Epiphany 3 B 2024 Come and Follow Me Sermon
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
One of my favorite songs growing up was the children’s Sunday School song “I Will Make You Fishers of Men.” You know the song. The words go like this. “I will make you fishers of men, Fishers of men, Fishers of men, I will make you fishers of men if you follow me; If you follow me, If you follow me, I will make you fishers of men, If you follow me.”
I don’t remember all the moves that go with the song, but I do remember casting a long line from an imaginary fishing pole. It went like this. (Make casting motion)
Now, I brought this up this morning because the song is based upon our Gospel Reading this morning. And it too is a very familiar text.
Listen again to verses 16-18. “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen.”
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
And verse 19-20. “As He went a little farther, He saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed Him.”
Yes, these verses are very familiar. And these verses are easy to visualize. Imagine for a moment that you are Simon or Andrew fishing on the Sea of Galilee, or James or his brother John in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, when suddenly a complete stranger walks up to you and tells you that if you followed him he would make you fish for people. And you, in response, drop everything, and go and follow this person.
Yes, I know it sounds far farfetched, but that is how we usually read this text. Jesus comes to Simon and Andrew, and James and John, as a complete stranger, and He calls out to them to follow Him, and they do.
And we who read the text often marvel at the faith these men must have had since they dropped everything without hesitation and went and followed Jesus. Just think. Immediately, without a second thought, these men dropped everything and answered the call to become fishers of men.
I don’t know about you, but all of this can be a bit discouraging. After all, who here has left everything behind to follow Jesus. And who here has left their place of employment, and their family, to live a life of discipleship. Yes. It can be depressing to realize that we do not live up to the high standards set by Simon and Andrew, James and John.
But before we lose hope, and faith, I want you to know that there is another way to hear this text. Imagine, for a moment, that you are Simon or Andrew, James or John. And you are at the Sea of Galilee going about your daily task of catching fish when suddenly Jesus appears.
The man named Jesus is not a stranger. You know Him. Your home port is located just a few miles away from His hometown of Nazareth. You have seen Jesus there.
Growing up you probably have even heard the stories concerning Jesus and His family. You have heard rumors that His mother had been visited by an angel, you have heard the tale that a heavenly chorus announced His birth, you have heard the whisper that Jesus had been chosen by God for something special.
You might have even heard Jesus speak and talk about the coming reign of God. With your own ears you probably have heard Jesus explain that soon God would redeem His people, and the poor would be lifted up, and the hungry fed.
You might have even heard Jesus state that the Empire of Rome will not stand against the kingdom of heaven. And that all of this would occur at the time determined by God.
The Gospel according to St. Luke offers us a unique look into His childhood. Chapter 2 states: 41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.
43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[a] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them for the time had not yet come for Him to begin His ministry.
Well, now the time had arrived. And Jesus is about to begin His public ministry. So, when Jesus called Simon and Andrew, James and John, they knew something special was about to happen.
Jesus did not call them to follow a compete stranger. Instead, He called them to be a part of the ministry He had already been speaking about in the community.
And that is the message that we need to hear today. For you see, most of us will never experience Jesus as a complete stranger either. Most of you gathered here today were baptized as infants. You grew up in the church. You attended worship on Sunday. You were confirmed as a young adult in the church. You might have even attended Luther League and took part in a Church Wide Youth Gathering or two.
Jesus is not a stranger to you. So, when Jesus calls you to follow Him you have an idea who He is and what He us up to.
When Jesus asks you to serve as a worship assistant, to teach Sunday School, to serve on a committee or the Church Council, to participate in a mission activity, to pray for those who ask for prayers, to feed the hungry, to visit the lonely, to comfort those who mourn, to support the general operating fund of the congregation, Jesus is not asking a complete stranger to mission.
No, He is calling an old friend to be a part of His Redeeming Activity.
Jesus called His first disciples to become fishers of men He invited them to follow Him. He asked them to share the Good News. He sent them to go and make disciples.
Today Jesus is calling us too. And His voice is not the voice of a stranger but the voice of someone most of us have known since we were little kids. And even if you were not brought up in the church, or a Christian family, His voice is one that has indeed been spoken loudly in our communities and in our society.
Today we read “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
And “As He went a little farther, He saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed Him.”
May we also follow the One whose voice we know, and trust, and be a part of God’s Redeeming Activity in this world.
Let us pray: Lord God of our salvation. It is your will that all people might come to you through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Inspire our witness to Him, that all may know the power of His forgiveness and the hope of His resurrection. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.