A New Era
Matthew 4:12-23

Our reading today marks a new beginning for Jesus and for the fishermen he was about to encounter.  We have all had new beginnings at some stage in our lives.  I’d like you to put up a hand if you have ever had a career change.  It looks like many of us have.  For some their only career change has been from school to the workforce, that in itself is a big change, or maybe you worked all of your life with the one firm or on a family property or business and the only change was or is into retirement.  Was that a difficult transition in your life, or did you feel comfortable making that change?  Sometimes we have a choice and go out looking for alternative employment, and in other situations the change is thrust upon us by economic changes or company buyouts or even a job offer.

Each time an event like this occurs its an opportunity for a new beginning, a fresh start in life, to say goodbye to the old and begin with the new.  Although when you first start out it can be a bit daunting.  Who can remember their first day of work?  Did you know everything there was to know?  When I started working underground we spent about three days on inductions that covered everything from first aid through to evacuation procedures and finding a fresh air base underground.  This was all pretty important stuff. There are lots of things that can cause you serious damage down there, not to mention on the surface as you make your way underground.

We usually begin a job with some on-the-job teaching don’t we?  Even in an apprenticeship the boss or foreman shows you the ropes as you make your first moves in the workplace.  If you take the university route you can spend years learning how before you get to the heavy duty practical stuff, although things have improved over the years and there is a lot more practical involved in university courses than there once was (or so I’m told).  If I remember correctly we even spent five days of orientation week before we began our five years of study to become pastors.  They had to teach us how to study all over again!

Jesus was just beginning a new phase of his life, we’ve heard of his baptism and last week we heard an account from John of the calling of Andrew and Simon Peter.  This week we hear Matthew’s account of the same two guys with two more added, James and John.

As Jesus made his new beginning the first thing he did was gather some people around him so that he could show them the ropes and pass on his immense knowledge to them.  He would eventually gather twelve (not a bad teacher/student ratio hey?)  As we see in Matthew’s account, the first four dropped everything and followed Jesus.  They were told that they were to follow Jesus and that he will make them fish for people.

It would be like Jesus coming to me when I was underground and saying, “follow me, and I will make you dig for people”, it was a metaphor they could understand.  The emphasis was about to change for them, and it was Jesus that was going to make it happen.  They didn’t need any expertise, they just needed the teacher.  He gave them and taught them everything that they needed, even at times without them realising it.

You see in their early lives these men had gone fishing and watched their fathers do it, they had stood by their fathers and watched exactly what went on.  Then their fathers would have stepped back and allowed them to have a go by themselves, without them being too far out of sight.  Then as they became more proficient at it their fathers would have given them the tools to do the job.

Jesus did the same thing with them in their new callings, he took them along with him, they watched, they learned and they experienced.  As we see in verse 23, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.  They watched and learned. And as we discover through the Bible, they went out and became fishers of people, following in the footsteps of Jesus, their teacher.

I want to talk to you briefly about the fish symbol that is often used as a Christian symbol, one that I am wearing today.  Ichthys is the Greek term for fish, and it can be used as a kind of acrostic which translates as Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour.  The symbol was used centuries ago as a secret symbol to identify followers of Jesus who feared persecution and is still used today, maybe not in quite the same way but the meaning is still there.  The one I am wearing has some added symbolism, it is made from horse-shoe nails, which reminds us that Jesus, who began the task of fishing for people, who is symbolised by the fish, was on a journey to be nailed to a cross for our sake, in doing so he became our saviour.  It is that message that is at the heart of our fishing for people on his behalf, he is the saviour, for all of us.

Our calling is to go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything God has commanded us.  We teach each other based on what we have been given by God in Scripture.  We too are called to go out, to fish for people.  Me may not feel that we have the tools to do it, we may not fully understand what is meant by it, but God gives us the tools, through the Holy Spirit we may be surprised by how many people have responded to God through our sowing a seed that is or has started to sprout.

Jesus calling of his disciples was a new beginning in his ministry, he called them, taught them and sent them on their way.  Every day for us is a new beginning, maybe not starting a fresh ministry or a new job, but starting fresh, remembering the baptism and the salvation that was given to us by Jesus, and stepping out into the world, with the hope and knowledge that Christ is with us, he loves us and cares for us, and has given us new life in him.  That’s something to rejoice about and something to share with others.