January 26, 2020 Series: Being SJLC 2020
Topic: Biblical Verse: Matthew 4:12–4:25
Third Sunday after the Epiphany[i]
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“Being SJLC 2020: Follow Him”
“Oh, hey! Jesus! Good to see you! You want me to follow you? Wow. I’m honored. And surprised, really! Who am I that you want me to follow you? It’s not as if I’ve got something you can’t find somewhere else, right? Follow you – that’s a huge thing. Again, I’m honored. But what is life following you going to look like? What am I going to have to leave behind? I mean, I appreciate what you’ve done in rescuing me and all of humanity from the chains of sin and death. That’s great stuff! But I’ve got some things I need to take care of here with family and friends and work and sports and other commitments… So, can I get back to you on this invitation?”
Starting his public ministry there around Capernaum, on the northern shore of the sea of Galilee, Jesus called disciples from the community in which he was living. It’s kind of surprising: disciples normally sought out the rabbi, the teacher, that they wanted to follow. But Jesus chose his disciples from among the common people of Galilee. He called, knowing who he was getting. These are the ordinary folks who would follow him on an extraordinary journey, one which would change their lives – and the world – forever.
Jesus is calling you. He chooses you to follow him. Jesus knows you. He knows who you are and where you’ve been. And he knows what life following him is going to look like. Jesus wants to disciple you, to form and shape you to be more and more like him. He wants you to live life with him, the human experience as God designed it to be. He knows what he’s doing. You (and your discipleship) aren’t an accident. Jesus is calling you, specifically.
Now, as far as I know, you are not a professional fisherman. That’s fine. God can make a disciple out of anyone. He might have done it when you were a baby, at the baptismal font, when water and His Word were poured out on you, giving you gifts of life and faith. He might have done it through a friend or acquaintance of yours, someone who showed you the love that God has for you in Christ. You probably didn’t drop whatever you were doing at the time, leaving behind your family and vocation to go and follow Jesus. That’s fine, too. Because Jesus can and does shape you wherever you might be. Just like those people who Jesus called by the seashore so long ago, being Jesus’ disciple is about whose you are and what he does for you and through you.
As Jesus’ disciples followed him, they saw the light of the kingdom of heaven – God’s reigning and authority – breaking into our world. We heard Matthew record it this way: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.” Jesus has come into our world of brokenness and darkness to bring restoration. The miraculous signs he performed pointed to the greater healing he was making happen: restoring humanity’s relationship with our Creator. That’s what Jesus wants for you, too. That’s why he calls you. “Follow me.”
Follow him. Living as Jesus’ disciple isn’t an academic exercise. Back in first century Galilee, a disciple didn’t simple seek to learn from the rabbi who they followed. They wanted to emulate him, to live like him, and, eventually, to become a rabbi like him to share his teachings and life with future generations. Following Jesus is a whole-life experience.
This “disciple living” happens as Jesus forms and shapes you, activity that can happen in any time and place that he wills it to. These are opportunities to live out the identity that God gives you as His child, a blessing delivered in the water of Holy Baptism. They can happen in your interactions with your closest neighbors, the family that God has given to you. Being a father, for example, regularly makes me aware of my need for the spiritual fruit of patience. But going it on my own, becoming more acutely aware of my needs, isn’t actually following Jesus.
How can you follow Jesus to be discipled by him? It’s fairly straightforward: Go where he is!
Come to be with Christ and his people here in worship, where he has promised to be with as we gather in his name (Matthew 18:20). We’ve seen over the past number of years that fewer people are consistently here every weekend. You might consider yourself a regular member of the congregation, yet you’re only present for one or two worship services in a month. People speak of their other commitments and the challenges that arise when looking to come. Let’s be honest with ourselves: we’re making choices. And sometimes those choices can be difficult. But look at what Christ has for you here as his disciple. Receive the gifts he gives at his table, where God Himself is physically present as Jesus’ body and blood are shared to strengthen you in body and soul. Experience regular connection to the community we share in Christ. Get the full impact of the preaching and teaching being offered, even as this week we launch into our “Being SJLC: Serving Jesus + Living in Community” emphasis in this season of Epiphany. Our focus for the weeks ahead will go back to the basics of disciple living, re-presenting (or maybe presenting for the first time) the concepts and questions of Joining Jesus on His Mission, looking at what it means to be God’s people present in the world today. Don’t miss out!
Follow Jesus as you read and hear the Scriptures. One of the five key questions we ask as we join Jesus on his mission is “What has God been teaching you in His Word?” As we hear in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Follow Jesus by engaging with His Word, one of the most readily available means by which he will disciple you. If you need any guidance with devotionals or resources, let the pastors or Jennifer, our Director of Youth and Christian Education. We’ll be glad to point you to something we think will help you out!
Follow Jesus with your fellow disciples. Over the next several weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about – and even launch – the small groups we have at St. John’s that we call “huddles.” These groups, along with the Missional Communities that dive deeper into disciple living as we follow Jesus together, make manifest the support that the Holy Spirit gives us as we grow together as the body of Christ. You’re not in this alone.
Jesus is calling you. He chooses you to follow him. You’ve been given a new identity in Christ. He will continue to disciple you to be more and more like him. And as he disciples you, he will change your life – and through you, your world – forever. So come… and follow him.
[i] Passage for memory:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18