Hope Lutheran Church
January 21, 2024
I’ve been listening to a new podcast lately called Founders. Each week, the host reads a book on a great founder of a business – a super successful entrepreneur or CEO of a company that has had significant impact on the world or shook up an industry.
And I’ve notice time and time again as I listen that all of these different founders have a lot in common. Most of them are strategic about where they are going to run their business from, where their base of operations is going to be. Almost all of them create something new or bring some sort of massive change or twist to the industry that they specialize in. And, maybe most importantly, they surround themselves with other experts or great minds – people who have a long list of credentials and experience.
So, I’ve been listening to what this podcast says about great founders and world shakers. And then I look at Jesus here in our Gospel this morning. And I can’t help but notice – Jesus doesn’t do any of that, really.
He goes to what most people would of thought of as the wrong place. He preaches a message that’s been preached before. And he surrounds himself with pretty average people. But there’s something for us to learn and see in all that. A chance for us to see how Jesus comes to us and shares his message with us.
So where did Jesus start? We’re told he went to Galilee. This was a place far in the northern part of Israel. Almost 80 miles away from Israel’s main city of Jerusalem. And other places in the Bible tells us that the people living there were a “people living in darkness…living in the land of the shadow of death.”
And there were a couple reasons that area was described that way. For one, during Israel’s history, Galilee was almost always the first places to be attacked when enemies would come to invade Israel. The people of Galilee would have been people familiar with death, destruction and darkness, and looking out for the next threat.
And they were in the darkness because the people there weren’t known to be very religious. Through the years, the population had become a mixture of Jewish people and foreigners with their own beliefs. And that had affected peoples’ faith. Sure, there were still some followers of the true God, but for many it had become a combination of different religious beliefs. As far as faith went, these were people living in darkness. And it’s not where most would expect Jesus to go with his message and start his ministry on earth.
But it was exactly the kind of place and the kind of people who needed him and the message he was bringing. And Jesus still today wants to go to places like that. Cause, really, the whole world – right here where we are right now – is a place where people need Jesus to come to them. And it’s so easy for me to sit back and complain about what the world are me is like. It’s easy for me to get frustrated.
But by starting in Galilee, Jesus wanted you and I to know that unless someone goes to people in darkness, they’re never going to know any better. They’re gonna stay stuck in the dark. They need someone to bring Jesus and his message to them.
And we can’t miss what that message was! Jesus didn’t hammer people with the law when they were stuck in the darkness. He brought them the gospel – good news:
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
The message wasn’t a new one, really. In fact, just a little bit before Jesus started telling people this, someone else had been preaching the exact same message. It was John.
We’ve talked about John the Baptizer a bit recently. He was the man sent to prepare the way for Jesus. He had been given the task of getting people ready for Jesus. And he did that as he baptized and told people the truth about the kingdom of God.
But where did doing all that get him? Arrested. Thrown in jail. And ultimately beheaded. All because he was telling people “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
And now Jesus was saying the same thing. He was telling people about the kingdom of God, and he was telling people to repent and believe. And that message would eventually lead to his own death on the cross. Even though he knew that’s what was waiting for him, he still went out with that message to bring a message of good news – of the gospel – to people who needed to hear it so badly.
And it’s not a small thing that Jesus was the one who came to those people first. Because he’s talking about a total change happening to a person. A change from unbelief to faith in him and his message. A change that only God and his Word can make happen. A change that Jesus has the power and authority make happen in a person because he is God who can create faith.
It’s kinda like how Camryn and I ended up here at Hope. We didn’t make the decision to come here and move to Manhattan on our own. And if I had just shown up one day, a lot of you probably would have wondered who the new guy standing in the pulpit was. Someone with authority had to tell us to go, to come here.
Only an act of God could bring us to faith in him. The Bible is clear that on our own we’re spiritually dead. There wasn’t something naturally good about us to make God choose us. We weren’t able to go and reach God. We weren’t able to seek God out on our own. We, like those people who were living in Galilee, were lost in the darkness. It took God giving us his Word and calling us in that Word for us to believe in him.
And Jesus came with the same message as John because he knows that we need to hear that message again and again. He comes to us again and again with that same message of good news that’s repeated time and time again in the Bible because it’s that message that leads us and all people to believe and trust in him.
And once we’re brought to faith, there’s a change that happens. Like when I got here and was given a new set of responsibilities, all of us have are given new call, a new mission to live for and follow Christ. Jesus calls each of us to come follow him.
That’s what Jesus said to those very first disciples. “Come, follow me.” And those men weren’t really anybody special, at least not from the world’s point of view. Peter and Andrew, James and John, a couple sets of brothers, they were all fishermen. Average people working normal jobs.
Sure, they would have been hardworking and dedicated, but when it came to having knowledge about God’s Word or having influence with people they weren’t people who stood out. No, if Jesus had wanted people like that he would have been better off going to Jerusalem and finding some experts and teachers of the law, men who actually had some religious and political pull.
But that’s not who Jesus picked to be among his first followers. He picked everyday, normal people. And he told these fishermen that they wouldn’t be collecting fish anymore, but he would make them into fishers of people.
They didn’t ask questions. They didn’t try to stop Jesus. No, instead, immediately, without hesitation they got up and started to follow Jesus. And even though they probably weren’t really ready to do what he was asking them yet, Jesus told them that he was going to make them, transform them into fishers of people.
What’s even more surprising is that Jesus knew what kind of people these men were. He knew their shortcomings and the mistakes they would make in the future. He knew that there would be times when they had their own doubts about what they were doing and who Jesus was. These were the men Jesus was going to use to start the church. And by choosing sinful people who would make mistakes, Jesus was making it clear that the future of the church didn’t depend on these men, but on the message they would taking to the world.
It’s not so different for us who follow Jesus today. Jesus has still come to us, normal everyday people and told us to follow him. He knows that there will be times when we fall into sin. He knows that there will be times when we have doubts. But he still calls us to go out with his message to people. He still wants to make us into his disciples. And then he asks us, he invites us to bring that same life-changing message to others!
And there are lots of ways to bring that message to people. Maybe, if you’re younger, you could consider being a pastor or teacher. You could go to school to focus entirely on the work of sharing the gospel message. And as someone who’s done a little bit of both – pastoring and teaching – I gotta tell you, it’s great. Sure, sometimes it can be hard. But to share the gospel with someone, maybe for the first time in their life, it’s amazing to be able to watch God work through that.
But maybe that’s not for you. Maybe you’re at a point where that isn’t really an option or that’s not where your talents are. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Cause it’s not only pastors and teachers who get to share the good news of Jesus with people. Every single one of you can be part of that. We can all be fishers of people and follow Jesus in whatever place we find ourselves in life.
And you know, to be real honest, there are times where I’m a little bit envious of all of you. Don’t hear me wrong, I love being your pastor. I love going out and meeting new people and interacting with families here at our early learning center to invite them to worship. But I always wonder if cause I’m a pastor, people think that I’m just inviting them to worship or to Hope cause it’s my job and what I get to do full-time.
But when you talk to someone, when you invite someone you know to join us here, I gotta think that means so much more to them. Cause you’re someone they know. Cause you’re someone who really understands what they’re going through. Cause you’re someone who cares about them and loves them enough to point them to the one thing that matters most in this world.
And there are so many other ways for you and I to follow Jesus – to be fishers of people. Maybe you can do that at home as you raise your children to understand the message of the Bible. Maybe you can do that by taking time to come here to church to help keep our campus and building looking nice and clean. You can follow Jesus and share the gospel by being part of a group that goes out to drop an invitation to Easter or Christmas this year. You can bring the the gospel when you see someone hurting and alone and tell them the truth that you know you have a Savior. Or maybe you can share the message of Jesus by giving some of what God has blessed you with to the church to help the work of our own church and churches around the country and the world.
Jesus has given us so many ways to be fishers of people and join with the disciples in following him. He brought light to our lives when he created faith through his Word and now he has called us to go and bring that same light and message to others. He wants to give you the privilege to share that with others. Because it’s a message everyone needs.
Did Jesus start his public ministry in exactly the way people would have expected? Not at all. He started in an obscure place where people were stuck in the darkness. And he brought a message that wasn’t really very original. And he took ordinary men and made them into people who would follow him and bring his message to the world.
And he’s done that for you and me. He’s brought us out of the darkness of sin and radically changed our lives. And now he sending us out to bring light to a world that so desperately needs it. Amen.