Summary: Jesus taught, Jesus preached Good News, and Jesus demonstrated the compassion of God. We are called to represent him by doing the same.
Jesus is now being followed by Peter, Andrew, James and John. They have all left their fishing nets (Matthew 4:20) to follow Jesus; and James and John have left their Father Zebedee to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:22).
I know that some of you have left things behind to follow Jesus, left things behind to be where Jesus wants you to be, left things behind to do the things that Jesus wants you to do. Something which I am finding hard right now is the fact that very soon I am going to leave you behind, leave Fair Oak and Horton Heath behind, leave developing relationships behind. However, the future is bright! I must leave to go where Jesus calls me, to be where Jesus wants me.
During his earthly ministry Jesus had an early opportunity for to be fast tracked in his ‘career’.
Jesus had the opportunity to avoid hard work, and the opportunity to own great wealth. Doesn’t that sound great? Isn’t that what we’re all aiming for: promotion, an easy life, and great wealth? (Matthew 4:8-10) “The devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you’, he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Jesus knew that God’s call was taking him away from his home town and place of childhood security. We read elsewhere (Luke 4) that Jesus was rejected in his home town of Nazareth and it is in Luke 4:24 that we hear those words of Jesus: “I tell you the truth …no prophet is accepted in his home town.” So, in response to God’s call Jesus leaves his home town, avoids the temptation of a devil-inspired career, and calls others to leave their security to follow him.
A question: does any of that resonate with you right now? Perhaps God has already asked you to leave certain things, certain places, certain splendours, even certain people behind during your journey of following him. Perhaps God is asking you now.
So, Jesus now has Peter, Andrew, James and John with him. They have left behind the security of their small business income, and they are with Jesus as he goes throughout Galilee (4:23). “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”, said Jesus (4:19).
Something new is now happening: Jesus begins to impact the lives of many people, and how we long for something similar in our communities today. That the message of Jesus would be taught, that the good news of the kingdom would be preached, and that every type of disease and sickness in our community would be healed (4:23). Jesus was in the synagogues and out in the community. He was both in and out.
During the last part of 2005 we sensed that God was calling us into a time of rest and consolidation, ready for the next phase of God’s plans for us. That phase, or that season must soon end.
For Jesus, the season of quietly learning, increasing in wisdom and stature and gaining favour with God and men (Luke 2:52) was over. The time for action had come. The time for action is coming soon for us!
It’s a fact that conservative sections of the evangelical church stress personal conversion and commitment to Jesus; recognising our need of forgiveness, and thanking God for the cross on which Jesus died to set us free from the consequences of sin. I include myself in this because it was central to the mission of Jesus. However, we sometimes stress this aspect of Jesus’ mission and neglect matters of compassion and justice for those who are suffering, and a world that is being torn apart.
Liberal Christianity tends to stress care for the poor and marginalised, fighting injustice, alleviating poverty and treating people with dignity; whilst neglecting to call people to personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Where are we as a church? Where are we in our Home Churches? Where am I? Which one wins the day: personal conversion or compassion?
Jesus went to where people were. A church that simply runs services on a Sunday and puts up a notice board with times of services, and then expects people to come, has missed the mission of Jesus. A church that simply feels sincerely sorry for the thousands of people who go to the temples of St. Michael, St. Mary, St. Mother Care and St. ‘Toys ‘R’ Us’, has missed the mission of Jesus. In our baptism, Jesus has called each one of us to join in with his mission. His ways are higher than our ways, and his mission priorities are higher than our priorities.