, and some live out their call in their jobs.
There are people who are called into all sorts of professions and work. They have felt a summons or strong inclination to a particular course of action and have followed that summons with what they do for a living. These individuals have made their work a vocation. A vocation is performed as a response to God’s gifting and the gospel. It is more purposeful than a “job” or an “occupation.” We have all encountered people who have a vocation rather than a job. There are teachers, doctors, lawyers, store clerks who have had great impacts on others’ lives because of the impact their faith has on their life. They choose to be transformed by their faith and in turn to transform the lives of others.
Several months ago, we had a funeral here for a lady who was transformed and lived her life to transform others. She was not a member of Main Street but her brother, Mark Porter, is. Kathy worked at the Harris Teeter at Thruway Shopping Center in Winston-Salem. She loved interacting with her customers. Mark shared that he had asked Kathy in the past about changing jobs or going somewhere that might allow her to make more or move up the ladder. Kathy’s response was always, “I can’t leave my customers.” At her funeral, co-workers and customers alike poured into this church to honor her. They wrote letters to Mark and his family to tell them about their relationship with Kathy. Mark was kind enough to share them with me and I want to share two of them with you.
- Diane Toohey
- Lyons Gray
Some of you may have also seen the article in The Winston-Salem Journal about Kathy’s service. I call what Kathy did ministry. She was called. She lived out that call in how she treated others, even those who started off as strangers in her checkout line. She made them feel important and cared about.
Another person I want to tell you about is a doctor, a surgeon, I met just over 10 years ago, when my mother was extremely ill. My mom was in ICU and she needed surgery but she was too weak. So, they were treating her until she could get strong enough to have the surgery. We’ve all heard the stories of surgeons who don’t have the best of personalities, who are focused on only one thing. Her surgeon, Dr. Iglehart was different. He would come in to see my mom and spend extended periods of time with her, talking to her, cracking jokes, even asking about me and my sisters. My sisters and I took turns staying with my mom and one day I was there with Bible commentaries all around me and my computer on my lap, Dr. Iglehart came in and asked me what I was doing. He knew I was a minister so I told him, “The senior pastor is on vacation for the next two weeks so I have to preach.” He asked me what I was preaching on, and just like today, I was preaching on call from this passage in Matthew. He then went on to tell me about his call and how he felt he was living it out as a surgeon. He said he could do one surgery after another without much regard to the patient and make even more money but he felt he was called to know his patients and care for them as individuals and that is why he was taking time to talk to my mom, when she was awake, and to her family.
In my case, that call to “Follow me” led me to full-time ministry. Not all of you are called to ordained ministry or even full-time ministry as a profession. But some of you may be. If you are sitting there in your pew thinking, “Not me, Jesus would never choose me to be his disciple,” consider this. Simon, later to be known as Peter, was the first disciple Jesus called. Do you remember who Simon Peter was? Peter was the disciple who later denied Jesus three times. Jesus can and will use all of us. So, do not ignore that feeling you have that maybe God is calling you to full-time ministry. Pray about it.
For some of you, your call may be to volunteer ministry. Maybe you are called to be the Vacation Bible School Director, to serve on Trustees or Outreach. Maybe you are called to be a scout leader like some you have seen today. Maybe you are being called to teach Sunday school or sing in one of our choirs. Pray about it.
That call may also be to another career where you are happy and more fulfilled and therefore your family is happier. If you are unhappy going to work each day and it takes everything you’ve got to get up and go, maybe God is calling you to something else where you can shine God’s light through your work. Or maybe you are called to make your current job your ministry, like Kathy did. Pray about it. Or perhaps God is calling you to make your current job your ministry and work to transform it, like Kathy. Pray about it. And listen to what God has to say and be prepared to respond.
Discipleship is not just a following. It is changing who and what we are. Many of us search and search for meaning in what we do and who we are. We proclaim to be faithful Christians but often times it is on our schedule. We turn to God and our faith in times of need or convenience. “But discipleship is not an offer we make to Christ. In all the searching we do in our lives, we are the ones being sought. God calls us into a life of discipleship. And God will equip us with the gifts we need. We have to be willing to follow.”
Our discipleship can be lived out in many ways. You may be a faithful disciple in your work, whatever it is. Or, you may live it out in your volunteer activities in the community or in this church. You may be called to live out your discipleship by starting a new program or ministry here at the church or by changing jobs. Jesus wants us to listen, not negotiate or bargain, but to listen. When Jesus calls, it is not because we are looking for him. It is because he has chosen us.
Jesus is calling us all to be disciples. Jesus has sought us out; he has chosen us and gifted us for what he wants us to do. Jesus calls and says, “Follow me.” Is your response “No, not me. Jesus can’t be calling me.” Or, are ready to put down your nets and follow? Amen.
 M. Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes (New Testament Articles, Matthew, Mark) (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 169.
 Thomas G. Long, Westminster Bible Companion: Matthew (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, Kentucky, 1997), 43.
 M. Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes (New Testament Articles, Matthew, Mark), 171.
 Douglas R. A. Hare, Interpretation: Matthew (John Know Press: Louisville, 1993), 30.
 Thomas G. Long, Westminster Bible Commentary: Matthew, 43.
 M. Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes (New Testament Articles, Matthew, Mark),171.