What’s Your Ministry?

By Pat Lee

(Based on Matt 4:12-23; Isa 9:1-4; I Cor 1:10-18)

What does the word ministry mean to you?
Who do you think can do ministry?
Do you know what your ministry is?

At the beginning of our Gospel reading today, Matthew tells us that Jesus left Nazareth when he heard that John was in prison. According to Matthew Henry (whose commentary on the whole Bible is classed as perhaps the greatest theological classic of English literature and a must for preachers and students), John’s imprisonment was the sign for Jesus’s ministry to begin. John, as we heard during Advent, was the forerunner for Jesus. He was the one who was to “prepare the way” for Jesus, and now he is in prison and Jesus’s time has come.

So, Jesus left Nazareth, where he grew up but was not accepted, even by members of his own family, and went to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias) in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, to fulfil the prophesy spoken by the prophet Isaiah, that we heard read this morning.

Jesus was that light, the one they had been waiting for since Isaiah’s time. His message was the same as John had been preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come.” Matthew Henry says that Jesus preached often upon this subject, “wherever he went and he and his followers ever reckoned it worn threadbare, and now that it was so much nearer, the argument was so much stronger.”

When Jesus began to preach, he began to gather his disciples – who were to become the preachers and teachers after his crucifixion and resurrection. As he was walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee he saw Peter and Andrew, who were fishermen, casting their nets.  These were the first two to be called, followed by James and John, “the sons of Zebedee”, and then later by the other eight disciples. Each of these first four immediately began to follow him.
There is some contention from some writers about this sudden response. One writer wrote, “Those immediate responses of Peter, Andrew. James and John strike me as a bit impulsive. That kind of dramatic action doesn’t appeal to most of us.” I would have to agree, but I would also add that it was exactly what happened to Paul on the way to Damascus (in Acts 9). His response was also immediate. This can and still does happen now in our times.

Jesus does not call us all in the same way. I had a dramatic call to follow him, but Michael did not. His was a very different, slow awakening when Christ called him. Many of you will not be able to pinpoint a precise time of calling because you have always known and believed in Jesus. There is no one right way. None is wrong. Jesus knows the best way for each of us. What is required whenever or however we are called is to be loyal to the call and to follow Jesus. Jesus chooses us. We don’t choose him. He chooses us to follow and be devoted and loyal to him.

We don’t know what went through the disciples’ minds when they heard the summons. Nor do we know what possessed them to leave everything behind to follow him. We can only guess. Many of us, too, have heard that same voice calling at different times in our lives, and our hearts have been strangely warmed. It has a convincing ring because it comes from the one who made our hearts in the first place and knows them inside and out.

If the disciples had known then what Jesus’s end would be, they might have had second thoughts about following him. But the kingdom of God was at hand, Jesus said, and there was no time for second thoughts. We do know what Jesus’s end on earth was like and how his death on the cross was for our salvation. He is our Redeemer.

Well, the disciples left everything. Discipleship was not periodic volunteer work that could be offered at one’s own convenience and on one’s own terms. Jesus didn’t offer them a benefits package or a golden parachute clause, and said nothing about a retirement plan. They soon discovered that they were leaving everything to become the hated of the world (Matt 24:9). It would cost them everything, but it would be worth the cost. It was not easy following Jesus. But when they realized that he had saved their lives by his death, they were able to do much better in the ministry he had called them to in the first place.

Jesus knew that he would need these disciples to take over from him when his time on earth had been fulfilled, so he taught them as he went about his ministry, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom; and curing every disease and sickness among the people. Sometimes they let him down, sometimes they got in his way, and sometimes some of them even thought they knew better. And we know that they made a pretty good job of what they had been trained to do after Jesus’s resurrection.
Jesus was their role model. They learnt from him as they saw him ministering to the crowds of people who came to him. Jesus told them that they would be able to do the same things he did, and even more,

Each of us has been called to become involved in ministry too. Jesus is our role model also.
We are called into different ministries, some within the church, some in the community, and in our families. When my husband was alive he used to say to me, “l don’t have a ministry.” And I would say to him, “Yes, you do. You make crosses [little wooden ornamental crosses – Ed] which we give to people when they’re troubled, ill or dying.”
Every single one of us here today has a ministry. If you don’t know what your ministry is, ask the Holy Spirit to show you and you may be surprised.

Some of you may be thinking, “Please don’t send me to Africa, God!”
That’s not likely, but your ‘Africa’ might be right under your nose – here in Tairua. Some people’s ministries are obvious to us, like the ones we see here in the church, but others are not, and all are equally important. God knows our strengths and weaknesses better than we do ourselves and will call us into the ministry that suits us best.

If God is speaking to your heart about something he wants you to do, step out in faith, because you will be equipped for it. This is what the disciples did when they became his followers and learnt from his ministry.

[Almighty God, renew your people with your heavenly grace to carry out the ministry you desire each of us to do. Give us the guidance and strength that we need, and equip and sustain us to fulfil the task well, to bring glory to your name. Amen.]

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