When Jesus Calls

Scriptures: Psalm 139:1-2; Matthew 4:12-23

Guest Speaker: Larry Fletcher

This message is titled “When Jesus Calls,” and we heard a little of that in the Scripture. One of the most frequent distortions of the Christian faith is the notion that we decide for Jesus Christ. That may sound a little strange to you.

You may have heard people say, “Well, I was saved on July 19, 1976 at 4:30 in the afternoon.” Or they were at a revival meeting where they had a tremendous emotional or spiritual awakening. Or maybe it was during a terrible storm – which maybe we have coming, as dark as it’s getting out. Or witnessing a miraculous healing.

Now I’m not saying that those people didn’t have that, that it’s untrue. The pages of history are covered with many of those types of testimonies. However, the overwhelming evidence of the New Testament is that we did not decide for Jesus Christ. He decided for us. He decided on us. For the Lord himself said, as we heard in Scripture this morning, “You have not chosen me. I have chosen you.”

Jesus summons us. He calls us to be a Christian through the Gospel, and to be a Christian simply means that we let go of other priorities and we put Him at the very center of our life. How successful are we at this? It is simply the life story of every Christian. Heaven knows we all have our ups and downs, those of us who are followers of Jesus.

That is the very heart of the Bible text we have before us today. Jesus begins his public ministry. His very first words are “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” After this, his first official act is to call to discipleship James and John, Peter and Andrew. They were all fishermen. Two were pulling their nets from the sea while the other two brothers were busy mending their nets along with their father, Zebedee.

After his call to repentance, Jesus comes along and – Boom! Just like that, their fishing careers are over. By the time poor Zebedee can look up, he has lost his entire fishing crew. Such was the compelling authority of Jesus.

There was no time to look into fringe benefits, work hours, pay. No time to say, “Let me think this over, I’ll let you know next week.” No, there wasn’t time for that, because Jesus had called them. He summoned them, and they responded in obedience.
The point I would like to make from this incident and others like it is that Jesus did the calling. “Follow me.” “Come here,” says the Greek text. It has a familiar ring to it, like “Mike, come here.” “Todd, you and your brother, come.” “Boys, I want you.” There’s almost a stern “you better hustle” quality to it, and that’s the way Jesus spoke.

But something I want to share with you – in those days, with a teacher and disciple, the difference from how they usually were, this is quite a radical change. Many rabbis had disciples, but the initiative in those relationships was always with the disciple. They decided who they wanted to follow. They selected the teacher.

To not know that is to miss what this really big change is. But in this case, he takes the initiative. He calls people into discipleship. Someone has said, of the calling of the Lord, “There are no volunteers in this commander’s army.” Discipleship was, as is to this day, a gift, a sheer act of God’s grace.

Be certain. God does not run a draft lottery and only certain numbers are called. Jesus said, “I call all men unto myself.” Jesus does the calling. He does it through the Gospel and the very fact that you are here today is showing that is a gift of God’s grace to you. Don’t try to dissect it. Rejoice in it. Savor it. Paul says this so often, “You are the people of God; He loved you and chose you for His own.”

Now most of us were not called to Christ in a Cecille B. DeMille dramatic fashion. Our coming to Christ did not furnish material for a thriller novel. For most of us, it was not an instant dropping of everything and following Him.

James and John may have dropped their nets, instantly and impulsively. But it doesn’t happen that way for most. I suspect it was the same way with you, a gradual change. In fact, it still isn’t over. We struggle with our faith. We don’t always, and daily, drop our pet idols and follow Jesus in obedience. In fact, most days, or some days, we would rather drop him and follow almost anything else that seems a little less demanding, pays bigger dividends – and quicker dividends

St. Paul certainly had that struggle when he wrote to the Philippian Christians, “I am sure that God who began this good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Later in the same letter he said, “I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect.” I know that feeling and I suspect you do too. Don’t think for a moment that it was not that way with James and John, Peter and Andrew. I think we tend to glamorize them and think that they really, really had it. But if we could get an archeologist to dig up their diaries, they would probably just be like yours and mine.

Think about it for a moment. What must day to day discipleship have been like for Peter that our Lord asked him, “Do you love me?” And then Peter says, “Yes.” Jesus asked him again, and for clinchers, he asked him the third time, all in one incident. That sounds like us telling our children, “How many times have I told you not to do that.” This truth is, many, many times, but it just didn’t always take hold.

In John 6:66 we read this (and this is one of those that makes you scratch your head a little sometimes, if you want to look it up), “Because of this, many of Jesus’ followers turned back and would not go with him anymore.” What must the disciples have been like for Jesus to then turn to them (the twelve) and he asked them, “And you—would you also like to leave?” It means that they were capable of leaving him. They had the right to do that.

The next truth I see in these words of Matthew is a source of much comfort, and I hope it is to you, too. After Jesus calls us to discipleship, he continues to reveal himself to us. How does he do that? Well, it’s not a one-time swearing-in ceremony and then you’re on your own. Following Jesus is not like one of those – and I’m talking to a group that would remember this, maybe – little toy soldiers, little metal ones, you wind them up, and they run, and stop, and you’re on your own. No, it isn’t like that for us.

Jesus continues to reveal himself to us as the Son of God through the Gospel. Through the Spirit of Christ in us, God reveals His glory to us. When Jesus called them, he found them at work, almost certainly sweaty, tacky, and smelling like fish. But he accepted them as they were, smelly and all, and then he made them and molded them into something they could only become by his grace.

It reminds me of a little boy in Sunday School class, first grade Sunday School. The Sunday School teacher said, “Billy, who made you?” Billy answered, “God did, but He ain’t done yet.” He continues to make us into His image as He reveals His glory to us.

Finally, Peter and Andrew, James and John and any disciple who has ever followed Jesus, have all had what you could call “the morning after.” There are things that knock us down and dampen our spirits. Things that make us ask from our little prison that we create for ourselves just what John the Baptist did. “Jesus, are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

It is like the story about the farmer and the mule. This has to be an old story, too. This farmer, he had a mule, the finest plowing mule in the county. He was really proud of that mule. One day he went out, and the mule didn’t look too good. So he thought, “Well, I’d better watch this. I’d hate to lose it, this is a fine animal. The next day or two, the mule is kind of going downhill, and he didn’t know what to do, so he called the local vet.

The vet came out, and examined him. “I’ve got just the thing.” He got out a bottle, and it had some pills in it, about this big. He said, “You give one of these pills to the mule three times a day, and in a couple days he’ll be fine, and you’ll be back in good shape with him.”

The farmer looked at those, and he said, “Well, how am I going to get him to take these?” And he said, “Well, here’s how to do that. Just get yourself a pipe, put it in the mule’s mouth, put the pill in and blow. It’ll go right in. He’ll be fine.”

Later that afternoon, the vet was in his office when there was a knock on the door, and the farmer came in and he looked terrible. He was almost green. He asked, “What’s the matter?” “Doc, you told me how to give that pill to the mule. Well, the mule blew first!”

And that’s what mornings after are like for the disciples of Jesus. We awaken and we rise in the morning. We have our neatly planned agendas and our day all planned out. But as the day progresses, one of the mules blows first, then maybe another, and then maybe a couple. Before we know what’s happened, we have a lot of bitter pills to swallow in our lives. Our plans for the day – they’re shot. Sometimes the day stretches into two days, maybe into a week, maybe into a month.

Yes, fellow disciples of our Savior, sometime the mules of life blow first. However, when Jesus calls people to be his disciples, he doesn’t ask them to accept certain doctrine or follow laws or creeds. He simply says, “Follow me!” That you are here today – and you are – is an indication that you, like Peter and Andrew, James and John, have left your nets and you followed him. It is a gift of his grace, the same grace that will be sufficient for you, even when the mules of life seem to blow first.

To God be the glory, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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