A sermon delivered on Sunday, June 30, on the Gospel lesson from Matthew 4:18-23.
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people.”
This was Christ’s sales pitch to the first disciples – Andrew and Peter, James and John. Of course, they were fishermen, but Christ tells them that they will no longer catch fish with a net, but catch people with His Gospel message.
If Jesus had to make the same sales pitch today, to a banker He would probably say something like, “Follow Me, and I will make you a banker of My glory.” To a teacher He would probably say, “Follow Me, and I will make you a teacher of My love.” To a politician He would probably say ... nothing because they would not listen to Him anyway ... I am joking of course, “Follow Me, and I will make you a politician of My peace.”
Christ makes a vessel of His glory, love, peace, mercy, wisdom anyone who does anything in this life, upon this earth. At the same time, only those whom He calls become this vessel. But the Lord also said that we did not choose Him to be our God, rather He chose us to follow Him.
And the simple fact of life is that He chooses everyone. Everyone is created in His image. He chooses us, but He also gives us a choice of reacting to being chosen.
We have been chosen, from the beginning of time. But do we choose to follow Him or hope that we’ll somehow make it through the life alone?
Let’s say, we decided to react positively to Christ’s call and follow Him. But what following Christ looks like? What does it entail?
Today I would like to present five qualities that a follower of Christ has. They are: faith, repentance, discipleship, witness, and fishers of people (or vessels of the Gospel). These qualities are not exhaustive, of course, but they can give us a good picture of a follower of Jesus Christ.
The first quality is faith. We follow people and things because we have faith, a conviction about them. In order to follow Christ we express this faith with a confession that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). This is the same confession of faith Peter made, when Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
In response, Christ promised that He will build His Church upon this very confession. Anyone who believes in Christ as the Savior of the world and the Son of the living God is part of His Church.
The second quality of Christ’s follower is repentance. The evangelists tell us that the very first word Christ exclaimed when He came out for His public ministry was, “Repent because the Kingdom of God is near.”
Repentance requires great humility because we look at ourselves as we are, not as we want to be. And we stand before God in fear and recognition that we can’t do it alone, that life is too tragic. And we repent – we change what we can and offer to God’s mercy what we can’t change on our own.
The third quality is discipleship. The word disciple means student, someone who is ready and open to learn, to absorb what the teacher has to impart. In the times of Christ, there were teachers of philosophy and religion. And their disciples desired not only to learn what the teacher knew, but to think, live, and breath like the teacher.
To accept Jesus as our Teacher, to become His disciple, means to accept that what He has to teach us is more important than what we know now or will ever know. To become His disciples means to open up our hearts and minds to His instruction, and be ready to be changed. To become His disciple is to imitate Him in His words and actions, especially His humility, love, and self-sacrifice.
The fourth quality of Christ’s follower is witness. Our life is the reflection of our faith. If we claim to have faith and believe in Jesus Christ as our God and Savior, then our thoughts, words, and actions will reflect that. And our faith is a witness of God’s glory and mercy to the world around us.
It’s impossible to be a Christian alone. While it’s true that faith is a personal business – nobody can force us to believe what we don’t want to. But faith is lived out in a community, in the world. And how we live out our faith is the witness to those around us in what or Who we believe.
And finally, the fifth quality is fishers of people or vessels of God. Forty days after His resurrection, Christ called His disciples to a mountain in Galilee, where He ascended back to sit at the right hand of God the Father.
As He was ascending, Jesus gave His followers one last commandment, it has come to be known as the Great Commission, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Church has prescribed this Gospel lesson to be read at baptisms, signifying in this way that everyone who receives the grace of God at baptism is an apostle, someone who does not preserve this great and awesome faith we have, but someone who expands it, lives it, teaches it, and by it converts others.
To be an apostle we break down our selfishness. From very young age, whenever we got an especially precious gift, we looked to hide it, to safeguard it, only for ourselves. The gift of faith, Christ, salvation don’t work like that. This gift becomes actualized only when we willingly share it.
“Follow Me,” we hear Christ tell the men who will become His followers and apostles. “Follow Me,” Christ tells us because we are also His followers and apostles.
Therefore, acquire the qualities of the followers – faith, repentance, discipleship, witness, and fishers of people. We have been called to become followers of Christ, just like Andrew, Peter, James, and John. And just like them, we can use the gifts that we already have for the glory of God’s Kingdom.
To Christ, the One Who calls us to be His apostles, we give glory and honor, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages.