Greeting: Grace and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Text: 14) After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15) "The time has come," He said, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" 16) As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and His brother Andrew casting a net into the Lake, for they were fishermen. 17) "Come, follow Me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 18) At once they left their nets and followed Him. 19) When He had gone a little farther, He saw James, son of Zebedee, and his brother, John, in a boat, preparing their nets. 20) Without delay He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him.
Introduction: All of us are used to receiving calls that concern the subject of helping. Sometimes the calls are a request for our help. Someone is asking us to give of ourselves. Do you enjoy that kind of call? At other times the calls are an offer of help. Someone would like to do something for us. Do you enjoy that kind of call? Sometimes the call is a combination of both an offer of help and a request for it. The person proposes: "I want to do something for you and I need you to do something for me." How satisfying is that kind of call? The answers to those questions often depend on who is doing the asking and the offering and on what kind of help we are talking about.
With that in mind, we are going to consider St. Mark's account of Jesus' call of His first 4 disciples - Peter, Andrew, James and John. He found them along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and He called them while they were preparing their fishing nets. It may be tempting for us to think of what Jesus did as a pure request for these men's help. Jesus needed disciples, and these men could help him by agreeing to follow Him and do what He told them.
However, that is not an accurate assessment of the situation. Jesus' call is both an offer to help as well as a request for help. If we think about this situation carefully, we will see that Jesus is actually offering these men a lot more than He is asking from them. That is true for everyone whom Jesus calls to Himself. That is also the way it is when Jesus calls us.
Knowing that should help us hear the words of our Savior better. As we study Jesus' call of the first disciples, we also ask: "Do I hear the Savior calling me?"
1. To Be His Close Companion
When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, and then James and John, to follow Him, it was not His first meeting with these men. Jesus had known them for at least a year. These four were followers of John the Baptizer, and they had met Jesus a number of times. In the case of James and John, Jesus may have known them since childhood. Jesus' mother, Mary, and their mother, Salome, were sisters. That made James and John the cousins of Jesus. All these men were interested in Jesus and had investigated the claim John the Baptizer had made about Him when he called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
But now Jesus was approaching these men with a call on a different level. He wanted them to join Him and be with Him full time. He wanted them to become His close companions and dearest friends. When Jesus called them, Mark tells us that they followed Him without any hesitation.
Who do you think was going to get the most out of that arrangement? Was is going to be Peter, Andrew, James and John or would it be Jesus? Jesus would gain much from his fellowship with His disciples, but the four men would be gaining far more from Jesus. These hard-working fishermen would get to spend the next 3 years living an exciting adventure. They would be with the mighty, merciful Son of God. They would learn very well what He was like, what He could do. They would learn His divine wisdom. They would see His powerful miracles. They would witness His loving actions. They would behold perfection personified. The Messiah would learn all about them. He would be concerned for them and help them and become their best and dearest Friend.
The Savior still calls people to be His close companions. In Ephesians 1, St. Paul writes: "The Spirit of wisdom and revelation will let us know Him better and we may know the hope to which He has called us - the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints." The Savior wants you to become one of His dear Friends who know Him thoroughly, trust Him wholeheartedly, and love Him deeply. We may have trusted and loved Jesus well for many years. We may have come to believe in and cherish Him only recently. The call from Jesus comes to each one to follow Him more closely that before. This closeness to Jesus comes to us as we come to the Word that reveals Him and works more thoroughly and thoughtfully with that Word.
Jesus does not want you to be separated from Him. He does not want you to be out on the fringes of acquaintance. He wants you to be His closest, dearest Friend. Do you hear Your Savior calling you to give you the privilege of being His close companion?
2. To Train For Kingdom Service
Jesus' call of the early disciples is also a call to learn from Him and to enter training for activity that Jesus calls "being fishers of men." Jesus was enlisting these two sets of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John, to become His apprentices and learn from Jesus how to reach out to people with God's Word and win them to God. Jesus gave these men the opportunity for a most fulfilling mission. They would be privileged to learn from Jesus Himself how to use God's precious Word to save precious human souls. Jesus was calling them to undertake a higher path for their life. He didn't want them to just be concerned with making a living and feeding their family. Jesus called them to a life in which they would focus on bringing eternal life and God's kingdom blessings to others. He called these men to an exalted, eternal use of their earthly life.
Do you hear the Savior make a similar call to you? Do you hear His call to train for kingdom service and to learn to be fishers of men? Christ's call to us comes in various statements: "Let your light shine before people so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." "Always be ready to give a reason for the hope you have within you." "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace so that you may know how to answer everyone."
The Savior calls us to follow Him also so that we learn how to become fishers of mean and servants in His kingdom. There is much for us to learn and much for us to do. Jesus reminds us that "the harvest if great, but the workers are few." Jesus wants to use us - not just the few who may be polished speakers and highly educated scholars. He wants to use all of His people whatever their abilities. He can impart the skills, the knowledge and the strength each of us needs. He uses our personality, our upbringing, our life experiences and works with them to that we can serve Him well as He extends His rule through His Word in people's hearts and lives.
The Savior calls - both the disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John, those disciples of long ago. He also calls you and me to follow Him right now. It is a call to help. It is an offer to help us. Let us hear the Savior calling us to a closer companionship with Him and to kingdom training and service for Him. May we respond at the first disciples did - positively, eagerly, quickly. Amen.