Jesus in Disruption Mode

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, 21st century
“The trouble with deep belief is that it costs something And there is something inside me, some selfish beast of a subtle thing that doesn’t like the truth at all because it carries responsibility, and if I actually believe these things I have to do something about them. It is so, so cumbersome to believe anything. And it isn’t cool.”

Our Jesus-story begins this morning with an announcement that Jesus moves back to Galilee. After his baptism by John, in Judea, John is arrested and later beheaded by Herod.

The news of John’s arrest appears to have been the motivation for Jesus’ return to the general area where he had lived most of his life. He did not return to his hometown, Nazareth, but instead, he moved to a village on the banks of the See of Galilee, namely, Capernaum.

The text suggests that Jesus was just ambling long when he ran into two brothers, Peter and Andrew. But one can imagine that he already knew them. Perhaps they had been listening to Jesus speak on the banks of the lake. Who knows?

But this time Jesus comes with an invitation. “Follow me.”

Again, according to the text they dropped what they were doing, and these two fishermen became full-time students or disciples of Jesus, later to be called Apostles.

From there the three of them met up with two more fisherman brothers earning their living from the Sea of Galilee.  James and John follow Peter and Andrew’s lead and when Jesus invites them, they leave everything and follow him.

Whether it is true that they simply abandoned their families who were dependent upon them we will never know. It appears rather callous to simply expect them to leave their loved ones in the lurch. But that is open for speculation.

What the text gives us this morning is the fact that Jesus invites two pairs of brothers to join him on the mission God had given him.

What was this mission?

The Gospel of Luke quotes Jesus in this regard:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” Lk 4:18

Quite a career change one would say. These early disciples go from fisherman to fishers of men and women.

A few important issues here:

Firstly, when called, these first followers seem to respond without hesitation. They embrace an itinerant teacher who touched their lives by the way he explained God to them.

Secondly, Jesus’ invitation is specific. In today’s jargon this invitation to the first disciples might have sounded like this;

“Come join me as we have a mission to fulfill. Our focus will be people who have lost hope. People who feel as though they have no future and no worth. People who have no power to participate in the structures of religion or the state or the economy. People who are despised by others because they are poor and powerless.”

Thirdly, we know that Jesus ultimately gathered 12 disciples who were later known as his apostles. We know they struggled to fully understand his mission. Even with Jesus at hand they often lost focus and acted like children with learning disabilities.

When Jesus emphasized humility, they argued amongst themselves as to who of them was the most important disciple.

Even when Jesus faced imminent arrest in Jerusalem, begging them to stay awake and pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, they all fell asleep.

Only after his death do they appear to grasp the enormity of what Jesus was all about. So much so that many of them suffered the same fate as Jesus.

We believe that Jesus still calls us to follow him. His appeal to those first disciples remains his call and invitation to anyone who hears his message. We are here, part of this church-community because we said “yes” to his invitation to follow him.

We are the ones left to “proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind (healing), and to set the oppressed free.”

Churches are not the buildings, although we come to love the buildings for their beauty and what they represent. Churches are not spiritual country clubs. Churches are groups of people who come together because we believe that together we are better equipped to carry on the mission of Jesus.

The proclamation of the good news to the poor is not a feel-good pat on the back or even a can of soup once in a while. It is embracing those who are desperate and what addressing the causes of their desperation.

Freedom for prisoners. In those days, when you fell behind in the repayment of your loans, people could be arrested and end up in jail. These were people who took out loans designed, often, to be impossible to repay. One word comes to mind: Student debt!

Sight for the blind was a metaphor for sick people. Two words that come to mind. Affordable healthcare!

And to set the oppressed free? I have no words for this one because the world we live in have so many groups, even in our own society, who are stunted in their potential by the oppressing structures, formal and informal, that hold them down and sucks the life out of them.

This remains the mission of Jesus to this day. May this New Year help us shine as we continue this sacred mission.

May it be so. Amen.

 

 

Matthew 4:12-23

Now when Jesus* heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.’
17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
*

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.