Rev Dr Richard Chung
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“Just – Follow Him (Heart of Disciples)”

Scriptures: John 1:35-42, Matthew 4: 12-23


We are starting a new sermon/worship series titled: The Way of Disciples in 4 Movements. The first movement is about what’s at the heart of disciples.

 

  “What do you come to see?”

In the northern Portuguese town of Sobrado, a lady has a dog name Preta. Preta leaves her owner's home every Sunday morning at 5:00 a.m. and walks 16 miles to a Roman Catholic church in time to take her usual place next to the altar for mass. The dog stands and sits whenever worshippers do the same. She usually walks back home, though some of the parishioners will give her a ride. What is interesting is that the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha has reported that church attendance has grown as many people have attended just to see the faithful dog. Not the faithful God - the faithful dog. Go figure.

The calling of the first disciples found in today’s text, Matthew 4, actually follows John 1:35-42, not as much as chronologically, but theologically. They both deal with the theme of “following Jesus” – but deal with the different stages of “following” --- or different types of “followers.” Not all followers of Jesus are the same – on the same stage or same type. Many followed Jesus. Many sought Jesus. And then, there were few who became disciples.

Generally, there are three stages or types of followers of Jesus:

Spectators, Seekers, and Disciples.

 Spectators are as what the word means – following Jesus from a certain distance. Spectators watch and observe, but don’t participate – like spectators watching the football game from a distance, in the stands.

There were crowds of people who followed Jesus as spectators: they heard him preach and got hugely inspired; watched him heal the sick and perform miracles and got fascinated – “awed” and “wooed” at his every move.

They adored Jesus, entertained by what he did, and even cheered him when he entered into Jerusalem gate, shouting “hosanna.” 

But when he was losing his life – when Jesus walked on that road to Golgotha, - the cheers stopped, instead they jeered him, taunted him, and left him, left the stands. Spectators: when the game is over, spectators go home.

 There were many spectators in Jesus's days.

And, there are many spectators today --- following Jesus from a distance.

“What do they come to see?”

They came to see dog --- not God.

 

And then there were seekers and disciples.

I want to speak about them today.

I want to let you know the end --- We want to follow Jesus as a disciple, not as a seeker. Not all seekers who followed Jesus became disciples.

But every disciple began as a seeker. We all begin as a seeker.

 

Let’s revisit John 1:35 – 42.

This is about those who followed Jesus as seekers. Both Andrew and Simon Peter were not disciples yet – they were seekers – seeking something.

John, the Baptist saw Jesus passing through, and he exclaimed: “Look, the Lamb of God.” And that testimony shook the hearts of his own two disciples – and immediately, they turned toward Jesus and “follow him.”

And Jesus said, “What are you looking for?”

“What are you searching, seeking?” – the most basic question we can ask of all human beings --- “What are you looking for --- seeking?”

Because that’s how humans are created - we are always searching, seeking, and pursuing something or someone.  

Jesus asks that fundamental human question “What are you seeking?”

And of course, we are looking for more than food or shelter - or job.

We’re talking about more than “survival” stuff.

We’re talking about “meaning”, “value”, and “purpose”.

 When my family came to Canada, back in 70’s – we came to seek a better life – that is economically better – survival stuff. Our family came from a place where basic necessities in life were scarce – survival was hard.

We came to seek and pursue a better economic life – a quantity of life.

Now, many immigrants from Korea come to Canada, not for the economic security, to become financially rich, not for the quantity of life --- but for the quality of life --- seeking happiness that money can’t give, seeking peace, sanity, harmony, significance, and value in life. They came, not seeking more, but seeking an alternative way of life.

Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?”

 What are we looking for – what are we seeking?

 We search for something that gives us a sense of meaning, value, and purpose. This search or desire for personal significance does not end until we die. It doesn’t end just because we retire from work – just because we get age.

 Many baby boomers have entered into retirement age. And it is not what it cracked up to be – freedom 55 (remember that?) – free, boring, restless.

Many go through a crisis. They lose this sense of direction – restless --- and a deep soul searching happens. Without a job – without a career – without something that gave you a sense of significance – a sense of worth, joy, and even goal in life, many feel this sense of loss, sense of worthlessness, sense of sadness sets in. So many went back to work – searching for the second career – or taking on volunteering work —- seeking to be significant, valued, and loved. My older sister retired last year – and she just got a full-time job again – too boring and restless.

 I don’t know what I would do when I retire. I don’t have a retirement plan.

I intend to work until I die.

But you always have to have plan B:

When I retire – that is when I get around 90 years old,

I plan to work at Starbucks – they owe me.

 We are seekers - we all seek something that would give us a sense of meaning and value – fill us with significance.

 We are also seeking someone, who can make us feel special – someone upon whose shoulders we can unload our burdens, someone in whom we find peace and home. We are searching for someone to love us and save us.

We are created to relate.

We all need someone to love – someone to relate – someone to make us feel happy – feel important – feel valued. Someone who says, I am very glad you are here. I love you. I care for you.

 Many seek a community where they feel welcomed, accepted, loved, and cared for. People come to church not to seek faith – but mostly to seek friendship --- not for some theological reason, but for a relational reason – to be in the company of welcoming people. When that happens – faith grows.

We are searching for someone to love us – someone whom we can belong, whom we can find rest --- someone who will save us.

Jesus said – “what are you looking for?”

They said, “We want to know where you are staying?”

Jesus said, “Come and See”

And they came --- and remained with Jesus – stayed with Jesus.

Seekers found someone – found Jesus – and they stayed with Him.

Did you find whom you looking for?

Did you find Jesus? Did you meet him? Are you with Jesus?

Why are we here --- what are we looking for when we come to church?

Why do we come to church? To seek some dog --- or experience, God.

We come to worship God – to encounter and experience God – to get to know Jesus up close – up personal. I pray you’ve met Jesus today. I pray that you’ve experienced Jesus up close and up personal every time you come to worship --- every day of your life – I pray that you remain in Jesus, that Jesus remains in you personally -- always.

 Seekers --- did you find Jesus?

Our hearts are restless – until we find Jesus.

 

Now we go onto Matthew chapter 4:

It’s about the story of Jesus calling out his first disciples.

What’s interesting is that, in John 1, people were seeking someone – and found Jesus. And they followed him as seekers.

Here, in Matthew, it’s reversed, we see Jesus seeking people --- and calls them out – to follow him as disciples.

Disciples are not made --- they are sought out and called out by Jesus.

We can follow Jesus from a distance, as a spectator.

We can even follow Jesus as seekers.

But ultimately what Jesus wants is to call us out to follow him, participate in his kingdom work --- to be his disciples. And that invitation is open to all seekers and spectators. Jesus seeks us always and calls us always. It’s an open invitation = it’s that easy and that hard.

Because when God calls his disciples – it’s a life calling, life assignment --- you are on God’s mission for a life.

John the Baptist was in prison. And many of his own disciples went back to their formal way of life --- in Galilee, catching fish – fishermen.

 And Jesus sought them out and offered them this open invitation, an invitation to a lifetime of catching people for God.

Jesus said – “I will make you the catchers of people.”

Disciples are people catchers, people makers, and people servers – for the kingdom of God.

Disciples help people to come and see the glory of God.

Disciples nudge people to meet God working and living in their midst.

Disciples exemplify the kingdom's lifestyle for people to glimpse heaven.

Disciples resonate Jesus in what they do and who they are.

 Discipleship is a life long calling – life long journey – a permanent call.

And it’s open to all of us – to the seekers and spectators.

 Wherever you are and whatever you do in your life right now, Jesus is calling you to follow him as his disciple.

You don’t have to change your job – you don’t need to move to someplace else, or you don’t have to be a young person. God calls all of us, in where we are and what we do – right here, right now.

All God requires is our response – a lifetime commitment.

 Discipleship is for life – and it requires a lifetime commitment.

You go forward with Jesus. You don’t look back – you don’t go back.

Where did Jesus find the first disciples? Galilee – their old hometown.

When they heard John was in prison – they ended up in Galilee – to catch fish – went back to their old way of life.

They went back to their former way of life – went back.

 So, Jesus calls them out. What other time, did they go back to Galilee?

When Jesus was crucified – they went back to Galilee – doing what? Catching fish --- disciples who were called out to catch people, went back to catch fish again. They went back to their former way of life – easy, no hassle, and content job.

 But once again, the risen Jesus sought them out – and called them out again – to the path of discipleship.

 Discipleship is for life and requires a lifetime commitment.

You don’t look back – you don’t go back --- catching fish.

You don’t look back when things get tough.

You don’t go back when the road becomes narrow and dangerous.

 

Don’t go back to relive the past.

Don’t look back – it’s past, buried and gone.

Disciples don’t look back --- and don’t go back.

They go forward with Jesus.

 

Spectators, Seekers, and Disciples!

 

And God calls disciples in this last day.

God calls disciples who will give their life for God’s kingdom.

At the heart of disciples is this lifelong commitment to follow Jesus as his disciples – it’s the first movement.