Friday, October 2, 2020

Matthew 4 - Part 2


Read Matthew 4

Jesus had been tempted by the devil after 40 days and nights of fasting.  In the Islamic tradition, there is fasting from sun up to sundown.  You could eat and drink after it got dark.  That’s sustainable.  When I was in that part of the world during a religious fast, when people got hungry and couldn’t wait until evening, a lot of sunglasses were donned.

I bring up Islamic fasts because I have witnessed them and they are not a burden to the participants.  They go extended periods without real hardship.

Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights.  There was no midnight snack to hold him over for the next day.  Even the sticklers for the rule—Pharisees and Sadducees—had never done this.  Your read this part of the chapter several times already and have my earlier message available online.

I don’t know if Jesus had water or not.  As he lived in a human body, I would have expected he did, but we don’t know for sure.

The ministry of Jesus was commissioned at baptism and was launched like a ship at this point.  The nautical command is Underway.  Shift Colors.

 Jesus began preaching repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.  John preached repentance.  Jesus preached repentance and good news.  What you have been hoping for has arrived.

Jesus would not journey through this world alone.  He knew he was headed to the cross and he knew there would be work to be done after he died and was resurrected.

He called disciples.

This account takes place in Galilee.

The first two were fishermen.  There was Simon who was also called Peter, and Simon’s brother Andrew.  They were casting their nets.  Why?  They were fishermen.  That’s what they did.

They were not taking seminary classes at night or online.  They were fishermen.

Perhaps they had met Jesus previously at the Jordan as we remember from John’s gospel.  Perhaps John the apostle just remembered things differently.  It would make sense that Jesus swore them in at the Jordan and their orders to active duty didn’t come until Matthew 4. 

Perhaps it's similar to the Spirit being given in John but not externally manifested until Acts.  You might wonder if Thomas had to wait until Pentecost to receive the Spirit.

Whether John and Matthew or John and Luke remembered things differently or just told sequential parts, that’s not the focus of this message.

Jesus called to them and said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

That’s got a ring to it:  Fishers of men.

We could look at Jesus using something familiar to these men to call them to follow him.  He did that a lot as we will note when we come to his parables.

We could look at fishing in general.  Some days are better than others.  You never catch all the fish. And I’m sure every fisherman had a story or two about the one that got away, even if you were using nets.

What I ask us to look at is the response of these two men.  They left their nets at once and followed Jesus.

There is nothing about what they did with their catch or their boat or even if Peter got to shoot off a quick text to his wife telling her that he wouldn’t be home for supper.

They left their nets at once and followed Jesus.

Next, Jesus called two more brothers—James and John.  They were working on their nets in the fishing boat.  Their dad was Zebedee.  If you are named in the bible, you are usually a figure of some prominence.

Jesus called these two brothers and they immediately stopped what they were doing, left the boat, and followed Jesus.  At least dad was there to know that his two sons wouldn’t be home for dinner either.

The key word here is immediately.  How do you just drop everything and go?

You could ask Joseph and Mary.  They got up in the middle of the night and moved twice.

You could jump ahead to the parable of the talents and see two servants put their master’s money to work at once.  We have other examples of what it is to just go.

Firemen may lounge around the fire station but they can be dressed and out the door in a moment’s notice.

A sprinter can be nearly motionless in the starting blocks and at the sound of the starter’s pistol be running full speed in less than a second.

A fighter pilot can be sitting on strip alert with his engines on but going nowhere, until the order is given.  Then he is only a couple seconds away from hitting the afterburners and announcing his departure with a sonic boom on his way to the threat.

All of these have one thing in common—a state of readiness.

How can you be ready for something like Jesus calling you to leave your life that you have known for years and follow him and fish for men?  How can you be ready for that?

John would say to repent.  Turn away from and leave behind the things of this world and seek the things of God.  Heart, mind, soul, spirit, and flesh must detach themselves from the gods of the world and the age and seek God.

It’s not just a pivot move.  It’s a let go and then pivot—turn around and seek God.

And so, when God or his messenger or his Son show up in a dream or on the shore and call you to action, you do not delay.

We see that it was not so much education that prepared these men.  It was not their occupation or trade.  It was not their geography.  It was not their lineage.  It was not their income.  It was not that they knew when to wear a mask and when not to.

It was that there was a readiness to hear the Lord.  It was that they had been seeking the Lord even as they fished day after day.  It was that they were ready and willing to follow the Lord, whenever he called.

What we see here is a health care issue.  These men had a preexisting condition.  It was repentance and readiness.  They were predisposed to follow the Lord.

Are we?

We sing, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, but do we stand ready to go where he calls us?  We say we want to follow him but at the same time are afraid he will get on the expressway and go pedal to the medal.

Following Jesus on the back roads is one thing, but doing 80 on the interstate with him is another.

We sing Jesus take the wheel, but we want to control the navigation system.

Are we ready to follow Jesus where he calls us?

That doesn’t always mean that we must leave our jobs, but we must be ready to do what he calls us to do.  Sometimes that is to leave your job.  Sometimes it is to do what he calls you to do in the course of your job. Sometimes, what he calls us to do seems to be completely out of our comfort zones.

But will we follow him?  Will we do it at once?  Will we do it immediately?

People have many requests for us and often we say that we will pray about it.  But when God calls us to something, will we tell him that we will pray about it?

If we know it’s God.  If we know that it is the voice of the Good Shepherd.  His sheep know his voice.  If we know it’s him, will we do what he has called us to do at once?

If I were to label this current time as far as Christians go, I might call it the age of hesitation.  Perhaps the age of continued deliberation might also work.

How about the age of incarceration?  Have we become prisoners of the world’s expectations?  Are we immobilized when the Lord calls to us at act?  Could this be the age of immobilization?

We read about 4 men who by all standards of worldly wisdom should have thought things through.  They should have done a cost-benefit analysis.  They should have conferred with their families. They should have given somebody two weeks’ notice.  If you are under 30, you probably don’t know what that is.

There were a bunch of things that should have caused these men to think about their next steps, but they followed Jesus immediately.  Their own understanding should have said, “Let’s slow down here for just a minute.”

They followed at once.  They responded to the Lord immediately.  If you are seeking God and his kingdom and his righteousness, don’t balk when he says follow me. 

I know there are a few gamblers among you.  I don’t think we have any gambling addicts but occasional football or basketball pool usually makes the rounds come bowl time or for March Madness.  So, I can say with much certainty, that I know there is a betting pool out there somewhere on whether or not I can bring Proverbs 3:5-6 into the sermon of the day.

Those who had “yes” for today are winners.

If you trust in the Lord with all of your heart, you are predisposed to respond to his call, even over your own understanding.

This is a wonderful chapter in which we see these fishermen follow Jesus and we get the phrase fishers of men, but this is a challenge to us.

Are we predisposed to follow the callings of our Lord?  Are we still entrenched in our own understanding?  Are we still conformed to the patterns of this world?  Are we really seeking God and his kingdom and his righteousness?

I think we have read about 4 men who knew this proverb and were trying to live this proverb.  I think we read about 4 men who were ready to follow the Lord when he called.

My challenge for us today is to take a quick medical survey and list our preexisting condition.  Is it our own understanding or is it trust in the Lord with all your heart?

Are we ready to do what our Lord and Savior has called us to do when he calls us to do it?

Chapter 5 is considerably longer than the first 4, but don’t start reading it until Monday.  Take today to assess your preexisting condition.

Is it our own understanding or is it trust in the Lord with all your heart?

Are we ready to respond to our Lord at once?  Are we ready?


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