Text: Matthew 4:12-25
Third Sunday After the Epiphany
Listen to the Sermon here.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday, we saw Andrew bring Peter to Jesus. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls four fishermen with two simple words. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were partners in a fishing business with Zebedee. Jesus calls them away from the nets and their boat. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The astonishing part of this story is that they dropped everything, put their lives on hold, left their dad in the boat, and followed Jesus. They followed Jesus without any idea where it would lead or what it would cost. This morning we are going to look at these two simple words. We’re going to see that the command to “follow me” means we must be willing to renounce everything except him and know who we’re following.
“Follow me,” Jesus says. Some of us may have played follow the leader when we were kids. Follow Him. A disciple is a follower. That’s what the word “disciple” means – one who follows another. Usually, it meant one who adhered to the teachings of another. But that only scratches the surface when it comes to the disciples of Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus is more than attending Jesus’ school. When the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James, and John heard the words “follow me” from the lips of Jesus, they left everything. They abandoned their nets, their boats, their father, their business, and their entire lives – to follow Jesus.
The first disciples left behind everything that was familiar and natural to them. They exchanged comfort for uncertainty. Just as Jesus’ invitation to those first disciples was a call to leave everything behind, we are likewise called to follow Him. But, would you leave it all to follow Jesus? Many of the decisions we make in life are based on money. Can we afford it? Will it break the bank, or is there enough money? We make essential choices in our lives by counting the cost. How much do you think it costs to be a Christian? Of course, being a Christian costs us some time and money, but so does everything else. But how much does it really cost you?
What is first in your life—the fish, the nets, the boat, the career, the income, the brother, the father, the family? Are you willing to break from any or all former loyalties—occupation, friends, family, ideologies, etc.— to serve one Master wholeheartedly? Moreover, are you willing to do what this Master says? To go where he wants you to go? To give away, what must now be given away? Suddenly, this business of being a disciple doesn’t sound like so much fun anymore. It sounds dangerous, deadly even. Following Jesus is costly. Following Jesus will cost you more than 10 per cent of your income or 90 minutes out of your Sunday brunch time. We are not all called to leave our professions and go into ministry or to be martyred. I know that. But I also know that when Christ calls you to repent and follow him, you better expect that will disrupt your life. Jesus must be first in your life. You can no longer give priority to what you have and who you are or anything else. Following Jesus means putting him first, and that’ll cost you everything. Your whole life and all that you have.
While following Christ requires abandoning everything, at the core, we must forsake our sins. That is, we admit our sin in brokenness before God, and then we run from it. That’s what it means to deny ourselves. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt 16:24). That’s where following Jesus starts. In a world where everything revolves around self—protect yourself, promote yourself, preserve yourself, take care of yourself—Jesus says, “Deny yourself.” That means dying – dying to self, denying your desires, no longer directing your life how you want, but how God wants. Following Christ isn’t always a pleasant, happy thing. There will be sorrow over your sin, the terror of God’s wrath, and grief over the loss of our sin.
When Jesus says to you, “Follow me,” he is laying claim to all you are and all you have. He doesn’t want a spare two hours of your time Sunday morning or ten per cent of your income. Jesus wants all of you and everything from you.
But why would you be willing to pay such a high price? What could be worth such a fierce commitment? The answer is in the person who has called you to follow him. Jesus called those first disciples, “Follow me.” They didn’t know where they would go; the disciples only knew who they were following. All followers of Christ must respond to this same call today: we may not always know all the details about where Christ is leading us, but we do know who we’re following.
“Follow me.” Jesus said this, the Savior, the Messiah. The One promised to come in the kingly line of David and from Abraham, the father of Israel. He was fully human and divine, the One to whom wise men from the east bowed down, the One whose birth and life culminate generations of prophecy and anticipation. With His Word, Jesus heals the sick. With His Word, Jesus cleanses the leprous, casts out demons, and with His Word, Jesus calls disciples. He says, “Follow me” to four fishermen tending their nets, and the living and powerful Word of Jesus had its way. Jesus is the Savior, King and Righteous Judge of the world. He is the only man who has conquered sin and the true Son that Israel could never be. Jesus is worthy of more than Sunday morning. He’s worthy of our lives, possessions, dreams, and ambitions. He’s worthy of it all, and we gladly lay it down for Him. Jesus is who you’re called to follow.
Jesus calls the disciples, and they recognise him as the one who speaks to their lives, has authority over them, and speaks with God’s authority. We must remember and take seriously that Jesus Christ is not dead but alive and still speaking to us through the word. If you want to hear his call to discipleship, you must listen to Jesus where he is present. The preaching and reading of his Word and the church’s Sacraments are where Jesus Christ is present. Listen to the Gospel of the crucified and risen Lord! Here he is, the whole Christ, the very same one who called to the disciples. When we gather to hear his word, we recognise the voice of Christ himself. Through his called and ordained servants of the word, Christ our Lord speaks into our lives and has authority over us. Jesus speaks with God’s authority through his word, calling us to have faith in him and love for others. The word of Scripture claims our lives to follow him. When we ask where we can hear Jesus’ call to discipleship today, there is no other answer than this: listen to the word that is preached and read; receive the Sacraments. In these, you will hear Christ himself calling you to follow him. You will hear his call!
Jesus doesn’t just preach “Repent.” No, there was something else along with that repent, wasn’t there? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Jesus says (Mt 4:17). The good news is that the kingdom of God has come to you in the flesh of Jesus. Entrust yourself and your whole life to this Christ. Know that He is your only hope of salvation. Trust in Christ, your Savior and take refuge in him. He will save you. He will save you from your sins. He will save you from death and eternal damnation. He will save you by the power of his resurrection to eternal life so that you will share in his resurrection on the last day. Believe in Him, and everything He has is yours. His perfect life is your life. His innocent suffering and death are your death. His resurrection, ascension, and glory are yours. His kingdom, the reign of His forgiveness over all that condemns you, is yours. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
So, count the cost of being a Christian. What will it cost you to follow Christ, our Lord? Your life. Jesus is worthy of far more than church attendance and casual association. When you follow Jesus, he has promised to forgive you and raise you to a new, eternal life. When Jesus calls a person to follow him, He wants to embrace the whole of you with His death and life. He wants to make His death yours and His life yours. He won’t settle for just a piece of you because there is no such thing as half a disciple. He wants all of you and offers all of himself in exchange. That far exceeds any cost you will pay.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.