The Third Sunday after Epiphany (January 23, 2011)

Lessons: Isaiah 9:1-4 Psalm 27:1, 4-9 (1) 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 St. Matthew 4:12-23

Prayer of the Day
: Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows after us. Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness that come through the cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." 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 went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

St. Matthew 4:12-23, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Follow Me

Last week Saint John spoke about how Jesus began to form his group of followers. Andrew, a disciple of John, follows Jesus to his home one day. He becomes convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and brings his brother to see Jesus. His brother, Simon, is moved to believe in Jesus and begins to follow him as well.

This week Saint Matthew tells us the same story but remembers it differently. In his account Jesus is walking by the sea of Galilee when he comes upon some fishermen: Andrew and Peter are throwing a net into the sea; James and John are sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets. To each of these sets of brothers, Jesus simply says: “Follow me.” And the brothers follow. Leaving everything behind, without making any arrangements for continuing what they had been responsible for doing, they immediately leave, and follow Jesus.

How does one reconcile these two accounts, quite different from one another? Did John hand off Andrew to Jesus? Did Andrew recruit his brother? Did Jesus happen upon these four fishermen and solicit their immediate response? It seems that there is no way that the answer to every one of these questions could possibly be “yes.”

One helpful way to read is to refrain from asking, “Which one is right?” A better question might be: “What message does each of these accounts communicate?” When we look at these texts in this manner, we find that they actually offer two insights into what it means to follow Jesus — insights that are in no way at odds with each other.

John the Evangelist (the author of the Gospel) was clearly concerned about John the Baptist’s role. There may have been people still alive during his day who thought that John was the Messiah, not Jesus. He sought to make it very clear that John was subordinate to Jesus. He even remembered that the Baptist tried to convert his followers into followers of Jesus. So he tells us that John pointed Andrew towards Jesus, and Andrew did the same for his brother.

Writing a few decades earlier, Matthew wasn’t as concerned about John. He wanted to stress how urgent the call to faithfulness was. It is as if he was saying: “Look at Simon Peter and Andrew. Look at James and John. They immediately (in the Greek, Matthew stresses this word) drop everything they are doing to follow Jesus. They leave their nets rotting in the sun, and their co-workers scrambling to continue the work, because they feel the call from Jesus is that urgent.”

How would your life change, if we took these two messages to heart? John reminds us that one of our primary responsibilities as believers is to draw others to the faith that has touched our lives. Matthew reminds us that this task is an urgent task — not one that can be put off for another day. But one that is necessary today!

Many believers today have lost that sense of urgency. We think there will be time later on to bring a friend or neighbor to the faith. This may be faith, but it is not Biblical faith. Jesus, through the words of the Bible, calls us to believe that if others are going to come to know him, it is up to us to share the Good News with them. And the day will come when it is simply too late to be of any help.

Let us take this task seriously. Let us do all we can to be faithful to our Lord’s call. Let us learn from Andrew and Peter and James and John how important it is that we be open to God’s movement in our lives, and available to God’s Spirit, who would work through us to extend the boundaries of the kingdom. I look forward to working with you on these important responsibilities. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Text:

  1. What is difference between John’s account of this story (St. John 1:29-42) and Matthew’s (St. Matthew 4:12-23).
  2. What do these two accounts have in common?
  3. How might the messages of both of these evangelists have been helpful to the early church?

Connecting with This Week’s Text:

  1. Who helped point me towards Jesus?
  2. When have I felt God’s call in a manner that was urgent? How did I respond?
  3. When have I had the privilege of leading someone else to Christ?