Last week, we read the story in the Gospel of John of Jesus’ baptism from John the Baptist’s perspective. John told his follower about Jesus being the messiah – and some of John’s disciples became Jesus’ disciples.

            Today, we read from the book of Matthew about the calling of Jesus’ first 4 disciples. Because we are reading from Matthew, he had a slightly different take on things than John.  Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen, and Jesus enticed them to follow him by telling them he would make them “fishers for men.”

            Hear our reading as it comes from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 4, verses twelve through twenty-three:

Proclamation of the Scripture            Matthew 4:12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 

Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 

to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
    the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
    Galilee of the Gentiles—
 the people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned.”

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 

At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 

and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.                    

Here ends this reading of the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Message                                          Called Together    

            A few weeks ago, this scripture came up in our Confirmation Sunday School class. One of our young people pointed to this scripture as being particularly odd: the sons of Zebedee, James and John, jumped out of their family’s fishing boat, walked away from their dad and their haul of fish, and followed Jesus down the road. It was like Jesus bewitched them. As soon as these men were called by Jesus, they walked away from their ordinary lives and followed him.

            We have trouble understanding this kind of devotion. If we heard of one of our classmates or coworkers met a spiritual leader and immediately abandoned their lives to follow that leader, we would be worried, not impressed.  If we were Zebedee, at work with our kids, and a strange man walked into our work and our kids dropped everything to follow them, we would probably be terrified.

            But, we know Zebedee’s wife, further along in the story of Jesus’ life, approached Jesus to ask him if her sons could rule in glory alongside the throne of Jesus, one at his right and one at his left. In fact, Zebedee’s wife was Salome, a female disciple who followed Jesus during his missionary journeys and was present at Jesus’s crucifixion alongside Mary Jesus’s mother and Mary Magdalene. Zebedee’s profitable fishing business is believed to have financially supported Jesus’ ministry during his lifetime and the ministry of his Apostles after Jesus’ ascension.

            So, yes, the reality that the first disciples immediately followed Jesus as soon as he called them may have seemed surprising to some observers, but in the case of the family of Zebedee, it seems like everyone got on board with following Jesus.

            In today’s reading, we hear what it was like at the beginning of the Good News. Jesus began sharing the Gospel message of “Repent, for the reign of God, the beloved community of God, is at hand! It is here.” Jesus called the people of first century Israel, and still calls us today, to turn back towards God and to share the goodness of God with one another. Jesus calls us to live lives of faith and to focus on treating other people with love and respect.

            Some of Jesus’ disciples heard Jesus’ message of love and turning towards God and were immediately inspired to follow Jesus. Others saw Jesus doing actions that demonstrated the Good News was being lived and experienced – Jesus healed the sick and the possessed, Jesus welcomed outcasts to be part of his group, Jesus raised people from the dead, and Jesus preached a message that claimed that acting with love was more important than following the rules to a T.

            Jesus shared good news with people who needed good news: people who were weighed down by the trials of the world, people whose hearts were broken, people who were being oppressed by the government or being oppressed by the people of their own cultural group, people who were lost, lonely and hurting.

            Even though Jesus has not been physically present on earth for a long time, as his followers it is important for us to continue to share and live out the Good News. It is oftentimes easier to preach the good news than it is to live it. Our work is to tell people about Jesus, to inform them that the Holy Spirit is present with us now, and that God loves them…God’s love forgives all past wrongdoings and all sins. Our work is to also be as loving and as invitational as Jesus. Our work is to reach out to the kinds of people Jesus reached out to – elderly, young, widowed, orphaned, rejected, bullied, physically ill, mentally ill, from different ethnic and cultural groups, — we are to reach out to diverse people. We are to be loving and kind to everyone. We are called to be generous and protective. We are called to have a preferential treatment for people who are economically and spiritually poor. When Jesus first preached in his hometown of Nazareth, he read this scripture from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’”

            Like Jesus, we are called to proclaim good news to the poor. We are to proclaim freedom for the captives and help the blind to see Jesus. We are to set the oppressed free and to work for justice for the economically dispossessed. When we live out the Good News, as well as proclaim the Good News, we will help those who are searching for meaning to find God. This is our calling. This is our work.

            May we do so with love in our hearts. Amen.