Blog / Book of the Month / Jesus says “I Will Make You” Sermon / Matthew 4:12-29 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 26th 2020 / Season of Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Jesus says “I Will Make You” Sermon / Matthew 4:12-29 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 26th 2020 / Season of Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Jesus says “I Will Make You” Sermon / Matthew 4:12-29 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 26th 2020 / Season of Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 26th 2020: Season of Epiphany / Matthew 4:12-29 Jesus Says “I Will Make You”

Now when [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth He went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

  the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

 the people dwelling in darkness

  have seen a great light,

 and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

  on them a light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And [Jesus] said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

And [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So His fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Who sees me? Who knows my heart, my thoughts? I make my own decisions in life, my own choices, I am my own master, I do as I like, I believe what I want to believe … and so goes the individualistic way of thinking so prevalent in our world today. It is a trap to be sure and we know this from Scripture passages like Isaiah 29:16 which clearly levels this condemnation, “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?” Later in Isaiah 64 we hear these words, “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand.”[1] On a day like today when we acknowledge baptisms over the last year and have confirmation of baptisms for some in the 11am Service and the reception of new members by profession of faith or transfer from another Lutheran congregation which we are in fellowship with the question of who is doing what when it comes to faith is a good one to think about, especially when we think about it in relation to our Gospel Reading for this Sunday. And so we ask a question: Do we choose God or does God choose us? Is it better to be in God’s hands or in our own hands? 

Consider the twelve disciples; our Gospel reading focus on four of them. In the three years following Jesus’ call to them Jesus day in and day out had fashioned them, formed them, moulded them like a potter with clay in hands into the very thing that Jesus had promised when he said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Notice that the promise isn't 'Follow Me, and I will teach you how to become fishers of men, if you choose to be.' No what Jesus says, is “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This is a powerful distinction to contemplate.

First we might ask ‘why did Peter immediately leave the fishing nets, leave the boat and follow Jesus?’ John the son of Zebedee gives some insight into this. Last week in the Gospel of John we heard how Andrew Peter's brother, who was one of John the Baptizers disciples, was with John the Baptizer when that John pointed at Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Andrew then followed after Jesus spent the day with Him and then Andrew went and "found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought [Simon] to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)."[2]

So when Peter and Andrew looked out from their boat in our Gospel reading today from the Gospel of St. Matthew and saw this man on the beach, when they heard His voice calling out to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They knew that this was the Christ, the Messiah, so they followed Jesus. This doesn’t demystify their immediate leaving of their nets it actually makes the whole thing more intriguing. One interesting detail about Jesus’ call to them is that at the time, in the first century Roman province of Palestine, it was common for men who wanted to be the disciples, the student of a Rabbi, a teacher, to pick their teacher; Jesus turns this all on its head. Jesus is the one who chooses His disciples, and in the same way it is Jesus who chooses you, by the time you say "I will follow this Jesus," the Holy Spirit has already been at work in your heart, He has call and gathered you to Jesus.

There is another detail that will help you see how God was at work, how the Holy Spirit was at work calling, gathering and enlightening Peter and his brother Andrew. Why was Andrew down at the Jordan River near Jericho as recorded by St. John in his Gospel when Andrew was a fisherman from Galilee? And why would his brother Simon (who we now know as Peter) have been so close at hand? Matthew's Gospel tells us that people were coming from a great distance to hear John the Baptizer preach and to be baptized by him. Matthew records that, "Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to [John the Baptizer], and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins."[3] Peter and Andrew too would have come to hear John preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[4] They would have come to confess their sins and be baptized. This is why Peter would have been close by, this is why Andrew was there with John the Baptizer to hear him say of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World”[5]  Repentance, a turning to God away from your sinful self and your sinful condition, is a gift from God: A gift that Peter and Andrew had received by the working of the Holy Spirit, who was already at work gathering them to Christ Jesus by the word of God; putting them in just the right places at just the right times.

The moment they dropped their nets and came to shore to follow this Jesus who called to them was but one more moment when the Holy Spirit was at work, where Christ was at work. The clay pot doesn't make itself. Remember what Isaiah says, "But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your Hand."[6] Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

And so we must consider: What do we make of ourselves when we are left to our own devices? What does Christ Jesus make of us when we are in His hands? In our own hands, left to our own devices, when we are tempted by the World and our sinful flesh, by our old nature, we find ourselves shaping and bending everything to our own personal will, as much as we can possibly get away with, we say “no” when we should say “yes,” we serve ourselves instead of serving others. We choose the things that “feel good” over and against the things that are more painful but are more noble and true. We covet what is not ours to have. We hurt others in small and in large ways. We shape our hearts to be calloused against the ones for whom we should show mercy. We say what we should not say in ways we should not say them and on the flipside we lose heart and become cowardly folding at the first sign of trouble tucking our tail between our legs to scamper off when we should actually stand firm and speak God’s Word in love and kindness saying what we should say the way we should say it. When the clay of your heart, your life, your soul, your mind is left in your own hands you shape yourself to be less brave, more selfish, less kind, less compassionate, more of a problem, turned in on yourself.

In God’s hand this is not the case. When you are in His hands which are gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love[7] you are fashioned as one forgiven and made to be kind yet firm, strong yet merciful, loving and self sacrificing, content and unafraid. St. Paul urges you saying, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”[8] He says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,”[9] he says, “let your reasonableness be known to everyone,” and why does Paul give such advice? Because, “The Lord is at hand;”[10] and you dear ones are in His almighty hand.

In our Gospel, St. Matthew records what Jesus had came to preach, Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” To repent means to turn away from yourself and be turned to God, be turned towards Jesus. Jesus calls you, the Holy Spirit calls you, the Father calls you; yours is not the power to turn to God yours in the power to resist the call to put your fingers in your ears and to shout down the law of God because it doesn’t let you do as you like. Yours is the temper tantrum of faith; God’s part is the patience of true and abiding love. Andrew, Peter, James and John were all called from their nets and they listened, they heeded the call to discipleship. Think on what Jesus later says to His disciples in the Gospel of St. Matthew, “If anyone would come after Me,” [Jesus says,] “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his [selfish, turned in on itself, sinful] life for My sake will find [true life, eternal life, in Me]. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”[11]

Are you looking for an example from the life of Christ where He succeeded in this faithfulness and obedience to the will of God? On the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night in which He was betrayed, after the institution of the Lord’s Supper, knowing that His cross and passion His very crucifixion was about to come, Jesus prayed saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to [Jesus] an angel from heaven, strengthening Him .[12] Even though His life was without sin, Jesus was the servant of all and He followed the will of His Father laying down His life for you and me, for all people. He was not selfish, He continued to heed the call of the cross; yes St. Paul says, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”[13] And it is important to point out that Jesus did not end up nailed to the cross by accident, His suffering and death there were not a mistake, no Jesus was gathered to that place to take on all your sins of selfish stubborn willfulness. The crucified Jesus was in His Father’s hands at the cross and in His Father’s hands He died our death, in our place exchanging death for life for us.

You likewise are not here today by accident, you are not here today by your own willing, it is not a mistake that you are here; your ears are not opened today to hear these God’s Words by your own accord or willpower. It is the Holy Spirit who has brought you here today, it is Christ who speaks to you today by His Word, you are in the hand of your heavenly Father and God makes of you what He desires. Jesus in the Gospel of John says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”[14] When Peter and Andrew, when James and John left their nets, when they left their boats they heard Jesus' voice and they followed Him. They would later come to know that they had already been in Jesus' hand before they dropped their nets to be made into fishers of men.

So then, hear these words from the book of Hebrews and take them to heart, "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."[15]

Let us pray:Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Isaiah 64:8
[2] John 1:41-42
[3] Matthew 3:5-6
[4] Matthew 3:2
[5] John 1:29
[6] Isaiah 64:8
[7] Psalm 145:8
[8] Philippians 4:8
[9] Philippians 4:6
[10] Philippians 4:5
[11] Matthew 16:24–26
[12] Luke 22:42–43
[13] Philippians 2:8
[14] John 10:27-30
[15] Hebrews 13:20-21