“The Beginning of Jesus’ Public Ministry” – Matthew 4:12-25
Hear now, the word of the Lord from Matthew chapter four, starting in verse 12.
12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
18 While walking 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. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Matthew 4:12-25, ESV
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever. In 1940, Maurice and Richard MacDonald opened a new restaurant in San Bernardino, California. They named it after themselves, and this was the launch of the first McDonald's restaurant. In the beginning, McDonald's served various kinds of foods, with various ways of preparing that food until about eight years later. In 1948, the McDonald brothers closed down their restaurant for about three months and then reopened the restaurant after they had a chance to reorganize and rebuild and retrain their staff to do what they were doing, according to a very different model.
It was a model that was based on efficiency where they used to produce many kinds of food prepared in many kinds of ways. They simplified things so that they only made a few things, and they made them very efficiently, very inexpensively, and they hoped very well. Well, this model was an extraordinary success. They were doing extremely well. Even so, the McDonald's brothers were leery about expanding beyond that initial restaurant in San Bernardino, California. They needed someone else to come alongside them a visionary, a man named Ray Kroc, to see what they were doing.Someone to see the potential for what they were doing and to encourage them, to urge them to begin franchising what they were doing throughout the rest of the state of California, throughout the rest of the United States, and eventually throughout the entire world.
Now this story of the founding of McDonald's is one of the iconic stories of the American Dream. It’s a story where you have these people who are working in relative obscurity and they're putting together a product and they're working hard to build it. Then when they needed to, they pivoted and they perfected their product until it was so good, even they didn't realize its potential. Someone else had to come along to expand it, to say let's go public, let's go global with this.
Now, the reason I want to bring this story up is because I think this is often the idea that we have in mind of sort of the standard story we tell about how really important things get started this American dream. This American ideal is encapsulated in the story of McDonald's, and there's certainly nothing wrong with this. The Bible actually gives us a lot of wisdom about how to start things, about how to work hard, about how to be industrious and productive and prudent in our work, to produce something of lasting value. The Proverbs are filled with this kind of wisdom.
It's very important to have a clear vision for that when we start to talk about the public ministry of Jesus, so that we are very careful not to overlap the two. Not to interpret one in light of the other. To disentangle what we might think about the folklore of American founders myths and instead look at the story of what Jesus does with very different eyes, with very different lenses. To see that what he is doing is very different than what the McDonald's brothers did when they launched there at the beginnings of what became to become the McDonald's empire. Because if we don't see this, we will miss a couple of key things that are going on here.
The first is that we will miss the true obscurity and the true inefficiency of the way that Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee. By all human estimations, by all outward ways of looking at this, Jesus chose the wrong place to start his ministry. He didn't go to the popular cultural centers of the world within Israel. He didn't even go to Jerusalem, the capital city. He ministered in nowheresville in Galilee. He ministered where the darkness was deepest and it was there where the light dawned.
One other thing we will miss as we look at this is that perhaps we will think that Jesus only eventually realized just how good his message was; in the way that the McDonald's brothers had to be persuaded to take their McDonald's franchise public. Because what we need to see here is that the global implications of the Kingdom of Heaven are present right away from the beginning in what Jesus does here. If we don't see it, we're going to miss these elements that are there right from the beginning as Jesus begins his public ministry.
We need to remember that every part of this ministry was planned before the foundations of the Earth. Before the dawn of time, God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had planned everything that Jesus is going to do. Make no mistake, Jesus came to make disciples of all nations. That's our big idea that Jesus came to make disciples of all nations. That's his ministry. That's his method. That's everything, to make disciples of all nations.
So in this passage, this summary of the beginning of Jesus's public ministry, we are going to see three aspects of this global disciple making kingdom.
- The Message of Discipleship
- The Mandate of Discipleship
- The Ministry of Discipleship
The Message of Discipleship
So let's start with the message of discipleship in verses 12 through 17. The first section here, verse 12, is a very important transition in the gospel of Matthew. Read with me, and let me show you what's happening here. Verse 12, “Now, when he heard that John the Baptist had been arrested.” Now stop right there for a moment. This word for arrested is very literally the word to give over or to hand over throughout the rest of the gospel of Matthew. This is the same word that will regularly be used to talk about the way that Jesus will be arrested.
In fact, this is the word that's commonly translated as betrayed on the night when Jesus was betrayed. That's this word right here, right from the beginning of Jesus's public ministry. The very first word we hear about this public ministry brings a looming shadow of the cross over everything that Jesus does. Just as John the Baptist was arrested here at the beginning, so at the end, Jesus will be betrayed and handed over to the authorities and crucified. Make no mistake, Jesus knows exactly what he has come to do, and it absolutely necessitates a path through the cross. That's the first way the transition to the cross becomes increasingly clear, right from the very first word.
The second thing we read is that when he heard that John had been arrested, we read that he withdrew into Galilee. Now, as I said a moment ago, Galilee is nowheresville. Galilee is northern, the northern part of the territory that belonged to Israel for a while that God had given as the promised land to his people.
But by this time, a lot of different things had happened, and those who lived in the northern tribes had largely been scattered. Jews here lived, yes, but there were also a lot of Gentiles as we'll talk about a little bit more in a moment. But Galilee was not the center. Galilee was not the important part of the world, and it wasn't even the important part of Israel. Yet Jesus will remain ministering in Galilee all the way until Matthew chapter 19. He isn't going to turn south until Matthew 19, and he doesn't enter Jerusalem until the triumphal entry in Matthew chapter 21. Again, we'll see more in Galilee in a moment when we look at the prophecy of Isaiah.
The third thing we see here that it's a transition is that now officially Jesus’s public ministry starts. Before this, everything had been preparatory for this public ministry. In chapter one, we saw the preparation of Jesus's qualification. We saw the way that he is the legal heir to the throne of David by having been adopted as the son of Joseph, who was in the biological lineage of David. We saw in chapter two how wise men from the East came to hail him as king, which shook up and disoriented and made angry, fitfully murderously angry, the illegitimate King Herod. We saw that Jesus had to go down to Egypt to escape Herod so that he would be able to re-enact the history of Israel by going to Egypt and being brought out of Egypt, just as Israel had so many years before.
We saw in chapter three how Jesus was baptized and even anointed by the Holy Spirit for ministry, declared as the Son of God by his Father speaking from heaven. Then in the beginning of chapter four, we saw the temptation where Jesus was led in the wilderness, again re-enacting the 40 years history of Israel in the wilderness in 40 days and 40 nights. Then Jesus's temptation, where he faithfully resisted every temptation that Satan could throw at him. Now that Satan has been defeated in this initial battle, Satan is set to the side, he is bound. The strongman is bound so that Jesus can go into the strongman's house, the territory that formerly belonged to Satan in this area of darkness, Galilee of the Gentiles, to begin his rescue mission where the darkest darkness is thickest.
This is the beginning of Jesus's public ministry. Again, this is going to be in Galilee. Not in Judea, not in Jerusalem in the south. This is in northern Galilee, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. If you don't know what those are, you can be forgiven because their names hardly come up. These are two of the tribes of Israel whose inheritances were in the northern part of Israel. And we read that the fact that Jesus would minister here was foretold in the prophet Isaiah. Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2, “by the land of Zebulun and the Land of Naphtali”, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles or Galilee of the Nations.
This is the place where many Jewish people lived, but this is a place where there were also many of the Gentiles who were living there. This was by virtue of where it was the corridor to the rest of the world. That's what we read about in verse 16, “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light.” Understand the northern part of the Promised Land of Israel was the way in which any enemies had to come up and over and down. They couldn't march straight west to get across the wilderness, to get to Israel directly. What they had to do is to go up and around and down through Galilee. So Galilee was the corridor through which all the nations came to attack the people of God. Syria came down during the days of Isaiah, as well as the more barbarous empire of Syria. Syria marched through Galilee and conquered all of these nations, including the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, along with the other 10 tribes of the northern area of Israel.
This was an area of darkness and war and death. These were those who are dwelling in the region and the shadow of death, as we read Matthew quoting in verse 16 and as Isaiah said so long ago, this is where a light will dawn. There was a promise that a light would dawn here, and it's to this area that Jesus comes the great light, the light of light, the one who is the light of life. Here he comes to this area to be a light in a dark place because you see Assyria, the great empire that conquered the northern ten tribes of Israel, the nation that marched all the way south to come right to the gates of Jerusalem, and then were turned away by the miraculous work of God. This Assyrian empire is long gone, but in this area, the people are still dwelling in deep spiritual darkness. It's here where Jesus goes first.
We should remember Matthew was quoting Isaiah 9:1-2. We should remember what comes just a few verses later in verses six and seven. Matthew is not just quoting only this portion, he's quoting the whole context. He wants us to remember everything that Isaiah chapter nine prophecies. Isaiah 9:6-7 declares this
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV
Now, one commentator pointed out, and I honestly had not thought of this myself, this passage is nowhere directly quoted in the New Testament. It's such an obvious prophecy of Jesus, and it's nowhere directly quoted or cited in the New Testament. The closest thing we have is right here, where Matthew quotes the first part of the chapter trying to get our ears to remember what's coming later. That the Son, this child is born to re-establish the reign and the throne of David and of his kingdom, of his government there will be no end.
That's what Jesus is doing here, and it all starts in Nowheresville, the darkest place on Earth, in Galilee. It's here in verse 17 that the public ministry of Jesus begins with his preaching, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Verbatim, Jesus preaches the exact same message as we saw earlier from John the Baptist in 3:2, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” We talked about how repentance is first and foremost. The Greek word means a change of mind. It means that we repent from our sin and think differently about our sin, specifically in judging it differently. Not just to say, oh yeah, I don't see that the same way as I used to, but to recognize and to acknowledge that we are guilty in the sight of God. It's a change of mind, but it's a change of mind that stems from a change of heart. That from the depths of our soul, we begin to hate the filth, meanness and odiousness of our sin. We haven't just recognized that it's wrong, we hate it. Repentance is a change of mind that stems from a change of heart that leads into a change of life.
The Hebrew word that's often translated in repentance in the Old Testament means turning, a turning from one thing to another. Where our lives are formally given to sin, we turn them to look instead to follow Jesus Christ by faith. A change of mind that stems from a change of heart that leads to a change of life. The reason we do this is in view of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is declaring the king is here, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and in view of the kingdom, repent. The public ministry of Jesus, with these words, is underway.
Now, there's a funny episode of a television show where there are these two characters who are at a live performance of a musical, and they aren't necessarily people you would think of as attending a musical. But the first character is sort of notoriously annoying, and he's talking and the second character really doesn't seem like he'd be someone at a musical. But he stops the other character, and he says, “If we don't listen to the overture, we won't recognize the musical themes when they come back later.” Now, if you know that quotation, it's a funny line in this particular show.
I quote it because it's probably the best explanation of what's happening during the initial introduction of music. In musicals or in operas you listen to hear the musical themes when they come back later. Already we're hearing a few of these themes come up and we listen, so we don't miss them when they come up later. We've seen the theme of the cross, the very first words that narrate for us, the public ministry of Jesus tell us about how John was arrested, handed over in the same words that will describe the way Jesus must be handed over to the hands of wicked men to be crucified. That theme of the cross is going to come up again and again and again until Jesus gives up his last breath on the cross.
Later, in the book of Matthew, the second theme we hear is about Galilee. Galilee, the corridor to reach the nations of the Gentiles. Already, the universal global implications of the conquest of Jesus's kingdom is in view. He knows what he's doing. Jesus came to make disciples of all nations.
The Mandate of Discipleship
Now, when we come to the second section, in verses 18 to 22, another theme is going to come up. It's the theme of discipleship and Matthew has a deep interest. What he's going to say tells us a lot about discipleship through the rest of this gospel. So in the second section, we come to the mandate of discipleship. Jesus's mandate, his command to follow him as his disciples.
Now Leon Morris, the commentator, describes what we read in verses eighteen to twenty-two as something of a simple account. We hear the story of how Jesus calls four of his disciples here, and later on we're going to hear the story of how Jesus calls a fifth disciple, Matthew himself, the author of this gospel. We're going to hear his story. He's going to tell us how Jesus called him and not as a fisherman, but as a tax collector to follow him as a disciple. Yet we don't read about Jesus calling any of the other disciples. We just hear the standard overview that these were his disciples. These seven other people were his disciples, but we don't hear their story. The reason this is a simple account of discipleship is we're probably meant to understand that every time Jesus called those other seven disciples, it sounded like this.
So we read about these four fishermen, two sets of brothers and Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee. He's still in Galilee. Verse 18, “While walking 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.” Then we read a little bit later in verse twenty-one and going on, “And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.”
So two sets of brothers who are all fishermen. Now these fishermen were rough. They would have been tough. These would have been blue collar men who knew how to get the job done, but they are probably not poor. Sometimes we think about the disciples as destitute, and they didn't really have much going for them until Jesus called, but that's probably not the case. In Mark 1:20, Don Carson points out that in Mark chapter 20, we read about the hired men that are left behind to continue running the fishing operation. They weren't necessarily poor. In fact, the emphasis that we are getting here in this story is how much they leave behind. It's a story about the cost of discipleship, and they're counting the cost of the discipleship.
So when Jesus says in verse 19, follow me and I will make you fishers of men. He's saying he's giving a physical description. There's different ways of describing following Jesus, but it always describes a physical following behind Jesus, because that's what disciples did. They followed behind their master and physically went wherever the master went. Then we read in verse 20, “immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Then verse 22 James and John respond in the exact same way, “Immediately, they left the boat.”
Now, one person points out, well, notice both of them had nets and both of them had boats. Both of them leave nets and boats. But we read about leaving the nets first and then reading the boat second. We're reading about the totality, and Matthew is so good at saying this in a concise way. They left everything behind. They left everything behind. With James and John, we also read about how they left behind their father. It wasn't just their trade, it wasn't just their property, it was their relations, their father, they left behind as part of the cost of the call to follow Jesus as his disciples. The call to discipleship that Matthew was going to tell us so much more about in this book is costly. But these first disciples didn't hesitate, they didn't wait. They immediately left their nets and their boats and their father to follow Jesus. Why didn't they hesitate even a little bit for this?
Well, I have a friend, an elder in another church who has very much internalized a mission of trying to teach people to remember what we learn in the fourth commandment, to remember the Sabbath Day and to keep it holy. He's trying to teach other people in his church and lead them in modeling and teaching that the whole day is to be given to worship, except insofar as where works of necessity or works of mercy require our attention. As he's talking with people about what it would mean to give the whole Lord's Day, that we're on today, to the worship of God, what would that entail? He says he finds in a lot of cases he's hearing objections about what this will cost them. Does this mean that I have to give up football? Does this mean that I have to give up the Super Bowl? Does this mean that I have to give up a chance to get caught up on a busy week or a chance to get ahead on what I know will be a busy week at work? Does this mean that I have to give up time just to relax, me time? Can't I just relax?
One of the illustrations, and I found this such a vivid illustration so I'm borrowing it from him. Whenever he has these conversations, he says, well, think about the cost like this; if someone came to you today and they said, I will give you one billion billion, with a B for boy, billion dollars for your house. Would you go home and start itemizing every square foot of your home and start calculating it out and start trying to see? Boy, I don't know, let's see how much this is actually worth. No, you know, your house is worth something, but you know it doesn't come close to a billion dollars for the exchange. You wouldn't hesitate immediately. You would leave your house for the billion dollars you would get in exchange for leaving it.
These disciples are giving up everything they have to gain, everything they could never have apart from Jesus. You give up everything to gain the whole world and then some to gain Christ himself and everything he has not necessarily in this life, but certainly in the life to come. I've often quoted this, but it's worth quoting again. Jim Elliott, a missionary who is a martyr gave his life bearing witness as a disciple of Jesus, calling others to be his disciples. Once said, “He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose.” These disciples are no fools. They're following the master to gain what they can never lose.
See here that in this story, we are hearing about the first disciples at the outset of Jesus ministry. There's one of those themes for the gospel of Matthew and the lessons. We don't miss it when it comes up again. We are seeing this theme of discipleship. Jesus has them follow him to come behind him. He will teach them, he will train them, he will test them, and they will make many mistakes that we will see along the way. They will even make the grave mistake the sin of abandoning Jesus in his hour of need. Yet through them, Jesus will establish his kingdom in this world.
The Ministry of Discipleship
Well, this brings us to the third section, the third aspect of this global disciple making mission and kingdom. We see now the ministry of discipleship in the third section of verses 23 through 25. So in verse 23, we read that, “Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Another word for proclaiming, is another way to translate that word for preaching that we saw earlier in verse 17. We should remember that Jesus's proclamation, his message mirrors what we saw earlier in John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2.
We are also seeing here some of the differences between the ministry of John and Jesus. So they preach the same message, but Jesus doesn't go to the wilderness of Judea in the South, as John does. Jesus goes to Nowheresville, dark Galilee. John the Baptist baptized in the Jordan River, but Jesus taught in the synagogues. He went to every tiny, out-of-the-way village where they had these little churches who would come together for the reading of the word of God and for prayers, just like we're doing today.
With a fuller revelation of Jesus Christ and him crucified, Jesus went into these synagogues to teach rather than preaching publicly outdoors at the Jordan River. John the Baptist was only a preacher, whereas Jesus is a preacher and a teacher. John baptized, Jesus did not baptize, he had other people baptized for him. Jesus came to heal every disease and affliction. The main difference between John and Jesus, then, is that John came to announce the kingdom and he came to prepare people for the coming of the kingdom, whereas Jesus came to set up the kingdom. Jesus comes to establish the kingdom by his word, his teaching about the word of God and by his deeds, by all of the miracles he would perform to heal people as a symbol of the great healing work that he would work for them at the cross.
We read that just as Jesus went throughout all Galilee, we read in verse twenty-four that his fame spread throughout all Syria, just north of there. They brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains. Those are oppressed with various diseases, or those are oppressed by demons, those having seizures and paralytics, ahe healed them. Notice all Galilee, all Syria, all the sick. One commentator points out, this is getting at the comprehensiveness of Jesus's ministry. He was everywhere all the time, ministering as far as he could physically take himself.
Then we read in verse twenty-five that great crowds followed him. They followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, a Gentile area, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan, the Jordanian area. This is from everywhere. There's an emphasis here, we get a sampling here of all the nations, all the nations are already in view in the discipleship of Jesus. It's returned to that theme of all the nations making disciples of all the nations.
What should we make of these crowds? Well, these crowds are following Jesus in some ways, like his disciples are following him. What we are going to see from these crowds is that not all of them are regenerate. Not all of them really know and love Jesus right now. You know, I've heard different statistics cited for this idea, but people who come to believe in Christ have heard the gospel already seven times. They've heard the gospel seven times before believing or in some statistics it takes 18 times for someone to hear the gospel enough to believe in Jesus Christ. Now, I'm not sure if this statistic is accurate statistically, especially because there are so many in the Bible and so many in life experience now who hear the gospel for the first time and respond to Jesus and faith.
I don't know what exactly the numbers are, but I do know that what that idea expresses is certainly the case of these crowds that follow Jesus. We know that there are some in the crowds who already believe, they are already following Jesus in faith. The hint that we give to this doesn't come until after Jesus has been crucified, after he has been resurrected, after he has ascended into heaven. Because after that, the Apostles have to appoint a new apostle to take Judas’ spot. Judas who betrayed, handed over Jesus. When they do so, the qualification is that they have to have someone who followed Jesus from the very beginning, from the baptism of John onward, and they were able to identify two men, Matthias and Joseph called Barnabas, in Acts chapter one who fit that qualification. They believed in Jesus and followed him from the beginning, though they had as many confusions and doubts and questions as the rest of the disciples. Yet right away, they're following Jesus by faith.
There are, of course, some of these people who will never believe. When the time is right, they will turn from Jesus, they will abandon Jesus. They will demand that Jesus be crucified and that Barabbas, a murderer and an insurrectionist, be released instead of Jesus at the day of the crucifixion. There are also those who don't yet necessarily believe now, but that's coming at some point in the future. You know, you think of Nicodemus, who's hearing about Jesus and wants to talk to Jesus but doesn't understand what Jesus is teaching. Then by the end of John, he's there, helping to bury Jesus because he was looking for the kingdom. Or you think about these crowds who will be shouting, crucify him at the end of Matthew, who on the day of Pentecost their hearts will be cut to the quick and they will say, sirs, what must we do to be saved? How can we be saved? Different people come to follow and believe in Jesus in different ways and at different times.
Now part of what I'm getting at is these crowds are a reminder that disciple making is endless. It is inefficient. This isn't the speedy service system. We cannot make disciples and the way McDonald's makes hamburgers. This work is messy. It is filled with ups and downs. But it's the ministry that Jesus both modeled and that he mandated for his church to carry on after him.
Throughout the scriptures, we have encouragement because this is such hard labor to make disciples. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, “Do not grow weary in doing good.” Then he reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that “One will plant, another will water, but it is God who gives the growth.” You may plant and never hear anything from the person you've planted in, only to find an eternity to come that because of your seed planting God, used someone else to water that person's life and God through all of that gave the growth of leading that person to know Jesus.
Jesus himself reminded us that one will sow and another will reap, in John chapter four, but that both will rejoice together. So Paul encourages us in the Lord, your labor is not in vain in 1 Corinthians 15:55. Why? Because making disciples is hard. It's endless. It's wearisome. It's inefficient. It is up and down.
The application we see from all this is to make disciples of all nations. That's what Jesus came to do, to make disciples of all nations. That's our application, make disciples of all nations. From the beginning of Jesus's public ministry, he's building this culture of discipleship. So he begins to preach in verse 17, but immediately after launching the ministry himself, he begins to call disciples to come after him. He calls them to have a front row seat, to see everything the master did, to hear everything that the master taught, to learn after him by direct observation. Ultimately, Jesus will send these disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.
Now at Harvest, our mission is taken directly from this. Our mission is that we are making disciples who worship and serve. So I want to take a moment to connect what Jesus is doing here 2000 years ago with what we are busy with at Harvest week in and week out.
First, let's have a reminder of the message of discipleship, repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Discipleship has to begin with the gospel. It has to begin with the proclamation that we are sinners who fall short of the glory of God and that we are guilty in God's sight and that God finds our sin filthy and odious, even if we do not. So Jesus, by grace, calls us to turn from that to have a change of mind about our sin, that stems from a change of heart, that overflows into a change of life as we turn from our sin and instead look to Jesus by faith. Repent, you're a sinner condemned to die. Repent in light of God's grace. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance, but you must repent for the kingdom as at hand.
In the Kingdom of Jesus, there is abundant room for sinners, but there was no room for sin. So let me say that another way. There is abundant room for repentant sinners. As we leave behind our old ways to embrace the call to discipleship, to follow in Christ's ways. But there is no room to bring with us our sin, to limp between two opinions. We preach this gospel week in and week out to call you and to remind us and strengthen us and to encourage ourselves to carry on as the disciples of Jesus. That's the message of discipleship.
Second, we have this mandate of discipleship, we must help others to follow Jesus. Jesus sends us as his witnesses, to call other people to follow after Jesus. Mark Dever has a really helpful definition. He says that, ”Discipleship refers to our own following Christ.” When we're thinking about how we follow Jesus, that's our discipleship. But then he says, “Discipling or making disciples, is a subset of that. It's a part of that, which means to help someone else to follow Christ.” Followers of Christ, and part of what that means to follow Christ means that we must serve others to help them to follow Christ too.
Now just as Jesus has from the very beginning of his mission, trying to build this culture of discipleship. That's what we're trying to do at Harvest. We're trying to build this culture of discipleship. That was here certainly before I got here, that was here before Harvest was planted. That we'll be here long after we are dead and gone. There's this culture of continually calling and whatever age we are given, whatever neighbors are in our midst, whatever opportunities we have to call people in our sphere of influence to follow after Jesus during the course of our lives.
Before we can talk about the structures and the programs and the partnerships at Harvest, we have to think then about this vision for discipleship. A passion for disciplining people. This isn't something we farm out to parachurch organizations. This isn't something conducted by lone ranger Christians. This is the mandate that Christ is given to his church. Make disciples of all nations. That's the mandate we have.
Then finally, we have third, the ministry of discipleship. Jesus shows us here his ministry by word and by deed. Discipleship again starts with the Ministry of the Word. It begins with the preaching of the gospel repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Turn from your sins and embrace Christ by faith. There's no hope of salvation outside of Jesus. So in the church, Jesus has given pastors and elders to lead in this formal preaching and teaching ministry in the church. To be dedicated to a ministry of word and prayer.
There's also informal ministry of teaching happening all the time. We have Bible studies, we have Sunday school classes, we have Wednesday night where we are disciplining children and youth, and there's leadership development. We have prayer groups. We have personal conversations. Every conversation you have is an opportunity to help someone follow Christ more closely. We have these opportunities both here in Omaha and to all nations through our missions.
Work discipleship begins with the proclamation of the word, the Ministry of the Word. But then discipleship also requires this ministry of deed. We're not given the ongoing gifts of healing. We certainly pray for healing and God heals, but we don't have these ongoing gifts of healing that Jesus had. Those were for the early church as a confirmation of the message of the Gospel of Jesus. Nevertheless, discipleship requires ministry of mercy to the poor, the sick and the suffering. Again, Jesus gives officers deacons to his church to lead us in ministry of generosity and ministries of mercy.
If you're not an officer, you're just here today. What about you? Where do you fit into all of this? But let me give you a couple of opportunities to partake in Jesus Christ's global, over the course of thousands of years, disciple making kingdom. This is your part of this. First of all, I want to start, we have a value of being a church that has given over to prayer. That we are dependent upon prayer. We need prayer warriors. We need people who are dedicated to secret prayer. If you can do nothing else, dedicate yourself to secret prayer. Get a copy of the directory and pray down the list of the people in this church for their needs as far as you know them. Pray for the people of this church. Also next week we have our monthly prayer service, come to this. That's a time where, as a church, we give ourselves to prayer outside of our normal Sunday morning worship ministries. As well as the other groups that have for prayer along the week. There's a women's prayer group and there's a men's prayer group. Give yourself to prayer.
This is one more reminder that this isn't like building a business. Planting new churches are not like opening new franchises. We are entirely dependent upon God's Spirit, and we are dependent upon God's Spirit through prayer. So we need people to pray.
The second thing we need is children's discipleship ministries. God has blessed us with many children in this church. What a blessing we have here with children. We need teachers, we have a number of teachers who are very faithful. We need, if you have any interest in serving by teaching children understand, please come talk to us, especially Andrew is coordinating a lot of this. We need people who can help with this ministry on Sunday mornings, with nursery or Sunday school, but especially on Wednesday night. We have a number of teachers who we sort of have just the people there, and if they're sick or can't be there, it's a scramble to kind of fill holes and fill gaps there. Please help. God is doing some wonderful things on Wednesday night to disciple our children. Please be a part of that. We need teachers. We need also deed ministry. There are people helping faithfully to serve food. If you want to be a part of that, please let us know. We'd love for you to help with that ministry.
We need prayer, we need children's discipleship and we need outreach. Now we're going to talk about this a little bit more in the coming months, but we are coming to the end of a three year campaign, the Building on a Firm Foundation campaign. If you were here three years ago, or if you've read some of the brochures that are out in the parlor. By the way, grab one if you haven't had one. We have boxes of these, grab one even if you just want to wallpaper your house with them. When we talked about this campaign that we had, we talked about some of the outreach that we wanted to do. We were praying that as part of investing in this building and repairing some of the structural issues that we had here, we wanted to be here because of the strategic importance of being here to reach some of the people around us.
We were praying that God would bring us college students, and by God's grace, you're all here. Thank you for being here today. We've been praying for you for the last several years, that college students would be here. So can you host college students for lunch? That's happening next week.
We also talked a lot about outreach to ESL. Some of the people right around our church, we found a statistic that 23 percent of the households within one mile of Harvest speak a language other than English. Harvest has in the past had this wonderful ministry of ESL, English as a Second Language, to build relationships with people in our midst who don't yet know Christ. If you're interested in that, we would love to restart that. Talk to Mike Lueders. He has a passion and a burden for doing that.
These are areas where we want to have increased outreach, increased children's discipleship, increased prayer. Finally, here's something that anyone can do, we need personal discipleship. Can you do something as simple as meeting regularly with one other person, reading the Bible and praying together, talking about what God is teaching you in your life. Building someone up. It's so simple, but it's so deep and rich in the discipleship ministry and the discipling ministries of the church.
Discipleship and making disciples doesn't mean that you need to be an expert, you don't need a seminary degree or a doctorate. You don't need to be trained for 40 years before you're willing to enter into the fields of Harvest. Understand as disciples, you will make mistakes. Jesus called his disciples to come after him, and immediately they started making mistakes. You will, too. I do all the time. If you're here, you're further along than somebody. You're further along than your unbelieving neighbor or then someone who's never heard the gospel of Jesus. Can you help that person, even it's just inviting a neighbor to come with you to church. Or it's serving on Wednesday nights to our children. Can you help someone follow Jesus just a little bit better?
This is the ministry we have of discipleship. It is the work that God gives us in this global kingdom work of making disciples. Just as Jesus began, so we are continuing to do this. Let's pray that God may strengthen us in this hard, messy, inefficient, difficult work of making disciples until he comes again.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we pray that we would each individually follow Jesus as disciples. To repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and to learn to embrace Christ by faith. We pray that insofar as you give us faith, that you would use us as your instruments to lead others to faith in Jesus and to grow in that faith as disciples of Jesus. Father, we are entirely dependent on the work of your Spirit. By the power of Jesus Christ who pours out this Spirit from heaven. And so we pray, send your Spirit and dwell your people. Empower your church for the disciple making ministries that you've given us, until the day that our Lord Jesus returns. It's in his name we pray. Amen.