3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, What’s the most significant thing you’ve gotten? It was probably one of the most significant things I’ve ever bought. Up to that time, and actually probably never since, have I spent so much of my hard earned money on something so, so small. But it was worth it. My girlfriend and I were beginning to make our wedding plans and of course if you’re going to be traditional you need a little item when you’re making wedding plans and you want to be engaged: an engagement ring. So, I still remember how it went, I, this young man who knew nothing about diamonds, walked into the diamond store in Milwaukee, WI. All I knew was what cut of a diamond she wanted, that was it. So, a nice lady came up to me and started giving me a diamond 101 crash course and then she started asking me questions, like where did I meet my future fiancé. So I told her, “Actually we met in college.” Where did you go to college? “Oh, we just go to a small college in southern Minnesota.” Oh yeah, what city? “New Ulm.” And her response, “Martin Luther College?” Yep. “Get out! That’s where my soon to be son-in-law goes!” Turns out, her son-in-law was a grade ahead of me, studying to be a Wels pastor, her daughter went to my high school, and come to find out later, her nephew would later marry my sister. Small world. So, anyway, I thought this is where I get the ring. So I found the perfect ring, I remember taking it home, and putting in the drawer in my night stand and every night after work coming home and before I went to bed, looking at it, admiring it, thinking this is the ring I’m going to place on my bride, the lady I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. Diamonds, after all, are forever right? Could anything be more significant than that? Well, the truth is, yes, something is more significant than that. The reality is, one day I’m going to die, one day my wife is going to die, she’s going to go, but that diamond ring? It’s going to stay. So, what’s the most significant thing you’ve gotten?
Our text this morning directs us to something far more significant than diamonds or gold or money or things. It starts out, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God.” After John was put into prison – that’s not just a side comment or a transition or a marker of time. That’s intentional. After John was put in prison, that’s when Jesus decides to go and preach. You’d think that should be the last time that anyone would go and preach. I mean who would listen? Who would follow you? John the Baptist had come as the great, promised forerunner to announce the coming of Jesus, the Almighty Son of God. But now, John’s where? In prison! Think about that. If Jesus couldn’t keep his great fore-runner out of prison, who in their right mind would follow him? Well, someone did: you!
Why? Because that’s exactly how powerful this “Good news of God” that Jesus preached is. It takes us people, who are burdened with our sin, who have no hope for the future, who are facing eternal punishment and death, who have no purpose or meaning in life, and says, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Oh, just believe.” Or “Just believe it’ll all sort of work out in the end.” Or, “Just believe and be happy.” Like believing is just this pious, wishful, sort of hoping thing. No, this message is about an accomplished fact. It’s news, it’s realities. Jesus lived for you, Jesus died for you, Jesus rose for you. Now your sin is gone, your future is secure, you are awaiting glory, your life now has infinite significance and purpose. That’s the power of Jesus’ message.
Jesus came to be our Savior, but when it came to Jesus’ occupation, he was a preacher, a teacher. And the message that he had is one everyone needs. So He was going around seeking to catch what he could take with Him forever. But there’s a ton of people in this world, so what does Jesus do? He recruits more preachers.
He walks along the Sea of Galilee and he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, that was their job, fishermen. Try to imagine what their life was like. Many of us like to fish, it’s a hobby, a past time, it’s not something we generally get to do every day. But for Andrew and Simon this was their job, their livelihood, fish in and fish out, all day every day. And at the end of the day, what did they have for their labors? A pile of fish. Which was great. They could sell them, trade them, eat them. But then that’s it. Tomorrow would be the same thing. Fish in, fish out. Perhaps it kind of reminds us of us a bit, doesn’t it? Are there times when you feel like your life is like doing the same thing, pulling in fish after fish, fish in and fish out, go to work all day every day to net in some dollars, go to the store to spend some more dollars, go to work to reel some more in, then go and spend some more, day after day after day. And that’s great. God lets us earn money and use it to do some great things like take care of our families, save for retirement, help people out, support our church, have a little fun sometimes. But at the end of the day have you ever felt that you just spent your whole day, all your energy, all your effort, all your labor on just another pile of fish? Is that rewarding? Is that fulfilling?
I suppose I could go and get a second job and work 90 hour weeks so that I could buy a nice four wheel drive truck. Would that make me happy? You know, it probably would for a little bit. But then, it would have this problem or that problem, there would be another one that was probably nicer, it would get older, probably start developing some rust. But then, where’s that truck going to be when I die? I go, but the truck stays. Someone else will get it and have fun driving it around. You know, there’s all kinds of things in life to fish for: good education, paying off debt, new clothes, new car, new house, new gadget, saving for retirement. But you see, any of the fish that we get in this life might give us a short time of pleasure, but that’s it, they don’t last.
And that’s the problem with fish. You can eat them and they’re gone or you can just leave them and after a few days they’ll begin to stink and rot. And that’s true of all the things of this life that we fish for, they don’t last. Well, then Jesus comes along and sees Simon and Andrew and essentially tells them, “I’ve got something better for you guys, it isn’t catching fish that after a couple days begin to stink, I’ve got a calling for you that when you catch them you can take them with you …forever.” “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men/ people.”
And Jesus has done the same for you. He’s called you, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people” By His life and death He purchased and won you, by His gospel He’s called you to faith and by His grace He’s made you a fisher of people. And He uses you in your unique situation, in your life, in your work, in your position, He uses your five minutes here or there, your voice, your bedtime bible stories with your children, to touch someone with His Good News of salvation and you can take that person with you… forever. Wow!
Forever…hmm…God has entrusted to us something that impacts people for…forever. Those are huge ramifications. Perhaps it makes us a bit nervous. “I don’t want to mess this up.” “I’m not sure that I’m cut out for this!” But notice what Jesus says here, he doesn’t say, “Ok, Peter and Andrew, now be fishers of men.” Rather, he says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Literally, it says, “Make you to become fishers of men.” That’s Jesus’ promise. God takes us people who are so unworthy of such a calling and he makes us worthy. He will make you to be a fisher of people.
And that looks different in everyone’s life. Maybe God’s gifted you with the ability to speak to people about God’s Word, maybe He’s given you the openness to just start talking to someone you don’t really know about what Jesus means to you, maybe you’re good at going around and knocking on people’s doors, maybe you’re good at serving so that other people can do that, maybe you can give generous offerings so that the Lord’s work can be done, maybe you have opportunities to show love and concern for others and to serve other people so that they notice something is different about you. Maybe it’s something else or a bunch of those, but the truth is, Jesus has called you so he’s going to give you opportunities to be a fisher of people.
But wait! I’m too busy, I’m not that good at talking to people, I’m not that good at serving! Jesus didn’t say, “Be a fisher of people.” He made you a promise and said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”
Humanly speaking Jesus could have made better choices in his disciples than what he did. But by His work and by His Word he would transform them into the very fishers of people that he wanted. Jesus does the same for you and me. As we see what is most significant in life, what is eternal, as we grow in our own faith, in our own knowledge of God and His Word, as we come to church, as we read His Word, God transforms us, Jesus makes us into the fishers of people he wants us to be.
There are literally millions of people in our world who haven’t been caught by the gospel. And people and fish really have this in common. They have no significance until they’re caught. Fish have no significance until they are caught. The same is true for people. Since our world is literally filled with millions of people who have either never really heard the pure gospel of sins fully forgiven in Jesus or have heard it and turned away, that means there are millions of people who have no significance in life, no real purpose, no direction, no lasting hope, and will go to hell.
Since God in His grace has called you to faith, since His good news, His gospel has won your heart, He’s given you eternal and infinite significance in life, not to fish for things in life that one day you’ll have to leave here, but to use the gifts He’s given you to share His grace and fish for people, people whom you can take with you forever. And think about how cool that will be to talk with people in heaven who say, “Hey, you told me that Jesus is my Savior, you gave me the encouragement I needed when I was really down, you directed me to God when I was depressed, it was your joy and peace that just made we want to know more about your Savior, you helped support the church where I learned about God’s grace, you were the first person to share the gospel with me.” That’s something really significant. So, in your life fish for what lasts forever. Amen.