ALLURING INVITATIONS. A few years ago I was invited by a charitable trust here in Australia to attend a ministers’ conference in America. All expenses paid. Some of my favourite speakers. Free books. Great fellowship. Probably could have thrown in some sight-seeing too.
It certainly got me thinking. Was I willing to just GET UP AND GO? But I was right in the middle of writing my Master’s thesis. And I really wanted to knock it over. So I ended up saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
The conference is on again in April next year. But unfortunately, the offer was only valid while I was studying. Which I’m no longer doing. So, I’ll just have to make do with listening to the talks on the internet.
I wonder whether YOU’VE ever had any alluring invitations like that. Tempting offers? Perhaps it’s a new job, or an exciting opportunity, or bargain you couldn’t say no to.
Like Des and Kate perhaps. Offered a new job, a new house, a new LIFE, a FRESH START, back in LAND. A HUGE change. And they said YES.
How did YOU respond to YOUR invitation? Was it an instant YES? Did you jump in boots and all? Or did you take your time, and carefully weigh up the options? Perhaps you regretfully declined?
But none of those invitations were anywhere near as important as the one Jesus offered Andrew and Simon.
Imagine, for a moment, you’re Simon or Andrew, going about your daily work, fishing. Your head’s full of knots and nets, ropes and rowing, prices and problems, buckets and boats.
And you’re about to get the offer of a lifetime. An alluring invitation that will turn your life on its head. Jesus is walking along the shore, he walks up to you and he says (v19)
19 “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
It’s a CRAZY offer. Ludicrous. A complete stranger walks up to you, out of the blue, and invites you to come, and follow him. As far as we know, there was no previous relationship. There was no talk about payment, or conditions. No explanations or arguments. Just an INVITATION, and a PROMISE.
1. Come, follow me
First, the INVITATION. “Come, follow me.”
It’s a BROAD invitation. One that went to whoever Jesus met. It’s unlikely these fishermen were the ONLY people Jesus was inviting. They get a particular mention because of who they turn out to be. His closest disciples. But Jesus’ invitation is going out to EVERYONE.
Have a look back at the previous little section, from v12. With John’s arrest, it’s time for Jesus’ ministry to begin in earnest. He doesn’t stay around Jerusalem where you might expect. But heads back to Nazareth, and then to Capernaum. Down by the shore of Lake Galilee. (show map)
It’s the multicultural area of Israel. All sorts of people. From all parts of the world. Compared to the south, it’s fertile and well-populated. There are trade routes and large towns. Roads heading north and south. And west to the Sea. It’s popular with people from other countries. Good farming. Good trade. Good access.
And Jesus is preaching there. The same message John the Baptist was preaching. There in v17. “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” God’s reign is close. And you need to turn from YOU ruling your life. And allow GOD to rule it instead.
And it’s a message that’s going to GENTILES, just as much as it’s going to Jews. There in v15. A quote from Isaiah “Galilee of the GENTILES – the people living in darkness have seen a great light.”
Gentiles were thought to be living in DARKNESS because they didn’t have God’s law. But Jesus, the light of the world, comes to invite THEM to repent TOO.
Jesus’ invitation to Come, follow him is a BROAD ONE.
Even the JEWS we read about. Rough, uneducated fisherman. Hardly the ones WE’D choose to base a new world-wide organisation on. But they make up four of the twelve disciples. And Jesus’ invitation goes to THEM TOO.
Or a few chapters on. We find out how MATTHEW HIMSELF was invited. Ch 9 v9. He was A TAX COLLECTOR. A Jew, collecting for the Romans. Charging whatever rate he decided he could get away with. As good as a traitor. And so he was despised by his countrymen.
But Jesus comes walking along, sees Matthew sitting in his booth, and gives him the same invitation. “Follow me”. Matthew leaves it all behind. And follows Jesus.
Later on, Matthew gets all his mates together. More of the rejected rubbish of society. The least, the lost and the last. They’re having dinner together. And Jesus is the guest of honour. And he presumably gives THEM the same invitation. Come, follow me.
And when the self-righteous do-gooders want to know what Jesus is doing hanging out with rotten people like THAT/ Jesus responds (v12). His invitation is BROAD.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the SICK. … For I have not come to call the righteous, but SINNERS.”
The offer goes to SICK people. To SINFUL people. Nobody is too far-gone for Jesus’ invitation to go to. No one misses out.
Which is great news for you and me. You don’t have to get your act together before you accept Jesus’ offer. It’s not like the Olympic Games, where you have to achieve a certain standard before you score an invitation. Unless you can jump a certain height, or run a certain time, you miss out.
It’s more like the World Masters Games. Being held in Sydney in a few months. ANYONE’s welcome to enter, as long as your 35 or older. There’s a spot for you whatever your level of ability. Everyone’s invited.
And it’s the same with Jesus’ offer to come and follow him. He’s the doctor who’s come for SICK PEOPLE. That’s the only requirement.
And that’s an encouragement as we invite people to events we’re holding. We don’t have to CHOOSE people to invite according to any selection criteria. There’s no interview process to go through. God chooses ALL SORTS. Jesus INVITES all sorts. So WE can invite ANYONE.
And so, that’s what the church should look like. A big bag of mixed lollies. Of liquorice all-sorts. A hospital full of sick people. Where EVERYONE is accepted. Without judgment, or rejection, or condescension.
(pause) But hospitals are about sick people GETTING BETTER. Jesus’ offer is more than just an invitation to COME. It’s an invitation to FOLLOW. Remember, he’s calling people to REPENT because the kingdom is near. To TURN AROUND put their sin behind them.
He INVITES people wherever they are. But he won’t let them STAY there.
Come, FOLLOW me. He literally says something like, “Here, AFTER me!” This is not a call to go for a stroll around the lake. It’s a call for a lasting association. A commitment. What he wants is a single-minded application to the task of following wherever Jesus takes you. Of listening to him. Obeying him, imitating him. No matter how hard it looks.
There’s no EASY DISCIPLESHIP. No SOFT OPTION. No dipping your toe in the water. Jesus wants you diving right in.
There’s no picking and choosing WHICH bits you want to follow Jesus in, and which bits you’d rather not. Jesus will have none of that. It’s all or nothing. In Luke 14:26-27 he says
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Boots and all – that’s what Jesus means when he invites you to come and follow him. Everything else gets left behind. He’s king over EVERYTHING, or he’s king over NOTHING.
When Jesus says, “AFTER ME”, it means following and imitating the SERVANT king. The one who came not to BE served. But to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many. It means following the obedient Son of God. Who did EVERYTHING his heavenly Father asked him to. Even went to . Not MY will, he said, but YOURS be done.
AFTER me means reading the Bible and praying with your kids when all you want to do is sit on the couch and veg. It means continuing to serve your spouse when you feel you’re getting nothing in return. It means turning up to church with the attitude ‘How can I PUT IN to church?’, rather than ‘What can I GET OUT of it?’
AFTER me means following the PURE and HOLY one. Tempted in every way, just like us, but without sin. Tempted with POWER, and he tells Satan, worship God alone. Tempted with earthly comforts, and he says, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that God speaks.
If you’re falling into sin again and again, then TAKE DRASTIC ACTION. DEAL with it. Brutal honesty and tough decisions are called for. Don’t worry about good impressions or false impressions of goodness.
AFTER ME means turning the other cheek, it means sticking at your marriage vows when it’s easier to walk away. It means saying NO to that easy opportunity to steal from work, or rip off the tax department, or take a sickie you don’t need.
AFTER me means a 24-7 commitment. Not a Sunday morning duty. It means risking all other relationships to invite people to share in your most important relationship.
Jesus invites ALL to COME. But he also calls all to FOLLOW. He calls us not simply to accept him as SAVIOUR, but to HONOUR him as LORD.
And so church should be a place with relationships of such openness and depth and reality that we can gently and lovingly challenge each other to keep following Jesus. Where we risk the relationship to say, “I’ve noticed how you talk to your kids.” Or “I’m concerned for your choices here”. Or “how are you going with this particular sin? You look like you’re struggling? How can I help?”
These are difficult conversations. But if we LOVE people, and want what’s BEST for them. Tough words need to be spoken on occasion.
It’s one of the things I find HARDEST about this job. I’ve been criticised recently by someone who I challenged about their behaviour and choices. I was told it was un-Christian not to accept sinners.
And, in a sense, that’s TRUE. Christ accepts ALL. Invites ALL. But those who COME to Jesus must FOLLOW HIM. We can’t say we’re Christian but then do whatever we like! People who continue to choose what THEY want, when Jesus says something DIFFERENT. Are calling into question whether they’re Christian AT ALL.
Yes, we are a hospital for sick people. But a hospital is no use if people aren’t getting BETTER. If there’s no change, everyone is wasting their time.
(pause) That’s the INVITATION. What about the PROMISE? Let’s spend the last few minutes thinking about THAT. “I will make you fishers of men.”
2. I will make you fishers of men
This is the first promise Jesus makes. Come after me, and I WILL MAKE.
It’s what JESUS will do. He’ll do the making. We simply follow.
And that’s the glorious thing about the work we do in the Christian life. It’s Jesus doing his powerful work in us. On our own, we’re HELPLESS to change ourselves, to conquer sin, to convince others, to continue to the end. We don’t even have the DESIRE to do it, unless Jesus is working in our heart.
Sometimes the way ahead looks impossible, and we get discouraged. I can’t possibly do that job, or conquer that sin, or talk to that person. But Jesus’ promise is that HE will make us fishers of men. We are simply to follow. TO keep our eyes fixed on him. And do what he does.
HE will do it. We need to pray the prayer of Paul for ourselves. In Eph 1:19 he prays
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that YOU MAY KNOW … HIS INCOMPARABLY GREAT POWER FOR US WHO BELIEVE.
The power of Jesus is FOR US. What’s that power like?
That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
There’s a reservoir of -breaking power waiting for us to tap into. And we worry about messing up? About how little we know? Jesus says I will make
And what about what Jesus will MAKE us? Fishers of men. No longer catching FISH, but people instead. He’s going to change us. On the one hand, completely DIFFERENT, but also with some continuity.
When you’re following Jesus, he’ll call you to a life that’s completely different. Transformed. But at the same time, you’ll still be YOU. There’ll be the opportunity to use the sorts of experiences and talents and opportunities you had before.
When you come after Jesus and follow him, your purpose and priorities and goals will be transformed, but Jesus will still use YOU – your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your family background.
You might be a teacher or a housewife or a nurse before, and Jesus calls you to KEEP teaching or being a housewife or nursing when you follow him. But now you’re doing it FOR JESUS.
You might be good at ORGANISING, or good with YOUR HANDS, or good on the DRUMS. And Jesus can USE those talents for a new PURPOSE, in a new DIRECTION.
You might be an accountant before, or a builder, or a manager. And Jesus calls you to do something completely different FOR A JOB. Perhaps even re-training. But it will still be Jesus using the raw materials he’s given you to MAKE you into a people fisher.
How are you going at ALLOWING Jesus to be making you into a person-fisher? Are you OPEN to that? Or is it all too scary?
How are you going at using what your gifts are? Your experiences and talents? Are you using THOSE in the service of Jesus? Or sitting on them?
On the other side, how are you going at DEVELOPING? At BUILDING on what you have? RE-training? Reading? Practicing? What about doing some courses? A FUSION course perhaps? Or some Bible training at the PTC?
Follow the example of those ordinary fisherman. Jesus said, Come, follow me. And what was their response? Have a look at v20.
20 AT ONCE they left their nets and followed him.
Same thing with James and John. A bit further round the lake. Jesus called out to them in their boat. V22.
22 and IMMEDIATELY they left the boat and their father and FOLLOWED HIM.
No second thoughts. No weighing up the alternatives. They left their OLD lives. And followed Jesus for the rest of their lives. And their lives, and THE WORLD, was never the same again.
Our faith and lives, so far removed from them, across time and space, is built on their foundation. The foundation of their example, their witness and faith and obedience.
Jesus said Come, follow me. They immediately left everything, and followed him. What about you?