Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
January 23, 2011
Text: Matt. 4:12-25

“Follow me” (Matt. 4:19; ESV). That is all Jesus says, and sinful men leave everything and follow Him. That is what it means to be a disciple. A disciple is one who follows. The disciple follows his teacher. The disciple walks in the discipline, the training, of his teacher. Andrew, Peter, James, and John are doing what they do for a living. They are fishing. We learned last week that at least Andrew was previously a disciple of St. John the Baptist. Maybe they all were. They had heard of Jesus. At least Andrew, perhaps all of them, saw John point to Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Now Jesus walks up to the men as they cast their nets into the sea. “Follow me,” says Jesus, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). And what do they do? Immediately, they leave their nets, leave their boat, James and John even leave their father, and they follow Jesus. Jesus calls. They follow. Now they are disciples, walking in the discipline, the training, the teaching of their Savior and Master, Jesus Christ.

The order here is important. These men don’t just decide one day to follow Jesus. There is no decision theology here. We may be impressed that the disciples leave everything to follow the Lord. And, indeed, it is impressive. Would we do the same? The Lord may call us to do so someday, especially if there is a persecution. But we have to understand, the faith that leaves everything to follow Jesus is itself a gift of the Lord. The men don’t come to a decision on their own that they should leave the family business and believe in Jesus and follow Him. The Lord calls. The Lord calls, and He directs His call to them. “Follow me.” This is important. Because if the Lord had not called, the men would have continued as they were before. And of course, the problem isn’t that they were engaged in the earthly vocation of fishing. The world needs fishermen. God feeds His people through the vocations of fishermen. The problem isn’t the fishing. It’s the darkness of sin and unbelief and death. The people were dwelling in darkness (v. 16). Andrew, Peter, James, and John were dwelling in darkness. We are all born into darkness. We are born spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. That means that we are born as unbelievers. We remain in unbelief until the light of God’s Word shines upon us whereby the Spirit brings us to faith in Jesus. And because until that time we are in darkness, we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. The Holy Spirit must do it. He calls us. He calls us by the Gospel. He enlightens us with His gifts. He sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith by the same. First comes the call of God. Then we believe in Jesus. Then we become His disciples. The work is all God’s. God works in us by His Word and Spirit. St. Paul makes a big deal of this order and the fact that this is all the work of God in us: “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). We are justified by faith in Christ Jesus. We come to faith by His call. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). “Follow me.”

Andrew, Peter, James, and John follow Jesus, and in following Him, they hear and learn His teaching. They hear Him preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Gospel is for them. They hear and believe. They witness Him healing every disease and every affliction among the people. Here we learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It is to attend to His teaching and preaching and receive His healing. Jesus has called you to discipleship by His Spirit in the Gospel. How do you follow Him? You come here to this place where the people of God are gathered, to hear His preaching and to be immersed in His teaching. You follow His discipline, His training. You hear the Word of Life, and receive His healing bath and the medicine of immortality in His Supper. Yes, He heals you. He heals you spiritually by forgiving your sins and giving you eternal life. And this is the greatest miracle. But He does not leave it at that. Just as He healed all those brought to Him who were sick and afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics and paralytics, so He heals you, in your body. What? Are you sure, Pastor? Yes, I’m sure. Because you just don’t recognize it. We all take it for granted. Every healing, from the miraculous healing of cancer to the miraculous healing of the sniffles is the healing hand of the Lord Jesus. Don’t be deceived. The sniffles are just as much a sign of your impending death as is cancer. Jesus brings eternal life to His disciples. Jesus brings eternal life to you. If you’ve ever been sick or injured and recovered, this is the healing of Jesus Christ. Insofar as Jesus grants healing to unbelievers, it is a sign of His grace, that He loves them, that He does not want them to perish. And insofar as Jesus grants healing to His disciples, it is a sign of His promise that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. But what about those disciples who die from their sickness? They have received the greater healing. They have been removed from all affliction. And on the Last Day their bodies will be given back to them healed of every disease and affliction, made perfect, in the image of the risen Christ.

“Follow me,” Jesus says to you this morning. “Come out of the darkness. Walk in my light, for I am the Light of the world.” Jesus is calling you to come to church, and come faithfully. What else could this call be? Because this is the place where Jesus teaches you and preaches His Gospel and heals you in body and soul. And then He sends you out to love and serve your neighbor. Andrew, Peter, James, and John were told that now they would be fishers of men. Now Jesus is speaking to these men specifically. And there is no doubt that later Jesus will call these men, along with eight others to be apostles, sent ones, the first Christian clergy and the foundation of the Holy Ministry and the Holy Christian Church. They have an office you do not have. Their office continues among us today in their writings, the Scriptures of the New Testament. And it is also true that Christian pastors, though they are not apostles, continue the apostolic ministry, and you are not pastors. But you are disciples. And that means that you are called to confess Jesus Christ and His Gospel to all people. You do this by living your Christian life in the world and in your daily vocations. Speak of Jesus to others. Give them Christian literature. Invite them to Church. Love them and serve them and ask them for forgiveness when you sin against them. And recognize that you are God’s instrument. God is doing the work. Only God can convert. Leave it to the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus is calling them through your confession of the Gospel. He calls to them, “Follow me.” It is the same call you have received. It is a call to out of the deep darkness of the shadow of death into the great light of Jesus Christ our Savior.

There is, however, one thing you should know about coming out of the darkness and into the light of Christ. When the light shines, you see not only the beauty of Jesus Christ and His salvation, but you also see the ugliness of the sin and death that was covered by the darkness. You see the flaming darts of the devil as he attacks you. You suffer in the world. You are persecuted. And you realize that outside of Christ, in yourself, there is only sin and death. You see that outside of Christ you are only evil all the time. Out of your heart proceed evil thoughts: murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matt. 15:19). As a result, being a Christian and following Jesus is not easy. It is a life of repentance that can only be lived by faith in a world that appears forsaken by God, a world that is hostile to God. But the beauty is this. God has not forsaken the world. God has not forsaken you. Jesus takes all of the ugliness of this fallen creation and our fallen selves into Himself. He bears your sin and your death on His most precious cross. He is crucified for you. There in that ugly scene on Golgotha, is the beauty of the redemption of the whole world and the forgiveness of all your sins. In Baptism and absolution and preaching and Supper a glorious exchange takes place. The Lord Jesus takes away all your sin and sickness and pain and death to be dealt with there, on the cross. And He gives you His forgiveness and healing and consolation and life. He gives you His Spirit. He continues to call you and to keep you in the one true faith. He unites you with His Father, who loves you and calls you His dear child. Being a Christian is not easy. Andrew, Peter, James, and John were called to leave everything to follow Jesus. John the Baptist lost his head for it. I don’t know what crosses you are called to bear. But I know that you are called to bear crosses, to suffer. Because a disciple follows the teacher, and our Teacher, Jesus, goes the way of the cross. We follow Him there. That is the ugliness being exposed to the light. But in the midst of the ugliness, look to Christ crucified. Look to Him in His teaching and Gospel. Through these means the light shines, and you receive His perfect healing. All your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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