Follow me! | Matthew 4:1-25

I really didn’t know what I was signing up for when I heard those words, “follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” Neither of us a clue.  What we did know is that we were sick and tired of the same old life – working our tails off just to fork our fish over to the Romans.  We were supposed to be a free people and instead we lived in fear and under oppression.

Something had to change and if we could be a part of it… well, maybe there was hope for the world.

We had heard this Jesus preach once.  His message was simple – it was direct.  So direct, in fact that people would squirm a bit on hearing it.

“Turn your lives around,” he said, “for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

That was it.  No 12 minute sermon, no cutesy stories, just that one sentence.  Andrew and I looked at each other, and shook our heads, another revolutionary wanting to line up for crucifixion, we thought.

That is what the Romans did to folks who started talking about another kingdom, or maybe put better, the reign of another king.  It happens all the time, it wasn’t just the Romans – I even see it in myself – the powerful fight to keep their power, when I feel powerful, there is something that almost jumps out of me wanting to keep it and even expand it.  You, me, the Romans, power isn’t an easy temptation to pass up.

Somebody told me that Jesus even dealt with that temptation just before we met.  

Andrew and I heard the short sermon and we did what most folks do.  We went back to our boat and kept on fishing.  It was nice to see somebody hoping for something new in the world, but it wasnt’ worth giving up our day job – we had responsibilities, taxes to pay.  So we went on with our lives until we met him again.

There we are tossing our nets in the water and there he is, on the shoreline – “Follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.”  There was something about the way that he spoke, something about what we said, something about him and this long awaited expectation and hope that we had… it all came together and that day, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but we left our boat and business, and we followed.

We heard him and we followed.

Like I said, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.  We didn’t know about his birth, we didn’t know that Herod had tried to have him knocked off as a baby, we didn’t know that he had fled to Egypt, we didn’t know about his baptism, or about his time in the wilderness.

Matthew, the guy who wrote all this stuff down, joined us a few chapters later and it was then that things started to come together.

When Matthew started writing, he started with a long list of names – I think you guys heard a boring sermon on that a couple of weeks ago – Matthew started things off with a list of names to remind us that Jesus was connected to the story of God working through his people.  That story that goes back to Abraham…

What happens after that genealogy, that is what we didn’t expect.

If you remember the story… God’s people we slaves in Egypt and when Moses was born Pharaoh tried to have all the male children killed to protect his power (I’m not sure what these folks are scared of with babies, but maybe that says something about the type of people we are dealing with here).  Moses was born during that time and he is strangely saved as he is sent to the Egyptians (that story about the basket and the river).

Moses of course is the one who led the people out of slavery in Egypt.  He led them through the waters of the Red Sea, a baptism, if you will.   The people wandered through the wilderness, they came to a mountain where they received the word of God himself – the Torah, the law, or shorthand – the Ten Commandments.  It was from the wilderness that they entered the promised land.

Jesus the one connected to the story, was born in a time of great oppression, the king of the day tried to have him killed, but he too was strangely spared by being sent to the Egyptians.  The prophet wrote, “out of Egypt I called my son.”  Jesus came through the waters of baptism where God, the Father declared him to be just that, his son.  Immediately he is led to the wilderness and for 40 days he is tempted, on his return he gathered a few of us disciples and he took us to a mountain where he would preach a new word from God, he told us and he showed us how to live as the people of God’s Kingdom.  He gave us new life, then he he showed us how to live… more on that next week.

He declared blessings on the hopeless and the down and out.  He told us that when we were persecuted for being his people, then we were numbered with the prophets of old.

What he told us that really started to bring this all together was that bit about salt and light.

“You are the salt of the earth… You,” he said, “are the light of the world.”

It was a renewed call back to what God had always been planning through Abraham and his family – his plan to set things right would move forward through a people.

The way things went down… Jesus was retracing the steps that God’s people took in the old testament story.  But with Jesus things would be different.  Where the people looked back to Egypt, Jesus keep his eyes focused on the road the father had called him to.  Where the people would beg for a king to rule them, Jesus would trust in the provision and protection of his father.  Where the kings would oppress, and lead astray – Jesus would break chains.  Where all had fallen short in the past, Jesus would be faithful.  More than that, he would/ he did call us to follow him.  To live the same sort of life that he did…

It meant giving up on a few of the hopes that we had.  Our fishing business didn’t make it and we didn’t get to boot the Romans quite the way we had been longing for.  Jesus got rid of his enemies by forgiving them, he got rid of outcasts by welcoming them, it was revolutionary – but a different kind of revolt.

What catches me, even today – is that Jesus still calls, he still meets his people, he still leads.  The story continues with you and I walking in the footsteps of the one who said follow me… the one through whom God is setting the world right..

May God, our Father, send his Spirit among us, that we might faithfully and boldly walk in the ways of the Lord Jesus.  Amen.

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