My Dear Partners in Christ:
We are continuing our journey through the Gospel of Matthew, and following the birth of Jesus, our broadcasts have dealt with the visit of the Magi, our Lord’s Baptism, and then His Temptation. But for our monthly letter I want to look at the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry in Galilee. It is initiated with the memorable calling of Andrew, Peter, James, and John. We have learn from John’s gospel that these men had been disciples of the Baptist. But when the Baptist is arrested by Herod Antipas they returned to Galilee and their previous life as fishermen. This is who they were! Nothing demeaning, or problematic about their occupation, but Jesus upon seeing them again would call them permanently to something that will change their lives forever. He will use appropriately a play on their old occupation, for now they are to be; “Fishers of Men.” Then Jesus in time will call seven more men to replicate symbolically the twelve tribes of Israel.
To me it is fascinating that the second century chronicler Hegesippus in telling the story of the twelve relates that Salome (Mk.15:40;16:1), was the sister of Mary and wife of Zebedee and thus the mother of James and John. And that the “other Mary” (Mt.28:1,etc.) was not the wife of Clopas (Jn.19:25), but the sister of Joseph, and the mother of James the “younger,” Judas called Thaddaeus (who would want to be called Judas?), and Simon the Cannaean. That means that five of the disciples were cousins of Jesus. I find this further evidence of the unique and special qualities easily seen in Jesus. Even through the brothers of Jesus will remain distant until His resurrection.
Jesus was clearly compelling, for from the fourth gospel we know Jesus had made a deep impression on Andrew. Peter, and the unnamed disciple has to be John (Jn.1:35). And when Jesus now calls them, they immediately follow. Their old life fades, for now and forever they’ll be known as one of the Disciples, the first Apostles, and those especially anointed. It will be costly, but the reward will be great. And like us all who believe, they are of those redeemed, justified, and called to be children of God.
We all have had titles, labels attached to us that have been transitory, some very temporary. I was once a graduate student, even an athlete. Obviously I am no longer! I have been a counselor and pastor, sadly in some ways this is past. I was a husband, and yet I feel that I am still her husband. I am also a father and grandfather. And this fortunately will last.
Yet, is it not more to the point and far more important, that we all have been called by our Lord to serve Him. Perhaps for me no longer as a Pastor, but I still preach, teach, remain a mentor, and providing now and then a Word of Prophecy. And, thankfully, like you redeemed, justified, and adopted as a child of God.
This is our permanent designation. This is who we are! You, as I am, are of our father Abraham, by the “seed” of promise, “which is Jesus Christ” (Gal.3:16). This is of prime importance! We are no longer to carry some transitory designation; we are for eternity to be of that “multitude which no man can number” and sealed with the name of God (Rev.7:4,9;14:1). Those raised incorruptible at the last trump (1 Co.15:52).
Yet His calling these men would be only the beginning, as His calling of us to our own walk in Him, is only a beginning. Jesus then went about, “teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria…”(Mt.4:23-24). I know by the assurance of His Spirit that we too are to teach, proclaim, and yes, touch the throne of grace for the healing of every disease and infirmity. This is what the gospel of the kingdom means, or it means nothing. This is about God’s reign, His desires, His purpose in us, through us, and for us. He will, as He has, continue to do great things for us, and through us as we believe, trust, and persevere, praise God!
“That thy kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven,”
Thomas R. Wyatt