So the Lord Jesus smiled, and gently shook his head at the angels who were eagerly offering to serve their Lord.
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Rather he walked beside the Sea of Galilee and called these four young men who must have been the age of university students. When the Lord Jesus comes to this meeting place each Sunday morning of course he sees every single one of us. All the thoughts of every heart are naked and open to his eyes. But there are some in this congregation whom he sees in grace. He looks upon them in love in order to call them, summoning them out of darkness into his light. It is not the best behaved or most intelligent or beautiful or rich that he sees. It may be the most wicked and hypocritical persons in the church, but Jesus sees them!
When he calls they cannot say no. They arise and follow him from that day on. What an honour to become a servant of the King of Kings. If this is so — and it is so, yes, it is so, then are you not longing that he will call you? Are you not coming here each week in the same frame as I went to a little chapel in a Welsh mining valley back in wondering, as I walked past the saw mill and the chip shop and the derelict cinema along the narrow road to Tabernacle Baptist Church, if this Sunday the Lord would see me and call me to follow him.
See me in my sin and need today, merciful Saviour! Call me to follow you today most blessed Son of God! If it is not then you cannot protest about his sovereignty in saving whom he will save. You are obviously not anxious to be saved. The Lord Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of God was near. He was telling this backslidden Old Testament church that God was finally setting up his promised reign over people on earth.
He was really going to do that in their day. What the Galileans were blind to see Mark reveals to us. The King was establishing his reign over the lives of sinners, and from that time onwards millions of men for twenty centuries would leave all just like these brothers and follow him. Before this time these four boys had been following their fathers, Zebedee and John. But now the great change had taken place. They had a new Lord. They had been brought into the Kingdom by an effectual call of the King and immediately they began to obey him, and so the kingdom of God was near.
One of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century was Ludwig Wittgenstein. He was fascinated with the gospels and the life of Christ, but he refused to bow before God. I am afraid of disintegration of my disintegration if I become soft. See Christ weeping before the city of Jerusalem, lying on the ground in Gethsemane, praying for his enemies from the cross — the wonderful divine softness.
True toughness comes when we cast ourselves on the strong God. This month has witnessed a special celebration of the English playwright Harold Pinter. Television and magazines have been full of interviews with him and assessments of his work. He is one of the most famous authors in Britain today, but he lacks any sympathy at all for New Testament Christianity. There by the Sea of Galilee came God the Son, the King of Love, the one in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He can do what no other authority, no structure, nor any social organisation can do, and tell us how we should live.
We must obey God rather than men. Of course, summoned by the Saviour they obeyed. Of course, strengthened by the Holy Spirit they obeyed. But they made the decision, and they determined to follow Jesus. It was a watershed moment for them. We are often reminded of one raindrop that lands inches away from another at a peak in the Rockies. One flows to the west and ultimately arrives in the Pacific while the other flows to the east and arrives in the Atlantic.
Their destinies are far apart from one another because of that watershed. Think what would have happened if Peter had said No. He would have spent the next sixty years of his life, six days a week, in the fish business, and how would he have ended his life? A viscous old man? Have you obeyed the Lord Jesus? He is calling you this very moment to follow him. It is all important. If you are selective about when, and in what activities you are going to obey Jesus Christ, then he is not your Lord and you are not his disciple. To do what he says when it is counter to our entire upbringing and expectations is the test of our discipleship.
It was an extraordinary decision. Here are four boys whose lives had been mapped out for them since they were born. They had watched their Daddies sailing away to fish and when they had grown older they had taken their first voyage with their fathers as their anxious mothers waved them goodbye. All they wanted to do was become fishermen on blue Galilee. They knew no other vocation.
How could they survive doing something else? Yet when Jesus comes and calls them immediately they leave all of that and follow him. They give up their small ambitions. So the kingdom of God is here. The first part of their call was to follow him. They were called to follow. They were called to fellowship with Christ. They were called to commune with Christ, because before you can become a fisher of men, before you can become a man fisher, before you become a person who draws people to Christ, you must be with Christ.
You must learn Christ. You must fellowship with Christ. And so He calls them to communion with Himself.
Jesus Calls Four Fishermen to Follow Him.
One must be prepared by fellowship with Christ to be a man fisher. One must learn Christ. One must be diligent, and constantly attendant upon Christ. One must become an emulator of Christ in His faithfulness and tenderness and diligence. It has been well said that discipleship is more than getting to know what the teacher knows. Discipleship is getting to be what the teacher is, and before Christ equips and sends out His disciples to be man fishers, He equips them first with the image of Himself.
By their fellowship with Him, by their union with Him, by their attendance to His word, by their reliance on His grace, He causes them to be like Him. Sanctification is the first training ground for evangelism. We are not ready to do the work of evangelism until we have begun to make progress in sanctification, because holiness of life is the first witness of the truth and power of the grace of the gospel.
You will bear in mind that these four pairs of brothers did not go fishing for a hobby or a sport. They caught fish in order to survive. Their lives depended on it. The net was one of the weapons of war in the ancient world. You have seen prints of gladiators fighting, in which one of them is armed with a net. Micah laments the decline of the godly in the land: While the prophet Habakkuk speaks of the Babylonian army entering the land: The living God has now come and he makes his people warriors whose weapon is a net, but when they catc h men it is not to kill them but to give them abundant life.
What a challenge for these brothers! No longer will these boys be hunting fish but men! Right at the beginning of the gospel of Mark, before any discourses of Christ are recorded, and before the Lord says anything about doctrine, or worship, or the devotional life Jesus tells his first disciples that their lives are going to centre upon this activity of catching men for Christ.
It should cause us real heart-searching, as to how much in our own lives as Christians are we obsessed with this enterprise. If it has such priority with Christ does it have priority with ourselves?
Are we more laid-back than Jesus? It is a dangerous posture. You remember that the very last words Jesus spoke to these four men were on the same theme. One of the great Scottish theologians was a man named Thomas Boston. He left twelve volumes of his writings which have, in fact, just been reprinted again this year. Boston is asking this question as to why the Lord Jesus chose this activity of fishing as a picture of our vocation as Christians.
Of course the Lord Jesus also tells us that we are also like farmers who go out and scatter the seed, and that we are like shepherds who protect and feed the flock, and like soldiers who endure hardness and fight a god fight. But why does the Lord begin with this picture of our calling being like that of a fisherman?
Konst-tooneel van veertig, in the life of Thownas. Matthew , also called Levi, the son of Alpheus, was a publican in Capernaum. The publicans were detested by the Jews, because the latter did not consider themselves justly bound to pay toll or tribute to any foreign prince. As touching the condition of publicans at that time, it was such that they generally exacted more from the people than was just; on which account they were shunned by the pious, so that open sinners, who were separated from the church, were compared to publicans.
When Matthew, or Levi, was still unconverted, and made his living in this unjust business, Christ met him with His grace, and commanded him to follow Him as a disciple. Obeying through an inward impulse, he forsook the customhouse, and, having prepared a great feast for the occasion of taking leave of his companions, he invited his fellow publicans, and also the Lord Jesus; apparently for an adieu, that they might find opportunity to become converted through the discourse of the Lord Jesus.
After this, Matthew immediately forsook all, and zealously followed his Lord, who had called him, and who, after He had more fully instructed him, placed him among the apostles, which office he, too, exercised among the Jews, till the death of Christ. Afterwards, when he was sent out to teach among the heathen, Ethiopia fell to his lot.
But before he left Judea, he, through the illumination of the Holy Spirit wrote his Gospel, in the Hebrew language, and left it to them.
In Ethiopia he accomplished much, with teaching as well as with miracles; and there he also left unto posterity after his death his written Gospel, from which it can easily be seen what faith he maintained, namely, the faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that He became a real man, through the power of the Holy Ghost, in His mother Mary. History states that immediately after the death of King Aeglippus, who was attached to the Christians, his' successor Hytacus, an unbelieving heathen, persecuted this apostle, and that at a certain time, when this pious apostle of Christ was teaching the church of God, he caused him to be apprehended and, as some write, nailed to the ground, and beheaded, in Naddavar, the capital of Ethiopia, where he is also buried, according to Venantius Fortunatus, who wrote, over a thousand years ago,"For the great city Naddavar shall restore to us at the last day the eminent apostle Matthew.
Also, Konst-tooneel van veertig, in the life of Matthew. Twisck, Bybelsch Ncpmbwch, fol. This writer states that he was fastened to the ground with darts, whereupon death ensued. Simon the Canaanite, surnamed Zelotes, that is, Zealot, the son of Alpheus, the brother of James, Joses, and Juda, and a relative of Christ, was constituted by Christ one of His twelve apostles, to preach the Gospel, first among the Jews, and afterwards among the heathen; to which end he, together with the others who were in like ministry with him, received the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost.
Afterwards having preached everywhere, writes N. Finally, it is stated by others, he went to Persia, where he found his brother Judas. Continuing together steadfastly in the duties of their apostleship, they sealed the divine truth with their blood. Concerning Simon Zelotes in particular, it is stated that he was crucified in a very painful way by a certain governor in Syria. Bybelsch Ncpmbcech, Letter S. As regards his brother Judas, surnamed Lebbeus, and also, Thaddeus, who was likewise an apostle of Jesus Christ, nothing is said of him in Evangelical history; only there is mention made of a question which he asked the Lord Jesus, saying, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
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It was this apostle who also wrote a comforting letter to the believers, in which he admonishes them to remain steadfast in the faith once received; and threatens the unbelievers with the severe judgment of God. In accordance with the division of the world made by the apostles for the preaching of the Gospel, he traveled in Mesopotamia, Syria, Arabia,. Finally, having gone to Persia, he there reproved and opposed the pagan idolatry; on which account he was beaten to death by the idolatrous priests, who were losing their gain.
Bybelsch Ncrmbcrck, letter 1. Simon the Canaanite, or Zelotes, who was a son of Alpheus, is not distinguished by some from Simon the bishop at Jerusalem, who was a son of Cleophas; hence has originated the error that Simon Zelotes is said to have been killed A. Matthias, according to the opinion of some, was of the royal house of David; and from his youth was well instructed in the law of God, at Bethlehem.
He was one of the seventy disciples of Christ; but shortly after the Lord's ascension, Judas Iscariot, having faithlessly departed from his apostleship, and taken his own life, the remaining eleven apostles, and one hundred and twenty men, through prayer to God, and by the lot, unanimously elected him in place of the aforementioned faithless Judas, an apostle and ambassador of Jesus Christ, to preach the Gospel, according to the command of the Lord, to all nations, and to baptize the believers.
Afterwards he and the other eleven apostles were scourged by the Jewish council, for the name of Jesus Christ, and commanded that they should preach no more in the name of Jesus Christ. But they departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. After the separation of the apostles, who went everywhere to preach, Matthias, according to the opinion of Jerome, penetrated far into Ethiopia, where no other apostle had been, into the very in.
Unto these people, sitting as they were, in the deepest darkness and ignorance, there arose, through the ministry of this apostle, the true light of the Gospel. But, after having there gained many souls to Christ, he returmed, according to history, to Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. Concerning the end or martyrdom of Matthias, some write that he would not sacrifice to. Others, however, state that for the blasphemy which the Jews said he had committed against God, Moses, and the law, he was sentenced by their high priest, first to be hung on a cross and stoned, and afterwards beheaded with an ax.
In short, when he would not deny Jesus, his Saviour, but steadfastly confessed Him, his sentence was his: J Twisck in the Byb. Nicanor, also one of the first seven deacons at Jerusalem, was likewise executed for the truth's sake. Carpus, a servant of Paul, and afterwards bishop of the church at Troas, was put to death in that place, for the faith. Maternus and Egystus, two of the seventy disciples of Christ, together with Marianus, the Christian deacon, were put to death in Germany, for the faith. Hermagoras, bishop of the church at Aquileia, ordained thereto by Peter, suffered likewise under Nero.
This persecution, which was originated by Nero, continued a long time, extending even into the time of Vespasian; so that it is stated that in the third year of his reign, there was put to death in the city of Ravenna, for confessing Christ, Apollinaris, a disciple of Peter, with many others, whose names are not mentioned. Luke, the third among the holy evangelists, was, according to the testimony of the ancients, a Syrian of Antioch, and by occupation a physician.
Bybelsch Nwmbwck, about Luke, from Euseb. It was the will of the Lord to use him as a physician of souls; to which end he has left to mankind two excellent books on spiritual medicine; namely, his holy Gospel and the Acts of the holy Apostles. Concerning his parents there is nowhere anything mentioned; hence little or almost no account can be given of his natural descent, excepting his birthplace, and that he descended from the Syrian nation. It is supposed that he had no wife; though nearly all the other apostles and evangelists were married.
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According, to the, opinion of Jerome, he was, before his conversion, a Jewish proselyte, though of Gentile descent; which is quite probable, since, according to the judgment of linguists, his style is far more excellent and perfect in Greek than in Hebrew. He afterwards, through the preaching of Paul, became a Christian A. He became a disciple of the apostles, but especially a traveling companion of the, apostle Paul, so that he was with him in many perils and difficulties an sea and on land. He was so intimate with Paul, and his special friend to such a degree that, according to the ancients, he wrote the -Gospel under his dictation and instruction.
He had also given a faithful account of Paul's principal travels until his first imprisonment at Rome. Paul makes frequent mention of him in his epis-.
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Luke was therefore, as it appears, a companion of Paul, not only in his travels, but also during his imprisonment at Rome: So that he was twice brought, , together with Paul, before the Emperor Nero. Twisck, taken from Paul's epistles to Timothy. Bybelsch Ncembwch, letter L. Antipas was an upright man and a pious witness of the San of God; Who, in proof of his faith, tasted death, rather than dishonor his Saviour, by denying Him, or otherwise. Go with me on this. Simon and Andrew and James and John, although they didn't hear this part were fishermen. That was what they did; it was their identity.
They weren't ever going to be anything other than fishermen. Certainly in the case of James and John, fishing wasn't just their identity - it was a family identity. Jesus sees something different in these young men.
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They know how to catch fish, but there's more to them than simply doing that for the rest of their lives. To everyone around, and to themselves, they were only good for one thing: Jesus saw the potential in them to become world changers. Seen in this light, Jesus' invitation is much cleverer than you might initially think. None of these young men would have believed Jesus if he'd said something like, 'Follow me, and I'll use you to bring about God's ultimate rule and reign here on earth.
Dallas Willard once wrote: What if Jesus wants to use you in whatever it is you spend your time doing, to bring about the Kingdom rule of God where you are? That's discipleship, and as we go about our primary call of following Jesus, we gradually become more like him - just like I did with Simon - so that others around us can see Jesus in us. Discipleship is an adventure for us, just as it was for the Twelve. What being 'fishers of men' really means. Pexels Over the following couple of years, Simon asked me deep, personal questions, called out things in my character which needed dealing with, and took me with him into places where he was ministering.
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