17. July 2022
So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God…when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
Jesus’ preaching never changes, for His Word is unchangeable. He called the crowds to repentance and faith. In the same way, He calls you to repent of fearing, loving and trusting in anyone or anything other than our heavenly Father. And He forgives you today and always through His shed blood and merciful suffering and death. In this preaching, faith is engendered, for it is by the hearing of the Word that faith is given, sustained, and nurtured (Romans 10:17). We don’t know what Jesus said in that sermon, but we don’t have to look far to make an educated guess.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17c). “Why do you worry about what you will eat? Your heavenly Father knows what you need” (Matthew 6:25, 32b). “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). “Man [shall] not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3). “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Blessed are [you] poor, for [yours] is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3). “Blessed are [you] who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for [you] shall be [filled]” (Matthew 5:6).
When Jesus issued a call to discipleship, he simply said, “Follow me.” Those fishermen in their boats knew immediately what he meant. His call wasn’t for the Ivy League trained, the wealthy white-collar elites, or celebrities with time for luxury. His call went out to normal men working the third shift and barely making it financially. The pattern had been set and the die-cast from the days of the Prophets. It’s not exclusive to Jesus. The Pharisees and John the Baptist had disciples. The thing they all had in common was that the disciple followed his master to learn of him, both by word and by example.
In those days, anyone who became a disciple to an itinerant master had to leave the usual occupations of life and follow his master. Jesus did not give them the promise of more success, greater wealth, or an easy life. The impressive miracle of the abundant catch of fish was temporary and the beginning of their catechesis. As Jesus says to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will catch men.” Later, one of the scribes who wanted to become a disciple said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Peter and Andrew, and the other fishermen left their nets, their boats, and their companions and followed him. They became catechumens under their catechist Jesus.
The decisive thing was not the miracle but that they followed him. They came under his influence by the Word preached, and the Spirit breathed. They began to learn from him. They saw and heard such matters as they otherwise would never have experienced. They were given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. They began to see the world, the church, and themselves differently. They once lived as if they mattered most along with their pursuits, dreams, and hopes. Now they are given to see God in Christ as the center and circumference of their entire faith and life.
For you to be a disciple like those of the Scriptures, therefore, is to live daily under the influence of the Word of Jesus. Your heart and mind consciously want to do just that and seek every opportunity to be with Jesus in preaching, teaching, and Sacrament. Jesus himself said to the disciples who had chosen to follow him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31ff). To be a disciple is to have your priorities adjusted so that work, play, and even family are governed by and focused on hearing Jesus and receiving His gifts.
But this call to you to be Jesus’ disciple isn’t spontaneous. You can’t check in a few times a year or once a month and then check out as you want and expect to remain in the faith. Something happens to you who becomes a disciple and remains with Jesus in preaching, teaching, and sacrament weekly and even daily. It is the external Word of Jesus that is powerfully working faith. Jesus calls you to where He gives faith, gathers you with the faithful, enlightens you with His Word, and sets you apart from your former way of life. You are no longer your own—not your life, your time, your money, your work, your family, or your leisure. You belong to Jesus and He wants to work in you by His Word and Spirit faithful discipleship.
None of His disciples has true faith at the beginning. Throughout the Gospels, the disciples vacillate between the faith given by the Spirit and the unbelief of their sinful flesh.“There are some of you who do not believe,” Jesus says to those who just previous to this had been called His disciples and saw Him feed the 5000 (John 6:60, 64). Therefore Jesus does not ask at the beginning about the faith of a disciple. All who will simply trust him enough to be willing to listen to him and to follow him are welcome to be his disciples. While they listen, they will begin to understand the truth.
Some will be repelled and say, as did some of his disciples in Galilee, “Who can listen to it?” Jesus has difficult words to say, and if you are so quick to be offended and absent yourselves, you’ll never come to understand and believe that Jesus was right all along. Today, Jesus still calls you to be His disciples. But do you answer, “Who has time for it? When else do I get the luxury of sleeping in? How can I get work done on the farm or around the house if Jesus takes me away for an hour or hours each week? Those cows aren’t going to milk themselves.” God forbid it! But to those open to the influence of His Word, He will one day say, “Who do you say that I AM?” And after being nurtured and sustained daily by Jesus as you listened to Him, you will say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Through the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the new day has come. Now discipleship doesn’t require you to leave your earthly vocations. Jesus is with you, His disciples, always, in all lands, and at all times. To follow Him does not mean that you must give up your normal occupation. Now it means seriously to seek Jesus where he can be found, that is, in His church, His Word, and His sacraments. And then, Jesus calls you to live as His disciples in those vocations and occupations, with faith toward Him and love for one another. We see, therefore, how right our fathers were when they used to say that a disciple of Jesus is one who uses God’s Word and prayer to come to faith or to be preserved in the faith.
Therefore it is written concerning the first disciples at Jerusalem, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin