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 25, 2015

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (B)

January 25, 2015
Text: Mark 1:14-20

            Our Lord Jesus Christ is THE Preacher in Christian Church, and He is the content of all Christian preaching.  THE Preacher, the content of the preaching.  So it is that Jesus came into Galilee, preaching, “proclaiming the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14; ESV).  And the Gospel of God is this: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (v. 15).  The Kingdom of God is none other than Jesus Himself, whom God sent into the world at just the right time to redeem the world by His blood and death.  The Kingdom of God is all those whom the crucified and risen Lord Jesus has drawn to Himself, to be His own, to live under Him… You.  This is good news for a world under the tyranny of Satan.  The word “Gospel” means “good news.”  Jesus proclaims the good news that He has broken into the world to deliver you from the power of Satan, from the slavery of your own sin, and from the destiny of death and eternal condemnation.  And so the message of all Christian preaching is that which Jesus proclaims: Now is the time!  Jesus has come!  “(R)epent and believe in the gospel” (v. 15).  Turn from sin, from Satan, and from all that holds you captive and believe what Jesus says.  Believe what He has come to do.  Believe that He saves you.  Believe it and it is yours.  No conditions.  No caveats or qualifiers.  Believe in Jesus as your Savior and you possess His salvation full and free.
            Now our Lord, 40 days after His resurrection from the dead, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  It is not that He left us.  After all, He promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  He is present with us, with His Church, ruling over His Kingdom, chiefly by means of His Word and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  But His is a hidden presence.  He is hidden under these means.  But THE Preacher has not left us without His preaching.  He has given us Apostles, even as He gave us the prophets of old.  The word “apostle” means “sent one.”  An apostle is one officially sent to execute a very specific responsibility on behalf of the one sending him.  And in the matter for which he is sent, the apostle has all the authority of the one sending him.  That His message might be proclaimed in all the earth, our Lord Jesus chose Twelve Apostles, among whom are Peter and Andrew, James and John, whom He calls to follow Him in our Holy Gospel this morning.  These Apostles are officially sent to proclaim a message from Jesus, the King.  In this matter they possess all the authority of Christ Himself.  When you hear the Apostles, you hear Jesus.  And their message is nothing new.  It is what Jesus, the Preacher, preached.  They preach the Gospel of God.  They preach the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you.  They preach: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
            When Jesus called these two sets of brothers in our text, He found them doing the work of fishermen, their family profession.  Simon and Andrew were casting their nets.  James and John were mending theirs.  “Follow me,” Jesus tells them, “and I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17).  We love this text, and all of us memorized it in Sunday School or VBS.  Usually this verse is held out to us as Jesus’ admonition that we all get busy evangelizing, that He makes us all fishers of men sent out to catch people for the Kingdom.  Now, of course, it is certainly true that we should all speak of Jesus in our daily lives and vocations, to our family members and friends and neighbors and those around us.  It is certainly true that we should confess the faith, invite people to Church, and in general speak and act in such a way that people know the hope that is in us and want to have that hope in themselves.  There are many texts that speak of this.  But that is not really what this Gospel is about.  This is a Holy Ministry text.  The Apostles are called away from their profession into a new vocation as official spokesmen for Jesus.  In other words, pastors, preachers, and in this case, a special office that only exists in the infancy of the New Testament Church: Apostles.  Jesus is giving His Church a gift in this text: The Office of the Holy Ministry, that by the preaching of His Word, including the visible Sacramental Word, you and I come to saving faith in Him.  Our Confessions put it this way: “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments.  Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel.  And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this” (Tappert, AC V:1-3).
            It is not by accident that our Lord compares the Apostolic work of Gospel ministry to that of fishermen.  Later in His ministry, Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to “a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind” (Matt. 13:47).  That is, by the preaching of the Gospel, believers are gathered to Christ in His Church.  When Simon and Andrew are called to follow Jesus, Mark tells us that “immediately they left their [literal] nets and followed him” (Mark 1:18).  Interesting Greek word here for “left.”  Though that is certainly the intended meaning, it can also mean “forgave.”  If I may be so bold as to translate it imaginatively, “they forgave their nets,” which points us to their new work as Apostles.  If the net is the Kingdom, the Church of Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the ministers who follow in their tradition are to be about the work of forgiving the nets, forgiving the sinners who have been caught by the Gospel proclamation.  So also James and John.  When Jesus calls them, they are in their boat “mending the nets” (v. 19).  The word for “mending” may also be translated “restoring.”  The Apostles and the ministers who follow in their tradition are to be about the work of restoring the nets, restoring sinners to the Father by proclaiming and distributing the saving and reconciling work of Jesus in Word and Sacrament.  Forgiving and restoring.  That is the work of Apostolic ministry.  That is what the Apostles are officially sent by Jesus to do.  That is the goal of the proclamation of the Gospel of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 
            Now the Apostles are no longer with us in this world.  They all met their martyrdom in one way or another.  They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Jesus (Cf. Acts 5:41).  They join us now at the altar with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  But they still preach to us.  They preach to us in Holy Scripture.  They are still entrusted with the Apostolic message, the preaching of Jesus Christ.  It is recorded in the inspired and inerrant Word of God, the Bible.  And so also, the Lord Jesus continues to send men to speak for Him.  They are not Apostles, but they are given to speak the Word the Apostles spoke, which is the Word of Jesus.  They are the Christian pastors.  Like the Apostles, their message is nothing new.  It is what Jesus, the Preacher, preached.  And it still has all the authority of Jesus Himself, so that when you hear a preacher preaching the Word of God, you hear Jesus Himself.  When your pastor says, “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit,” that is as sure and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with you Himself… because He has dealt with you Himself, behind the mask of the Office of the Ministry.  When the pastor baptizes, it is Jesus who baptizes.  When the pastor proclaims the Scriptures, it is Jesus calling you to repent and believe in the Gospel.  When the pastor consecrates the bread and wine, it is Jesus giving you His true Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  In the Office of the Holy Ministry, Jesus continues to fish for men.  The fish are gathered in the Gospel nets.  They are forgiven and restored. 

            And the great twist in this whole thing is that, as a fish in the net of Jesus’ Kingdom, it is not that you are sold at the fish market, sliced open, roasted, and gobbled up.  Our Lord catches you, not for death, but for life.  To swim in the pristine waters of your Baptism.  To live each of your days in the shadow of His cross, repenting of your sins, and believing that in Christ your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life.  Jesus, THE Preacher, and the content of the preaching, sends His messengers, Apostles and pastors, to speak Him into your ears and place Him on your tongue.  And so hearing and eating and drinking, you believe.  And believing, you have… You have Jesus, and He has you.  And so, the Kingdom of God is at hand.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.       

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