Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, comparing the Gospels description of the call of the first disciples.
3rd Sunday after Epiphany, January 27, 2008 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, your Son called people in the midst of their daily routines to be his disciples and to spread the news of your love for the world. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word, and grant us the courage to follow Jesus as his true disciples. Enable us, Lord, to not only learn from Jesus, but to serve him as instruments of your saving grace. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
There appears to be some disparity among the Gospels in regard to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and his calling of his first disciples. But then, as I pointed out on Christmas Eve, there does seem to be a progression of thought that takes place as we read the Gospels from the earliest to the latest. And so, I would like to explore this progression of thought this morning, in regard to our Lord’s call of his first disciples.
Mark and Matthew, in their Gospels, tell the same story. According to these two Gospels, Jesus is baptized by John, led into the wilderness to be tempted, and then, following John’s arrest, goes to Galilee to begin his ministry. Mark states it most simply, saying “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Of course, at this point, as you can see by our lesson for this morning, Matthew adds a little detail about Jesus leaving his hometown of Nazareth to make his home in Capernaum, in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah that is recorded in our first lesson. Matthew makes a point in his Gospel to show that many of Jesus’ actions were a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. But still, there is nothing mentioned about Jesus preaching any sermons, or attracting any large following. He is simply at the very beginning of his ministry.
Rather, according to Mark and Matthew, the first thing that Jesus does is to call his first disciples. And what an amazing story they tell. Jesus is walking along the shore, when he sees two fishermen, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew casting their net into the sea. Jesus calls to them and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately, we are told, they left their net, their boat, their occupation, and followed Jesus down the shore.
Not too further on, Jesus sees James and John, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus calls out to the two boys, most likely with the same invitation that he issued to Peter and Andrew, and immediately, they also drop everything, including leaving their father, to follow Jesus. The way Mark and Matthew describe the calling of first disciples, leaves me with the conclusion that the fishing must have been poor for a long time, or that they were just aching to for some new experience. Other than this, their story just doesn’t make sense.
Then we come to Luke’s Gospel, and his penchant to fill in the details. Luke tells us that following Jesus’ baptism, temptation, and the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus also returns to Galilee to begin his ministry. First, Jesus returns to Nazareth, where he preaches in the synagogue, and is rejected by his hometown, forcing him to flee to Capernaum, where he again preaches in a synagogue.
This time, he also heals a man with an unclean spirit, who had proclaimed him to be the Holy One of God. There, the people marveled, not only that he preached with authority, but that he could heal by the authority of his word. And the people began to spread the word about Jesus throughout the region. This was followed by several other healings, including that of Simon’s mother-in-law.
Finally, Luke tells us, Jesus was walking along the shore when a large crowd gathered to hear him preach. He saw two boats anchored there, as the fishermen were washing their nets. He got into the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore, from which Jesus preached.
When he had dismissed the crowds, he told Simon and his friends to go out a ways and let down their nets. Even though they had fished all night without catching a thing, they did as Jesus directed, and caught so many fish the boats began to sink. It was following this event, according to Luke, that Jesus invited Simon Peter, James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners, to become his first disciples, and they left everything to follow Jesus. Clearly, of the three Synoptic Gospels, which follow the same format in their account of the life of Christ, Luke’s Gospel is more understandable. These men were in awe of Jesus, for they had seen and experienced unique authority, even though they may not have yet understood that he was the Christ, the Son of God.