Focus: The Gospel of the Kingdom calls the church to follow Jesus.
Function: To call the church anew to virtuous living for the sake of others.
Plotline: * Our calling first and foremost begins with Jesus calling us to be disciples. * As disciples, we are called to follow the teachings of Kingdom living and follow the ministry of Kingdom engagement. *When I reflect on my calling… *Discerning the voice comes with where the voice takes you, The Kingdom of God!
Matthew 4:12-25 4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 4:13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 4:14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 4:15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 4:17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 4:18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 4:20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 4:21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 4:22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
*Our calling first and foremost begins with Jesus calling us to be disciples. M. Eugene Boring, The Gospel of Matthew, NIB Volume VIII (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995) 170–71 reflects on Matthew 4:18–22 saying, “Modern readers are tempted to refashion the biblical pictures of discipleship into categories more comfortable with our own ideologies and idealisms. To become a disciple means to accept Jesus’ principles for living, for example. There is an element of truth in such reinterpretations, but Matthew’s understanding of discipleship cannot be reduced to this modern rationalism and idealism. In this text Jesus appears disruptively in our midst and calls us not to admire him or accept his principles, not even to accept him as our personal Savior, but to follow him. A reasonable response to this command ‘Follow me’ would be ‘Where are you going?’ The fishermen do not yet know the destination, which they must learn along the way (cf. 10:5–42; 16:13–28).” … “The address ‘Follow me’ is in the imperative, but the indicative of the divine initiative is fundamental. the fishermen are already at work, already doing something useful and important, thus they are not looking for a new life. Jesus’ call does not fill an obvious vacuum or meet an obvious need in their lives, but, like the call of prophets in the Hebrew Bible, it is intrusive and disruptive, calling them away from work and family. the divine sovereignty is clothed in the call to human response: ‘I could not seek you, if you had not already found me.’ (Augustine Confessions Book 1.) ‘Discipleship is not an offer man makes to Christ. It is only the call which creates the situation.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan, 1959) 68. Jesus Calls Us to be Disciples.”
*As disciples, we are called to follow the teachings of Kingdom living and follow the ministry of Kingdom engagement. Our calling is just like the calling of the first disciples. Just like them, we see Jesus teaching and we see Jesus doing. The Jesus we are called to follow is described in Matthew with two bookend texts that summarize the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 4:24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 4:25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
- Matthew 9:35-38 9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
- Jesus came to announce and usher in God’s kingdom. And calling folk to follow that message. There are no applications, resumes, or letters of reference. The Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus calls us to consists of …
- Matthew 5-7 Jesus taught as one with authority. If you are going to follow then, here is an honorable way to live. The Sermon describes how we can experience true Human Flourishing that is “only available through communion with the Father God through his revealed Son, Jesus, as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.” And human flourishing is grounded in becoming a virtuous person. And this is the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- Matthew 8-9 Jesus did as one with authority. Of the 32 miracles of Jesus, 20 are found in Matthew and 10 are found in these two chapters.
- Ten ministry stories.
- Ten stories that demonstrate what it means for the Kingdom of God to come.
- Ten stories that proclaim the Act of God in Jesus and proclaim the Good News.
- Ten stories of the saving work of God.
- Ten stories that call us “To hope for a better future in this world— for the poor, [to hope for a better future] the sick, [to hope for a better future] the lonely and depressed, [to hope for a better future] for the slaves, the refugees, the hungry and homeless, for the abused, the paranoid, the downtrodden and despairing, and, in fact, [to hope for a better future] for the whole wide wonderful, and wounded world—is not something else, something tacked on to the gospel as an afterthought.” Jesus was doing in the present what he was promising long-term in the future. And this is the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- And the ten stories are interspersed with two discipleship texts impressing again the calling and cost of the Gospel of the Kingdom, a Gospel of Kingdom teachings and Kingdom engagements.
*When I reflect on my calling… I do not have one of those grand narratives that get published in books, inspire the masses to lay down their nets, or even speak a still small voice in the quietness of the soul. My call is not all that spectacular.
- Growing up, going to church was the place I always felt accepted. As I kid, I looked forward to going.
- And when I preached my first sermon at age 13, I was affirmed.
- No one ever asked me, “Tell me about your calling into the ministry?”
- My call into the ministry was an ecclesial call.
- There are many voices out there calling us. Sometimes those voices are competing voices, calling us to some unworthy and contradictory ends. Other voices are good, and God would bless those paths just as readily (Pharmacy…labs; maybe not called).
- For some, the call is easy and discernable. For others, the call is garbled and hard to hear. Yet years later, I look back on the Gospel of the Kingdom and I still hear Jesus calling me.
*Discerning the voice comes with where the voice takes you. And when the first disciples decided to follow, Matthew emphasizes what Jesus sets about teaching and doing. Jesus goes throughout Galilee, “teaching in synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (v 23). Discerning the voice comes with where the voice takes you. Discerning the call of God and the will of God is not all that different. The call of God takes you to transformational virtuous living– Matt 5-7 teaching. The call of God takes you to the broken places in people’s lives that require Matt 8-9 engagement. If you are going to follow Jesus, the Gospel of God calls you and us as a church community to become virtuous. And we become a flourishing virtuous community for the benefit of others. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom!
 J. T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, 14.
 N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 191.