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Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader



Today is the first Sunday of Lent. The season each year that leads to Holy Week, which culminates in the celebration of Easter.


Lent is a time of preparation for the wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice and subsequent resurrection. The preparation can come in many ways, including adding things to our schedules. Things like more prayer or more Bible reading or maybe more serving of others, those things done, not to impress any other people, but to show to the Lord our appreciation for what He did in becoming the perfect sacrifice for our sins.


For today, a passage in Luke. Luke 5:1-11. A passage in which information is given about Jesus selecting the first of His disciples. 


There will also be a second passage that will present instructions about what it means to follow Jesus. What it means to be a disciples of Jesus now. But for now, Luke 5:1-11.


That passage adds details about the selection of the disciple named Peter. In Matthew an Mark, it is mentioned that Jesus talked to Peter, challenging him to follow Jesus. Luke 5 gives a more detailed account of what happened.


We will get to Luke 5 in just a minute. Before that, let me mention that at the time of Jesus, most, if not all, religious leaders had groups of disciples. Followers who were closely associated with the leader, learning from the leader. Learning from his words and his actions. 


In that way, Jesus followed the normal pattern in having disciples. However, with all other religious leaders at the time, disciples applied to be followers of whatever leader they wanted to follow. To be a disciple, a young man had to prove to the one he hoped to follow that he was very smart, very studious, very dedicated to do everything the leader said and did. It was a sought-after spot to be a follower of a religious leader.


In every other case, it was the disciples who started the process of being followers. Jesus, however, turned the tables on that process. He is the one who selected His disciples. 


As I read the various accounts in the Bible, not one of Jesus’ closest followers had any intention of being a disciple. In each case, Jesus brought up the subject.


Each of the 12 disciples agreed to follow Jesus, but it was Jesus who started the process. A process that invited, not the smartest, most studious, most dedicated among the young men of Israel, but those who had a variety of occupations and interests.


Including Peter, who, among some of the others Jesus selected, was a fisherman. 


Of course, there is nothing wrong with fishermen. Fishing was a very important occupation. But fishermen did not have time to study religious law. They studied fishing, but not so much Old Testament Scripture. However, Peter, a fisherman, was selected by Jesus to be a disciple.


By the way, how Jesus selected His original disciples is wonderful news. It means, taking this to today’s world, I did not have to be good enough or smart enough to try to impress Jesus to be accepted by Him. I did not have to beg Him to be allowed to follow Him. He called me to follow. He calls you to follow Him.


That will be repeated later, but consider how kind and encouraging Jesus is in asking us to be His closest followers.


Luke 5, beginning with verse 1. One day, early in Jesus’ ministry, people pressed upon Him to hear the word of God. Isn’t that interesting? Again, this was early in His ministry, but already people were gathering in huge numbers. that day, people pressed upon Jesus, each of them eager to hear Jesus speak the word of God.

 

That day, Jesus was on the shore of the lake of Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. He was near the city of Capernaum on the northwest corner of the Sea.


There, Jesus wanted to speak the word of God. He did speak it. However, because of the great crowd of people, it was difficult for Jesus to be heard. To be better heard, He had to break away from the crowd. To do that, He needed to get into a boat and go a short distance out on the water. From there He would be able to be better heard by the great number of people on the shore.


To accomplish His plan, Jesus saw two boats docked near the shore. They were fishing boats, but the fishermen were not in them. They had left their boats after a night of fishing. They were washing their nets, getting ready for the next night’s fishing.


Jesus got into one of the boats. It was the boat that belonged to Simon, who we know as Peter. Jesus asked Peter to join Him on the boat. Peter did so. Jesus asked him to row the boat out a little from the land. Peter did that. Jesus sat down on the boat and taught the people from it.


It is not recorded what Jesus taught, though we know it had something to do with the word of God. That is what He always taught. But then, after the teaching, Jesus said to Simon - to Peter - “Let’s go out farther from the shore. Put out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch.”


Simon shared with Jesus that he and his brother Andrew, along with the ones who operated the other boat that had been docked at the shore - we know that boat was owned by two other brothers, James and John - had just come in from a night of fishing. A night when no fish were caught. Simon shared with Jesus it would do no good to go out fishing again. 


First of all, there were no fish in that area.


Second of all, it was daytime - maybe late morning by this time - which was not the best time to fish. 


Simon said, “Master…” That is an interesting title. Master. Did Simon already sense who Jesus was? Or maybe the term refers to Simon’s amazement of the skill with which Jesus taught the word of God.

 

Simon said, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing. It will do no good to go out now. However [listen to Simon’s agreement] at Your word, I will let down the nets.” How interesting that though Simon saw no point in what Jesus said, he was willing to obey.


It turned out that Simon was very glad he obeyed because very soon - it seems to have been as soon as the nets were dropped - they enclosed a great shoal of fish. 


In fact, there were so many fish the nets began to break. So great was the catch, they - they might have been Simon and Jesus, or perhaps Simon had been joined by his brother Andrew before the boat was taken out to Sea - the catch was so great, they called to their partners in the other boat. They called James and John to come and help.


James and John went to help Simon. They filled both boats with the fish that had been caught. Even with that, both the boats were so full - there was so much weight from the fish - both boats began to sink.


That apparently added to the realization of Simon Peter that Jesus was someone special. As both boats were returning to shore, Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 


That last word - Lord - indicates a continued realization that Jesus was someone very special.


But listen to Jesus. He did not want to be the subject of fear. He did not want people to ask Him to go away. He wanted to work with Simon to make him better, which included the invitation for Peter to join Him as a disciple. Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Do not be afraid. Follow Me. Do that, and from now on, you will be catching, not fish, but men.”


Verse 11. When they - that included Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, and James and John - had brought their boats to land, they left everything. They left their boats, their nets, any other fishing gear. In the case of James and John, they left their father, too. They left everything and followed Jesus.


Again, it was not those four fishermen who approached Jesus with an application that He accept them as disciples. They had done and they did nothing to prove they were smart and studious. In fact, while they might have been smart, they most certainly were not studious about spiritual matters. As mentioned, the hard work of fishing left little if any time to study Old Testament Scripture.


It was not the idea of Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow Jesus. It was Jesus’ idea. How wonderful it is that they responded, doing so right away and positively. What an example they are for us.


As we know, Jesus selected more disciples. He had 12 altogether. In each case, Jesus sought them out. Interestingly, He chose some from a wide variety of backgrounds.


For instance, one of His other selections was Matthew, whose occupation at the time of Jesus’ call was a tax collector. A collector of Roman taxes.


As with other collectors of Roman taxes, Matthew, a Jew, had bought the right to collect. Because he was in league with the Roman government, Matthew was disliked - probably hated - by his fellow Jews. 


That hatred may have been increased because most tax collectors at that time cheated people so the collectors could fill their own pockets.


Matthew was a collector of Roman taxes. That made him just about the least likely to become a disciple of a religious leader. Even if he had studied Old Testament Scripture, he was not following what it teaches. 


But one day, as Jesus passed by Matthew’s office, He invited Matthew to join the group of disciples. “Follow Me,” Jesus said to him.

 

Immediately, Matthew stood up and followed Jesus. 


Immediately. That means he just left his office. He just, without warning, walked out. He did not sell his position to another. He did not make sure all the books were in order so the next collector could carry on easily. Matthew, like Simon and Andrew and James and John, immediately answered Jesus’ call. What an example he is for us. 


There were other disciples of Jesus. Not all of them will be described, but with Matthew in mind, I am intrigued that another one Jesus chose was another man named Simon, that one known as Simon the Zealot.


Zealots were members of a group that sought to overthrow the Roman domination of Israel. To overthrow it any way possible, including through violence. I am intrigued by Simon because a Zealot was invited to join Matthew, who had been a collector of Roman taxes. Talk about built in conflict. Yet Jesus also invited Simon the Zealot to be in His group of disciples.


A couple more.


As Jesus put His group of disciples together, He also chose Philip, who was from the same city as Peter and Andrew. Philip was another who immediately responded to the simple message from Jesus, “Follow Me.”


But get this. After Philip decided to join Jesus, he went to a friend named Nathanael and told him about the one who had called him. Philip told Nathanael he and the others who had been chosen to be disciples had found the one Old Testament prophets had written about.

Nathanael was skeptical, answering with the question,”Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” which was identified as Jesus’ hometown.

Listen to Philip’s response. There was no demand. He simply invited Nathanael to come and see. To go and meet Jesus. It would be up to Nathanael to decide what he wanted to do.

What a kind way of evangelizing. A way that worked. When Nathanael met Jesus, he, too, became a disciple.


What does all that have to do with Lent? This. Just as Jesus called disciples at the beginning of His earthly ministry, long before His death and resurrection, He calls us today, long after His death and resurrection, to be His close followers.


As mentioned earlier, the wonder of it is that Jesus did and does the calling. As mentioned earlier, that means we do not have to prove ourselves good enough or smart enough. We do not have to earn a place in His group of followers. We do not have to beg to follow Him.


Of course, when His original disciples answered His call, He wanted their obedience. The same is true of us. But Jesus does the calling. And yes, He has called each of us.


And again, remember that many of Jesus’ original disciples responded immediately to His invitation. They did not think it over. They did not talk it over. They did not take time to close down any businesses they had. They heard the call and they responded.


What an example that is for us who are called to immediately respond. But listen. If you have been called and called and called by God and have not responded, do not take that to mean you cannot respond now. You can. Even now you can respond as did the original disciples, which is to accept His call to follow Him. How good it is to respond to Jesus.


Have you responded? If not, please do so. For those of us who have responded, let’s move to today’s second passage, which teaches us some of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. How we are to live as close followers of Jesus.


The teaching is in Ephesians 5. It is a writing of the apostle Paul. It includes points about how to live out our faith.


Verses 1 and 2. Be imitators of God, which means to do what God has taught us to do, and walk in love.


We have talked about love in recent messages. Just a few of the things said about love are that we are to encourage each other as we strive for unity. God is our example, the promise being that God’s love will never end and that there is nothing that can separate us from His love.


Imitate God and walk in love. Those are two things we are to do as present-day disciples of Jesus. Verses 3 and 4. Avoid all forms of impurity. Do not covet what others have, physically or in positions of authority. Do not engage in filthiness or silly talk.


Verse 18. Do not get drunk.


Those are all negative things we are to avoid as disciples of Jesus, but there are also some more positive things we are to do.


Verse 17. Understand what is the will of the Lord. Admittedly, it can be difficult to know the Lord’s will. However, He does reveal His will in the Bible and through prayer. Bible study and praying are two things Jesus’ disciples are to do.


Verse 18. Be filled with the Spirit. We know from Jesus that the Holy Spirit is available to lead us and guide us and counsel us and comfort us. He will not do any of that without our permission, so let’s invite Him to do those things for us, even to the point of being filled with the Holy Spirit.


And this is not to be just a personal thing. Ss we are filled with the Spirit we are - verses 19 and 20 of Ephesians 5 - to address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, meaning our conversations should always include spiritual things. We are, together, to sing to the Lord with all our hearts. Together, we are to always and for everything give thanks to God in the name of Jesus.


That is what we are to do as followers - as modern-day disciples - of Jesus.


*       *       *       *       *


The title of this message is Follow the Leader. Remember that game. One person does something and everyone else is to do the same.


Let’s play it. Touch your nose. Touch your left shoulder. Stomp your right foot. Wave a hand above your head. Nod your head. Shake someone’s hand. Say to someone else, “God loves you.”


Thinking of Jesus as the leader, not only of His original disciples, but for all of us who now believe in Him as Savior, say - repeat after me, each of the following. 


I will with Your help, Lord, avoid sin.

I will with Your help, Lord, be filled with Your Spirit.

I will read the Bible and pray.

I will show love to others.

I will help others to know You and allow others to help me.

I will do this now.


The closing song for today is a proclamation of our willingness to follow Jesus as our leader. It is I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.


I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

no turning back, no turning back.


The world behind me, the cross before me;

The world behind me, the cross before me;

The world behind me, the cross before me;

No turning back, no turning back.


Though none go with me, I still will follow;

Though none go with me, I still will follow;

Though none go with me, I still will follow;

No turning back, no turning back.


And then the challenge to work together.


Will you decide now to follow Jesus?

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?

No turning back, no turning back.


Let’s remember Jesus’ love. A love so great He invites us to be His followers. Following Him all the way to salvation. Let’s follow Him throughout the season of Lent and always. Amen.

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