We begin today with a story about Jesus being a local. Hanging around locals and speaking with the locals. Matthew records ‘Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.’ What was Jesus doing? Why is he preaching to those who already know him? You would think Jesus, wanting to save the world, would head out to foreign countries, to foreign people; to those who don’t know him, to those he doesn’t know.
Yet Jesus remains a local boy, working his saving ministry in his own backyard.
I have a favourite fishing hole. It’s a place I know well and I go to every year. My fishing hole is, as you know, over on the West Coast of South Australia on Yalata beach. I have been there so many times, you could say I’m a local; I talk with the locals and share fishing stories with them. Its my favourite fishing hole because I know how to catch fish there. And I know how to catch fish there because I’ve studied the water. I know for instance, that there is a deep gutter close to shore 2km from the first sand dune. I know that I need to look for dark patches in the water because they are actually schools of salmon, and I know Mulloway chaise the salmon into the deep gutter where they become trapped. (show some details on a power point picture)
Local knowledge is important if you want to catch fish. This became clear to me when I first tried fishing in the Macquarie River, didn’t catch a thing, yet the bloke next to me caught two beautiful yellow belly; he knew where to fish, what bait to use and how to catch them…I didn’t.
Could it be that Jesus is doing the same thing? Using his local knowledge of the people, his people, to seek and to find the lost, in the same way as a fisherman uses his local knowledge to catch fish. Jesus, because he was local, could walk through the streets and talk with the people, listen to them, he knew where they congregated and he could also teach in the local synagogue.
And being local and having local knowledge, found something out that a foreigner wouldn’t realize…his people were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He could not have known this if he wasn’t a local; if he wasn’t one of them? Jesus, working in his own backyard, with a local knowledge was able to pinpoint the unseen problem. He was able to find the key which would open the door to people’s hearts, open the way for the good news of the kingdom.
With the skill of a local fisherman, Jesus studies the sea, the sea of people, ascertains where the needs are, focuses on one issue and BANG…he has a strike, an opening the gospel. They are sheep without a shepherd; He is the good shepherd. He is the one who lays down his life for the sheep and knows them by name. Jesus is the good news they so desperately need. With local knowledge, Jesus knows where the harvest is; where he is needed most; he knows where the mission field is.
Perhaps then, it is not just a little ironic who Jesus chooses to be his first disciples. What sort of people are they? Matthew records in chapter 4, ‘As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men “At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.’
These first disciples are fisherman. They know how to catch fish; they know you have to study the sea. They know you have to work the local waters. They know, if you are going to catch fish, you need local knowledge. Jesus uses this inbuilt trait of fishermen to reach the lost for the kingdom. They are going to be fishers of men. They are going to use their fishing skills, their local knowledge to study people, look for where they congregate, target their needs and find openings for the gospel; to catch men and women for the kingdom. They are locals and a local knows their community best.
Jesus doesn’t sent them to the other side of the world, he sends them directly into the harvest; to the lost sheep of Israel; he sends them to the locals. He sends them to the people the disciples grew up with, to the places they themselves hangout. To people who have the same issues and concerns as they do. Why? Because Jesus knows the best way to catch fish, is to be local; the best way to reach the lost, is to use a local. The disciples will know how best to reach the lost, to touch their hearts with the good news of Jesus and to bring them into faith; they already have a relationship with the people, they are already known…half the battle is won.
Think back over your faith, why do you still have a relationship with Jesus? Why is it you are not like a sheep without a shepherd, but someone who has Jesus and is in the church? Did some foreign missionary from a far away country pray over you and convert you to faith in Jesus? Not likely. You have a relationship with Jesus because someone you knew taught you the faith, a local, like a family member, a neighbour or a friend; someone who knew what you needed, knew your hurts and concerns; someone who heeded the call of Jesus and went into their local community, into your life and brought you the good news of Jesus.
Pastor Rob Edwards of Jindera Lutheran church challenges us as, saying ‘The big question is; ‘where is our fishing pond?’ Where are the people we are called to reach? Only we can answer this, only we who are locals know the answer to that question. Rick Warren in ‘Purpose Driven Church’ says ‘Too many congregations are naive in their thinking about evangelism. If you ask the members, “Who is your church trying to reach for Christ?” the response will likely be, “Everybody! We’re trying to reach the entire world for Jesus Christ.” Of course this is the goal of the Great Commission, and it should be the prayer of every church, but in practice there is not a local church anywhere that can reach everybody.
For your church to be most effective in evangelism you must decide on a target. Discover what types of people live in your area, decide which of those groups your church is best equipped to reach, and then discover which styles of evangelism best match your [local community]. While your church may never be able to reach everyone, it is especially suited to reaching certain types of people. Knowing who you’re trying to reach makes evangelism much easier.’
Let’s be encouraged by these words. Let’s be encouraged by the way Jesus worked his ministry to reach the lost; by the way he come to us through our family or a friend, found us, just as we were, lost and condemned sinners and carried us into his kingdom. We are not people lost and harassed without a shepherd! Let’s us then, recognise Jesus call to us, to be local fishers of men and work with the people God has already brought before us –maybe that person is your spouse, a family member, someone just down the street, our neighbour. Jesus calls locals us to fish the local waters.
We know the people around us better than anyone else, and broadly speaking, the people around us have a great need. They are lost and harassed like sheep without a shepherd; they need Jesus. Amen