Summary: Christ called disciples to a mission in the world. The call is distinctive, costly and transforming. This sermon touches on who Christ calls, the cost involved and the priority of the mission.
Mission is such a nebulous word. When we talk about mission in church settings, our minds immediately go the work we do in the community and around the world—we think about the church being in missions. We begin this message series and have made the focus of this Lenten season Mission: Possible, and we hope that all of us will be engaged in at least one service project over these next forty days as we engage in Forty Days of Service. And, yes, that’s missions, but when we say Mission: Possible, I’m speaking of the overarching mission of the church. We are not simply to be a church in missions, but we are to be a church with a mission—we are a church ON a mission. I love the mission statement of the United Methodist Church—the mission of the UMC is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s the mission we believe is possible. We believe it is possible to become disciples, and in so doing, participate with God in the transformation of His creation. Here’s the reality we face: God through Jesus Christ has called us to a mission with a purpose. That’s right! God has called us through Jesus Christ. We are, like the Blues Brothers of old, on a mission from God, and that mission begins with the call. It’s the call to the mission we look at this morning. To get a more clear understanding of the call, we go back to the call of the first disciples. We do that because in over 2,000 years, the call hasn’t changed.
We heard in today’s passage the most well-known call to A mission in the Bible. If we grew up in Sunday school, this passage is old news to us. We’ve heard this story, and have been encouraged to heed the words, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” If we are new to the Christian faith, this episode seems a bit strange. After all, who just drops everything they’re doing to follow some itinerant preacher who happens by one day? Sounds a bit cultish, if you ask me. I mean seriously, does Matthew (or anyone else for that matter) expect us to believe that Jesus was such a compelling person that these four fishermen would drop everything to follow him around the countryside? Yet, this whole episode is about the call of Jesus Christ to a mission and a purpose. As we explore their calling, perhaps we learn a bit about our own calling to be on a mission. What can we learn?
First, I learn who Jesus calls to this mission. Jesus came to these fishermen brothers. His ministry had been on-going in the area around the Sea of Galilee. He had been baptized, he had preached, he had gone into the synagogues, and John’s Gospel indicates he had set up household in the village of Capernaum along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The likelihood is Jesus had encountered these fishermen before. They likely had heard his teaching, and Jesus reached out to them to call them into the Kingdom.
We discover by reading John’s Gospel that Jesus has already had an encounter with Andrew and Peter, and likely John as well. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. One day, Jesus walked by and John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He was saying to his disciples that this is the guy I was telling you about. Him. He’s the One. Andrew and another disciple that scholars believe was John, the son of Zebedee, followed after Jesus. Jesus asked them why they were following him. To make a long story short, they hung with Jesus for a while, then Andrew went and found his brother Peter and said, “We’ve found the Messiah.” Peter got up and went with Andrew to meet Jesus. It was at this encounter that Jesus told Peter, whose name had been Simon to this point, that his name would be Peter. These men knew Jesus, but more importantly, Jesus knew them, and because he knew them, he called them to His mission—to make disciples. Jesus called them to be disciples to make disciples.
Jesus knew they were common, ordinary fishermen. Not like sitting out by the creek with a pole and a hook. They were commercial fishermen who made their living on the Sea of Galilee. The commercial fishing business was a tough trade in the first century. I mean, really, it’s still a tough business. I had a commercial fisherman in a congregation I previously served, and I had the opportunity to go out with him a couple of times. I was glad to do it, too, because Lester Duval was happy to keep the pastor supplied with fresh catfish out of the Atchafalaya River. This pastor loves him some catfish, and I knew if I went out with Lester, I was likely coming home with a fresh catch. But, it was a long day that started early in the morning. There were traps to check, and trot lines and seines. Morning and evening, and if you checked a trap or a net and there was a problem, it was back to shore to fix what needed to be fixed. Then, late in the day, do it all over again. Not a glamorous life. Want to catch a glimpse of the life of commercial fishermen? Watch Deadliest Catch on The Discovery Channel. It’s a brutal life. The life was brutal in the first century, too. It was hard and dangerous work, and those who performed it were simple, hard-working men who only sought to make a living for their family. Most were not highly educated. Many couldn’t even read and write.