1/23/05, Ep3A

Jesus Began to Preach
Matthew 4: 12-23

ast Sunday we focused on the Baptism of Jesus, by John, at the Jordan River . The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus in the form of a dove, symbolizing that the power of the God to fulfill His mission on earth as Jesus began his public ministry.

In today's story, “Jesus Begins to Preach.” Still, in today's world, we continue to preach; to proclaim the Gospel, as the chief means of reaching out to people. Most individuals who come to know Christ do so through the instrument of preaching. Also, most growth in grace and knowledge occurs through the ongoing ministry of the proclaimed word. Nobody ever joins a local church without first checking out the preaching. They want to know if we are carrying forward Jesus' essential message, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus' original message is still the heart and core of our preaching in the year of our Lord, two-thousand and five.

In our text we find that Jesus has relocated his ministry from the big city of Jerusalem, the metropolitan area of Judea in the south of Israel, to the less densely populated area of Upper Galilee near the town of Capernaum, which is located way up north, as far away from the Pharisees and rulers of the Temple that they could get. Throughout his several years of his traveling ministry of preaching, teaching and healing, he stayed away from the Jewish authorities for all of his followers knew that the ones that beheaded John the Baptist would try to silence Jesus too. Jesus only went up the hills to the city of Jerusalem when he was ready to bring a culmination to his traveling ministry. There is a lot to be said for a safer life away from those who could destroy you. Jesus had a lot of preaching to do before he submitted to the enemy.

Capernaum was a much safer place. Located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee , it was a prosperous fishing village, and the home of Peter and Andrew, whom Jesus was about to call to be his first Apostles. When we go there now we are able to walk through the ruins of the Synagogue where Jesus would have worshipped, taught and preached. Nearby, is the house that is believed to be the residence of Simon Peter. A large modern Roman Church is built over the site of the Big Fisherman's home. In the first century it was a safe place where folks were perhaps more open to hear what Jesus had to say and a place where Jesus could recruit a few fine folks to follow him in his ministry.

Jesus' relocation from Jerusalem to Capernaum feels a lot like my move from the very heart of downtown Atlanta , which was something of an alien place to have church, to this more pastoral pace of wonderful Carrollton . We are comfortable in our Sanctuary. We can drive up and get out of our cars without being accosted by street thugs. We hope we never need armed guards to protect us, as is the case in Manhattan , Chicago , and all large cities. However, they are good places to visit. In my family's vacations through all of the states and major cities, we tried to go to Sunday morning worship in the central city. Our daughters and their husbands continue to do the same. Marilyn and I long to go back to The City Church in New York to hear Maurice Boyd again. He is a preacher's preacher. It has been helpful for me to study the preaching of great preachers over the years, but none have surpassed the effectiveness of the preaching of our Lord.

However, it is obvious from the get-go that Jesus needed some help- a lot of help, in his travels throughout Palestine . He was God, but had set boundaries around his power, taking on humanity with all of its limitations. He respected human nature's free will and did not conscript anyone into service. Jesus called his Apostles much as he still calls folks today. He took on a role something like the recruiting sergeant at the mall with pictures of handsome young men and women all decked out in dress uniforms. Jesus probably picked out the brightest and the best; but the best ones must have said no. So, Jesus ended up with a ragtag group of ordinary people, like you and me. Yet it seems that the power of the Holy Spirit transformed the lives of his Apostles and used them in a great way, beyond themselves.

Still today, it is not our ability that Christ needs, but our availability. I have attended , and participated in, many ordination services at our North Georgia Annual Conference sessions and it has been a recurring theme of guest preachers for this important occasion to observe that it has not been the slickest and most talented young preachers who have been used in the most effective ways, but those with a deep commitment to ordained ministry and the most reliance upon the power of the Spirit working through their lives and efforts.

This same thing is true for all of us in all walks of life. When we dedicate ourselves, and our enterprise and careers to God, he multiplies our fishes and insures true success.

Just yesterday, in the AJC we read the interview with Truett Cathy, founder and still CEO, at age 83, of the highly successful Chic-fil-A restaurant chain. He has given some of the chain's leadership to his fine children so that he can increase his lay ministry. He still teaches Sunday School every week- a class of sixth-grade boys. He travels nearly ever week preaching in local churches and sharing the positive word about how his business flourished when he gave it over to the Lord. His various ministries to children continue to be his own enterprise and the joy of his life. He has reclaimed thousands of needy children; mainly boys. His fourth book is entitled, It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men. Jesus chose a winner when he called young Truett to follow him, and our Lord gets all the credit for his wonderful life. His ministry has meant a lot to me.

Jesus still calls us all over the tumult of our life's wild restless sea; day by day his sweet voice sounds out, saying “Christian follow me.”

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
1/23/05, Ep3A