The Third Sunday after the Epiphany January 26, 2020
Text: Matthew 4:12-23 3 Year Series A 20:2171
Theme: Jesus Finds Disciples, and Then…
Every year one day belongs especially to you. On this day you get presents; there are special things to eat; maybe there is a party. Your family and friends celebrate with you because it’s your birthday!
But there is another day which is even more important to you. This is the day Jesus comes to you, finds you and makes you His disciple. It’s the day He gives you new life with Him, the day the Holy Spirit enables you to begin putting your trust in Him as the Savior, the day He puts His hand into yours, and then you begin to walk with Him in life.
Perhaps you can hardly remember when that happened. For many it was when you were baptized as an infant. For others it may have been when Mom or Dad taught you stories about Jesus and how to talk with Him in prayer when you were very small. As you grew in faith you learned to trust Him for everything, to turn to Him for forgiveness, to ask Him for His help when you were in trouble. Whether you recognized it or not, you were walking in the light of salvation, no longer floundering in the darkness of sin and unbelief.
But imagine what it is like to need Jesus but to know nothing about Him, not even understanding that you need Him? To live in the darkness of sin and unbelief? To walk in the shadow of death with no hope for eternity? That’s the way it is for many today. It was the same in Jesus’ day. People lived in darkness, especially in the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali.
I. He shines upon them.
In the O.T. times these were two of the 12 tribes of Israel that were the most northern tribes. They occupied the area that later was called Galilee. The tribes, like most of the 12, had years before passed away. But the territory that they once occupied was the place where Jesus came to start His ministry.
Galilee was truly a place of darkness. This area was always the first that was hit by Israel’s enemies who came to destroy them. Many of the Jews who once lived there were taken away into captivity in distant lands. They were replaced by people from other nations who didn’t know God. It was a mixed race of people living there, and their spiritual condition was a hodge-podge. Many did not know the truth of God, and many others worshipped false gods. That’s the reason “darkness” prevailed. It was the darkness of unbelief and sin. It was that way for centuries.
Now, the truly astonishing part was that the most benighted place in Israel was the place that God chose to receive the light of the Savior’s presence. How about that! Don’t ever presume that a people or nation is beyond the efforts made to proclaim the gospel to them. Galilee wasn’t; and it was in a state of spiritual darkness. Many years before Jesus came, God, through His prophet Isaiah, foretold the effects that the gospel would have there when he said, “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light; on those dwelling in the region and the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
The picture is that of a glorious sunrise breaking through the darkness of an especially black and deadly night. Without God in their lives, eternal death cast its shadow over the land. Into this gloom and doom situation light breaks forth through the dark sky. That light was the Lord Jesus. The Savior had come to shine upon them. God let the great good news of the salvation from sin that He would bring to all people begin there where it was least expected. Maybe it was even the place where it was needed the most.
Ah, the wondrous ways in which God works in His grace, quite often apart from our way of thinking. When people are at their lowest ebb and all spiritual light seems gone….when there appears to be absolutely no hope or help to remedy things, then God steps in and with heavenly grace sends His eternal gifts.
That’s the way it worked for us, too, for we were all once living in darkness, dead in sin. Then God graciously stepped into our lives. Maybe it was at your baptism, maybe it was when someone first taught you God’s Word, maybe it was through a friend or relative who told you about Jesus. In each case Jesus finds us and makes us disciples. He shines upon people with His saving grace. But after doing that, He is not done yet. What happens then?
II. He calls them to follow Him.
Our text continues: “From that time, Jesus began to preach: ‘Repent because the kingdom of heaven is near.’ As He was walking by the sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew…He said to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him…He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John….Jesus called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.”
This was not the first time that these men met Jesus. They had already learned of Him and from Him. Before he was thrown into prison, John the Baptist had been the one to school them about Jesus. Months before this he pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn.1:29).
To Jews the word “Lamb” meant something huge. Everything in their worship life revolved around lambs and sacrifices. It was a lamb with its blood painted on the doorposts of their ancestors’ homes in Egypt that saved them from the Angel of Death. It was a lamb dying on the altar in the temple which assured them that God would send someone to atone for their sin. It was a lamb on whose head the priest laid his hands, symbolically passing sins to it, that was sent out into the desert to perish in their place. It was a lamb that the prophet said would be led to the slaughter to redeem to God. To Jews “lamb” meant sacrifice for sin, deliverance from death, and a joyous return to the light of salvation through the Messiah to come. John made it clear to these four men that person was Jesus. “Look!” John said. “There He is! God’s Lamb!”
Thus, they spent some time with Jesus. Then they returned to their jobs, fishing on the Sea of Galilee. They already knew Him. But then the day came when He said, “Follow Me.”
What would you do if one day the Lord Jesus passed by and as He did He said to you, “Come, follow Me.” Would you promptly go with Him? And what would you understand by those words? Would they mean, “Walk behind Me and go with Me on a trip”? “Come, follow Me.” Would they mean, “Imitate Me; be like Me and do the very things I am doing”? Would they mean, “Take up where I leave off because I will be going away and you need to carry on with My work”? “Come, follow Me.” What would you understand with those words if Jesus said them to you?
These 4 men understood the full extent to which Jesus spoke these words. Jesus was a Rabbi. They had even addressed Him earlier with that title. Rabbi is a word that means “great one,” “master.” Rabbis were men who studied the Bible thoroughly. They gathered a circle of disciples around them in which the younger ones were trained by the rabbi. Their education could last as long as 20 years. During that time the rabbi lectured and examined them every day, all day until they learned everything that the rabbi taught. They were able to recite much of the Bible by heart and to explain to people what it meant. Rabbis were like seminary professors, highly, highly respected by people.
Becoming a student of a rabbi was a very difficult decision to make because one gave up everything else in his life to do so. There was so much to learn, the student stayed with the rabbi 24 hours a day, day-in, day-out. Wherever the rabbi went, the student went. A student never left a rabbi’s side (Julian Anderson). When Jesus told these men, “Come, Follow Me,” the fullness of what He was saying did not get by these men. Jesus was calling them to make dramatic changes in their lives. It means the same today.
When He finds you and shines upon you with the blessings of salvation, He also calls, “Follow me.” It means making dramatic changes in your life. It means walking behind Him, letting Him lead you. It means going with Him wherever He takes you in life. It means imitating Him in what He does and says. It means taking up where He left off and carrying His ministry forward. It means a lifelong commitment that breaks all other ties in a binding fellowship of life and death with Him. It is as He later said, “If anyone would follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it” (Mk.8:34-35). Neither Andrew nor Peter, James nor John misunderstood what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow Me and with the net of the Gospel, you will catch people for Me.”
To that end He calls us too. Maybe not as apostles but as witnesses to help those who are still living in darkness see the light of salvation in Christ. God grant it to us for Jesus’ sake. Amen
C a l e n d a r & A n n o u n c e m e n t s f o r Z i o n L u t h e r a n C h u r c h
Today Jan.26 Epiphany 3
9:00 am Divine Worship Service
10:15 am Bible study for all age
10 am The Gardens Bible Study
11 am Midweek Bible Class
(Just this week on Tuesday)
Next Sun. Feb.2 Epiphany 4
9:00 am Divine Worship Service with Holy Communion
10:15 am Bible study for all ages
A Brief Bible Study on God’s Word for Today
How do unbelievers come to find out about Jesus? Does the Holy Spirit just strike them with lightning one day and bring them to faith? No. Paul tells us that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Ro 10:17). We can’t expect others to come to faith in Jesus if we remain silent. We’re reminded that Jesus is revealed through preaching.
The Gospel Lesson (Matthew 4:12-23)
1. What did Jesus do when He heard that the Baptizer had been arrested?
2. What did Jesus do to help Him in His job of preaching the good news of the kingdom?
Prayer/Sick List Those We Remember In Our Prayers Gail Stuesser; Dea Windsor, Alyssa Cook’s mother; Barbara Long; Clyde and Sharon Johnson; Dave Ballou; Angela Meek; Roger & Liz Lisenby’s brother and sister-in-law and granddaughter Jackie; Liz Lisenby, at home with a severe virus.
The Week in Review:
Last Sunday’s Worship Attendance: 34; Annual Meeting: 21; Sunday School: -; The Gardens Bible Class: 9; Midweek Bible Class: 4; Sunday Offering: General Fund $1928; Sign Fund: $300.
Mon.-Tues., February 3-4 – MN District’s Southern Conference (IA & MO) Winter Pastors’ Institute, at Cedar Rapids, IA
Saturday, February 8 – Quarterly Women’s Breakfast & Bible Study at Zion, 9-11 am
February 26/27 – Midweek Lenten Suppers/Services begin; at Peace on Wednesday evenings, at Zion on Thursdays
Next Sunday’s Lessons:
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany: The Presentation of Jesus: 1 Samuel 1:21-28; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
Answers to Today’s Gospel Lesson Brief Study:
3. He returned to Galilee to preach the gospel, fulfilling the words of Isaiah in the first lesson.
4. He began to call His disciples. What faith they showed by dropping everything and following Jesus!
This week I am praying for……