Matthew 4:12-25 is an amazingly rich piece of scripture. This is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He’s just come off a public baptism and a 40 day stint in the desert with the Devil. Let’s face it, he’s likely tired and ready for a bit of a rest. Perhaps he wanted some time to brainstorm, to think about where he wanted his ministry to go. Instead he’s thrust into a crisis. With no followers yet, with no building or strategy in place he’s got to start his ministry and continue on from where his cousin had started. John’s in Jail now and Jesus has to start the mission he was called to do.
“Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.” (Matthew 4: 18-20, the Message)
Simon and Andrew simply left everything behind when Jesus spoke to them. What he offered was simple. He offered to teach them how to be fishers of men and women. He offered to change their lives. He offered to help them change. So why does it work? Why does Jesus just telling them he can do this inspire faith? I think it has to do with the fact that he’s talking to Simon and Andrew in their context. He makes what he’s saying to them real as he talks in terms a fisherman will understand. He makes his message fit the context of his listeners. He knows their culture. He knows them and they sense that.
We need to know the people of today. We need to understand that the people of our world live in a very different context than 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 50 years ago. People today spend thousands of dollars on new clothes, new t.v.’s, new haircuts and Ipods. Kids have parties to watch Jersey Shore and learn how to live the ‘Guido’ Lifestyle. Parents are too busy to attend church because they’re balancing careers, hockey and ballet and it’s all gotten to be too much. Life is different now. We have a different context to work within. We have to learn what to do.
How would Jesus have talked to the people of today? What would he have said? Maybe he would have said come with me and I’ll help you figure this whole mess out. We’ll sit down together and figure out why you feel the need to have more, to be more, to always think you’re not enough. Perhaps he would have said, you’re important enough for me to make a priority. After all the people of this world are crying out to be important. If we look at what we are being sold in the magazines and on t.v. we can can see how often we’re being told we’re not good enough. We need to be thinner, younger, richer and better than we are. In this consumer based society we think if we buy the right house, eat the right food and wear the right clothes we will be whole.
Jesus doesn’t buy that. He says follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men and women. Follow me and I’ll teach you to help others. I’ll help you find value in community and care. I’ll show you what it means to really belong and really matter. Jesus taught, healed, listened and lived. He helped people find purpose. He always had time for people and his ministry was powerful because of this.
Jesus shows us what it means to truly minister to others. Imagine what would happen if we took the time to understand where people are at. What would happen if we loved people unconditionally and helped them through life’s difficulties? What would happen if we followed Jesus’ lead? What would happen if we truly lived in faith?
Jesus shows us that ministry doesn’t happen in the planning and strategizing. It happens in living. It happens in relationships. It happens when we have faith and go with it. That’s not to say there wasn’t some thought involved. I’m sure Jesus knew what he wanted to accomplish and what he needed to do and he did it. Jesus actually did it!
Can we do that?