Matthew 4:19 and the Call to Discipleship

The first thing we’re putting on the wall is Matthew 4:19. Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” Not only is this a call that Jesus makes to Peter and Andrew, but also to each one of us. And it is composed of three basic parts.

Follow me. While we might follow artists on Spotify and YouTubers and cultural celebrities on social media, Jesus was the original One that people followed. This part is the command. Jesus certainly offers this to all people, but we must be clear that it is a command. And commands require some form of obedience. To come after Jesus, to live our lives in the manner he would live them, means that we’ve chosen to submit to him. And it implies that up until the point that we follow him, we have been following other things—most likely we’ve been following ourselves.

Discipleship begins with God’s call, and our response in repentance as we acknowledge our sin, turn from it, and also realize for the first time that we are the ones Jesus has invited to be part of the kingdom. But “follow me” is also about a relational change, too. For the early church, to admit that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God meant being ostracized socially. It meant turning their backs on their friends and social networks. A Jewish person now was kicked out of the synagogue. A Gentile person no longer offered sacrifices to Caesar or other pagan gods and goddesses. The beginning of discipleship, then, is about submitting to Jesus and about your relationship with God’s people. They are now your new family.

And I will make you. Those who follow Jesus do not get to remain the same. Matthew quit defrauding people as a tax collector. James and John stopped vying for the best position in the kingdom. Paul quit persecuting the church. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit invite us into relationship with them, and as they do, we find that we are changed, conformed, into the image of Christ. Spiritual formation is the lifelong process of being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ for the sake of the world. God changes us from the inside out, creating clean hearts where ours were unclean, enabling us to love God with all our hearts. It is also about your relationship with the Triune God. 1 John 4:15-16 says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” Jesus invites us to become like Him—we are invited into fellowship the Trinity has always had with itself, the love God has for Himself, and as we enter in, we are changed into people who are able to love God and neighbor. This is where the third aspect of discipleship comes into play.

Fishers of people. Our discipleship is not for us. The church is the only institution in the world that exists for those who are not yet a part of it. As we walk with Jesus, we are called to share him with others in word and deed, and to take an active role in their discipleship. Fishing is a metaphor, obviously, for seeking men and women who will also follow Jesus. To be a fisherman takes more than luck, more than sitting around waiting, more than hoping the fish will come to you. It takes understanding when to fish, where fish will likely be at, and what kind of bait they like. Fishing for people, without sounding too crude, takes the same things. We are called to be in the world but not of it, fully aware of what is happening in the world around us, fully engaged in the lives of our neighbors. As we become fishers of people, we are sent into relationship with people again. Thus, discipleship, in its three aspects, involves relationship with God’s people, relationship with God, and relationship with outsiders.

It is these three things—following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and discipling others—that make up what it means to be a disciple. This is why the verse matters so much.

But while those three things are common to all Christians everywhere, God has called Brenneman uniquely to make disciples in ways that fit who we are, our location in Elkhart County, Indiana, our culture, etc. Join us next week as we put something else on the wall and begin to explain what those things might be.