This story is a good one for me to tell you about the truth of the Bible versus the facts of the Bible. The Bible is all true, but the facts aren’t always right. Above all else, the Bible contains truth about God. Sometimes we have to weed through the details to get to the truth.
Last week, we read from John’s Gospel the story of Jesus calling the first Disciples. I want to read a portion of that text to you. This is from John 1: 35 – 42a: 35 The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples.36 When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?” 39 He replied, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Christ[a] ). 42 He led him to Jesus.
Now, I’d like to read you a portion of today’s Scripture again. This is how Matthew tells the story of Jesus calling His first Disciples. This is from Matthew 4: 18 – 22: 18 As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 20 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 21 Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
John says that Andrew and another man began to follow Jesus. Then, Jesus said, “Come and see.” Later, Andrew asked Simon Peter to come follow Jesus too. According to Matthew, Jesus found Andrew and Simon Peter fishing and asked them to “Come, follow me.” Then, Jesus called to James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and they also started following him. The facts of the stories are different. The truth is Jesus invited Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to follow Him and they did. The details of the story aren’t important. The importance of this story is the truth that Jesus called His Disciples and they started to follow Him.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John weren’t there when Jesus called Andrew and Simon Peter. John doesn’t tell the story of his call to follow Jesus. Each of the Gospel writers were relying on the stories they heard about how Jesus called Andrew and Simon Peter. Matthew, Mark, and John tell the story differently, but what is important is that Jesus called them and they followed.
Jesus’ call is a defining moment in the lives of these men. They receive an invitation from Jesus. They accepted it and began following Jesus. They could name the date it happened and remember the place it happened.
We may not be able to give a date when Jesus invited us to follow Him. It is probably something we heard again and again as we read Scripture. Each time we read about Jesus or heard about Jesus we heard a quiet invitation to follow Him. Throughout our lives, He has been asking us to follow Him.
Then, we responded to the invitation. We decided we would follow Him. It may not be a day we can mark on our calendar. We gradually answer His call. What we mark on our calendar is the date we made it official through baptism. Confessing our faith that Jesus is Lord and being immersed in the waters of baptism is a sign we have answered Jesus’ call to follow Him. We may remember the date of our baptism and celebrate the anniversary every year. Even if we don’t remember the date, we might remember the place and can tell the story.
Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John followed Jesus without asking where they were going or what would be expected of them. They likely thought He was a zealot. There were lots of zealots around Israel at the time. A zealot was someone who gathered followers with the promise to drive Rome out of Israel. Some of the zealots claimed to be the messiah and their followers thought they were the messiah, the one who would lead the war against Rome and free Israel from their oppression. All of the zealots were crucified by the Roman empire for their threat of war.
Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John all followed Jesus likely thinking that He would be the one to lead the strike on Rome and push them out of the region. They thought they knew what they were following Christ to. They thought they would expected to fight alongside Jesus. They were willing to put their life on the line for the freedom of Israel. They accepted the invitation to follow Him blindly with pre-conceived notions of a Messiah who would lead a group of bandits to oust Herod and overthrow the Roman empire.
The Disciples made a mistake the day they agreed to follow Jesus. They assumed they knew what they were getting into. Unfortunately, they were very wrong about their expectations and spent the next 3 years trying to understand what Jesus was doing.
When we accepted the invitation to follow Jesus, did we know where the journey would take us? Did we know what would be expected of us?
When we go on a journey, we want a plan. How are we going to get there? How long will it take? How much will it cost? What will we do when we get there? When are we coming back?
We don’t ask those questions when we choose to follow Christ. We just say, “I am going to follow Jesus.” Well, it’s time to start asking questions.
The saying goes, “if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there.” How will we know we are doing God’s will and fulfilling God’s plan for us if we don’t continually ask God what He wants us to do and who He wants us to be There is no end in our calling. God calls us to one thing, then to the next, then to the next. The final destination in our journey is Heaven. Until we reach that glory, we are continually called to do God’s will, fulfill His mission, and be His people.
That’s why I keep talking about a 3-year ministry plan. We have individually chosen to follow Christ and to be a part of this church. We have fulfilled God’s plan for us over the last 3 years. You asked God, “Who do you want us to be? What do you want us to do?” And, you met the goals God set before you. You have become the church God called you to be. You have been reconciled to one another and done great ministry. Now, it is time to ask God, “What next?”
This year, we are spending some time in prayer like Jesus often did. We are spending a year asking God, “Who do you want us to become? What do you want us to do?”
The Disciples spent 3 years trying to understand what Jesus was talking about. Even after His death, when they were huddled in a house, they were still trying to figure out what their role was in the coming Kingdom of God. It wasn’t until after the Risen Jesus appeared to them that they finally got it.
We can learn from the Disciples’ mistake. We don’t have to blindly follow Jesus into the unknown. We can ask God what we’re going to do and where we’re going so we know when we get there and when we become the church God wants to transform us into. As Jesus again and again asks us to follow Him, we should be able to answer we will follow you with the knowledge of where we are going, how we are going to get there, and who we will be when we get there.
This time of prayerful discernment is both individual and communal. As we pray about our individual journeys, we are asking God how He will use us and our gifts. That individual mission is part of this community and that mission will match up to what we as a church will do. I firmly believe God called each of us to be part of this community and will give us tasks to do within our church’s mission so that we can become the church God wants us to be. A new ministry plan will include work for each of us and will have a great impact on our church and in our communities.
There is no need for us to feel like we can’t be a part of bringing about God’s Kingdom. We can believe we can do extraordinary things because all things are possible through Him who strengthens us. Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John were ordinary people. They were simple fishermen. They spent 3 years learning from Jesus following Him from village to village watching Him perform miracles and challenging the status quo of the Temple and the oppressive regime of the Roman empire.
When the time finally came, those ordinary fishermen did extraordinary things. Simon Peter became the leader of the movement to spread the Good News to the Jews and baptized 3,000 after preaching on Pentecost. James went on to be the leader of the church in Jerusalem. John worked beside Simon Peter performing miracles. God used ordinary fishermen to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and establish the Church in the world.
God too can use us ordinary people to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and establish this church to be a great beacon of hope in our community. God will use ordinary people like us to do extraordinary ministry if we ask Him what to do and where to go. Please be a part of the process of prayerfully discern God’s plan for us. We have exciting things ahead of us and we can all be a part of God’s continued glory in our world.
There are mouths to feed, people to clothe, children to share the message of Jesus with, single mothers to help in raising good kids, seniors to care for, housing to develop, jobs to create, and programs to defend. We can be a part of that. Christ is calling us to important work. We have the opportunity to answer His call if we just spend a little time discerning where we’re going. God is going to use ordinary people like us to do extraordinary things.