Sorry, there is no sermon today! Can I leave everything with you- I’m not doing this any more, I am off to follow this guy who came and asked me to join him on a journey.
You can probably now imagine how old man Zebedee felt when his own son’s just up fishing and left him. Left him with the fish, the cleaning and even with an uncertain future. Who was Jesus or what did he say to make these men leave everything and follow him?
Simon known as Peter and his brother Andrew where generational fishermen. From all accounts, they were most likely well known and quite well off in the fishing industry; Peter had his own house and was married. To suddenly do something as radical as leaving their job to follow Jesus, something special must take place when you follow Jesus.
Have you ever been called to follow? Was it in a job, or a holiday or when you are learning some thing new- when someone said ‘follow me’. So what does that entail? Just mindless repetition, like a parrot that only dictates words and actions? Or is to ‘follow’ something more? It must be more than this or you wouldn’t follow; Simon and Andrew wouldn’t leave everything if all it meant was to be like a parrot. No, to follow is far more.
Unfortunately, to follow is not very popular, who wants to be a learner under the control of someone else! Yet Matthew makes it crystal clear what it means to be a “Christian.” A Christian is a “disciple” or “follower” of Jesus. Our fundamental identity, who we are as believers in Jesus, is not a “leader” but a “follower” or “companion” of Christ. Jesus says ‘come, follow me’ not ‘come be a leader and fisher of men.’
Despite Jesus call to first follow, we still seem to chase after conferences on leadership and mission. Yet has anyone here EVER seen a conference on “followership?” Or how about a conference simply on how to be a better disciple? Isn’t it very interesting how we are more interested in Jesus’ position of “Leader” than in our position of “follower?” Perhaps we are putting the cart by for the horse. Perhaps we need to take a step back and refocus on what it means to follow and why we are followers of Jesus, before we tackle the mission field.
Let me show you a clip from Finding Nemo.
What happened? Yes, confusion reigned! Both were followers, one fish thought she knew how to follow and so called the other to follow, but because both of the fish didn’t know what they were following they both became confused and had to changed direction all the time and in the end never arrived no where.
Yes, to have a good leader is critical, but to know what it means to be good follower is just as important. Only when we follow, can we truly begin to know the leader. Only then, will we know where we are going, why we are following and where we will end up. After following, we will then be empowered to bring others with us; to follow along with us.
And the only way we can learn to follow is by following. Jesus promises to make these fishermen into fishers of men, not by empowering them to do this, but by asking them to follow. Empowerment to call others to follow only happens later in their discipleship, when Jesus ‘calls the disciples to him and gives them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.’ Before they are empowered to be missionary focused they are first missioned themselves by being a follower of Jesus.
Yes, Jesus makes fishers of men, not empowers them. We are made or created or crafted by God himself to call others to be disciples, not suddenly by some sort of magical blessing, but through following him. To be followers of Jesus means the same for us as it did to Simon and Andrew. We are to study him, learn from him and watch the way he did things and have the same concerns and goals as him. This can be hard work and takes a conscious effort.
In Jesus day, many others accepted his invitation, dozens, maybe even hundreds responded to Jesus’ call. Crowds followed him around, but many only like a spectator might follow Tiger Woods around a golf course, only watching on, never being involved; never grasping and receiving the joy of salvation that only Jesus can give.
The joy they didn’t grasp, and many today don’t grasp, is the fact that Jesus makes us into followers; its not our doing. This is why many give up, for them, being a Christian is about moulding and making themselves into followers; its about how hard they work and the goals they achieve in themselves. But we don’t need to concern ourselves about that, or any other difficulties we will face.
To be a follower does not depend on how we are doing, or how our commitment compares to what others are doing. Being a follower of Jesus means we follow, allowing him to work in us, even though there are times in our life when we think we have failed. Yet St Paul reminds us as we follow ‘do not lose heart. Though outwardly we see nothing happening, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’
And this renewal happens as we follow Jesus. I opened a bob bon at Christmas, and you know the little sayings or jokes you get inside, well the one I got read ‘A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something’. How true this is for us as followers of Christ. As we listen to him, study is word and think about how it is relevant to us, after a while we will learn something.
This is what it means to be a follower; to learn about Jesus, why we follow and where we will end up. It is through this that Jesus is renewing us and making us into fishers of men. Once we have listened and learnt, then we are empowered to call others to come and follow.
So, as we as a parish look to embark on a mission program and become a parish of fishers of men, let us remember that first and foremost, our calling is to be followers. So let us commit ourselves to the study of God’s word, make it a conscious goal of ours to provide times of study, and make ourselves available to attend studies or to devote ourselves to the word through home devotions.
Then we know that Jesus is making us ready to make other followers, and then we know, that it is not by our effort that we are followers, but that Jesus is renewing us day by day. So come with me and follow Jesus.