1 Corinthians 1:10-18
JESUS CHANGES EVERYTHING
The Jewish people are the ones who had hoped for centuries for the coming of the Messiah.
Jewish families since the time of Abraham had passed down that hope from parent to child.
While the exact nature of the Messiah would change a bit from time to time – some hoping for another King David; some hoping for a prophet and teacher who would enable the Jewish people to be perfect spiritually –
everyone anticipated the Messiah to lead Jews into a glorious and perfect future.
Yes, from time to time, there would be prophecies of how the Messiah would lead the
Jews to be “a light to all nations.”
But no one expected a Messiah who would actually go outside the Jews to find disciples.
Yet here we are, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and Matthew makes a point to remind us that Jesus
leaves his family in Nazareth to make his home in Capernaum.
Capernaum was what we would call a blue-collar town.
On the edge of the Sea of Galilee, this little town of about 1,000 had farmers and fishermen.
The families who lived there were Jewish but they weren’t like the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea.
These were Jews who had relationships with non-Jews.
Their Galilean king, Herod Antipas was a puppet of the Romans.
He spent much more time in Roman temples than he ever did in a synagogue.
And because they were geographically close to Syrians and lots of other Gentiles, the people of
Capernaum lived up to the names Isaiah had spoken of when he called them “on the road by the sea,
across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.”
This is where Jesus begins his ministry.
Right from the start, Jesus addresses the “not-so-typical” into a relationship with him.
And the first thing Jesus tells them is the same thing cousin John had proclaimed,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
That word “repent” is so filled with meaning.
Literally, both the Greek and the Hebrew words we translate as repent means to “turn around.”
Not to just say,“I’m sorry” but to have a conversion.
The young woman with multiple addictions, homeless, tells of how she encounters Jesus in a kindly Christian woman who gave her a second chance by taking her into her own home. A warm home, good food and compassion pulled her out of her despair. Now 20 years later, she runs an urban ministry, using her gifts and
experience to reach the youth of a rough neighborhood.
Lives are still transformed.
The young man who finds himself in prison, charged with multiple felonies. He doesn’t have much
else to do so he decides one day to open a Bible – the first time ever.
Months later, he asks the prison chaplain to baptize him.
And even though he will still spend many years in that prison, he has become a voice of hope for others.
These are the “conversions” we think of when we hear that word.
But repentance, conversion, turning around is something different in today’s Gospel reading.
These fishermen were not criminals; they had not hit “rock bottom;”
There is no evidence that they had any deep sense of guilt or shame.
But their lives were truly changed that day on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
From that day on, their lives changed and they had come into the Kingdom of Heaven-made-flesh.
Peter and his brother Andrew were out in their boat casting their nets – because that’s what fishermen do. Fishermen may have been known as being a bit rough-around-the edges but their work was honest and respectable.
James and his brother John were fishermen too.
They braved the rough waters of the Galilee so that others could eat.
When Jesus met them on the shore, they were with their father mending their nets.
This was a family business.
We will come to see these fishermen, along with the tax-collector Matthew and the banker Judas and all the rest
as far from sinless in future accounts from Matthew’s Gospel.
But today we see these four men as good, hard-working, honest, family men.
Yet Jesus asks them too to turn around; to change their lives 180 degrees.
Leave your boat; abandon your work; say goodbye to your family, your way of life –not because any of this is bad
or sinful but because what Jesus offers them is better.
“Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”
Fishing for fish is good; fishing for people is even better.
Sometimes this is the message that is hardest for 21st century American Christians to hear.
We understand repentance from sin; conversion from a bad way of life.
We admire the stories of those who have hit rock-bottom and changed their lives in such a powerful way
that they might even make the 5:00 news.
But what do we hear when Jesus says to us:
Turn your lives around 180 degrees.
Live in the Kingdom of Heaven now.
Follow me and become fishers of people.
And just who are these people we’re supposed to fish for?
We can take a cue from Jesus himself. Jesus did not remain in Nazareth close to family and boyhood friends.
Jesus did not return to Bethlehem, Judea, or the capitol city of Jerusalem – the Jewish“center of the universe.” Jesus went to Capernaum; to Galilee of the nations to fish for his people.
And Jesus spent most of his ministry in Galilee before he went to Jerusalem – and there to die and rise again.
Even after the Resurrection, Jesus sends his men-fish back to the shores of Galilee to begin their own ministries.
Where is your Galilee?
Where is your lakeshore?
Into whose life is Jesus calling you?
You may not think you have any particular talent to preach or teach the Gospel. That doesn’t matter.
You have the life of faith you have been given.
Jesus has touched your life through your parents; through Sunday School teachers; through pastors;
through the healing touches of friends and family.
Chances are that you have not had those 5:00 news conversion experiences.
You have had your lives changed because of ordinary people doing extraordinary good in your life.
And that’s what you need to be in others.
When you speak a kind word to the child next door.
When you offer help to the widow or widower in mourning.
When you tell your LGBTQ neighbor that they are welcome in your church in spite of the rejection they may have felt in other churches before.
When you smile at the testy person behind you in the grocery line.
When you give a gift to the stranger panhandling on the street corner.
When you offer time to your favorite charity.
As one who has been fished by God through Jesus, offer God through Jesus to all of them.
The Kingdom of Heaven is here!
Follow Jesus who will make you fishers of every life you touch!