Messiah Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
September 21, 2008
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TITLE: “Follow Me”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. Our text for this morning, the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, is taking from St. Matthew chapter nine, the words of our Lord, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13 ESV)
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Follow me, Jesus said to Matthew. And Matthew the tax collector, the rich sinner, got up and followed Him. What could be simpler? What could be easier? What could be farther from the walk of our lives?
For most of us, following Jesus is not so simple. Your life, and mine, is filled with pitfalls and detours. There are temptations every single day to follow other paths, go different directions than the way of our Lord to the cross and resurrection. Even the mere act of getting to church on Sunday morning can be a huge victory in the insanity of life.
But our Lord’s voice continues to call out, follow me. Follow me through all the days of your life, Jesus says. Follow me in good times and bad. Follow me when you can’t see your nose in front of your face. Follow me when things are so messed up, so confused and disjointed, that you don’t know why you’re here or who you are. Follow me, sinners. Follow me, cheaters, adulterers, fornicators, thieves, murderers, gossips, lustful ones, vengeful ones, hateful ones. Follow me, one and all.
Follow me, Jesus says, and I will make all things new. Follow me and you will go through water and death. Follow me and be refreshed in the journey on my own body and blood. Follow me and you will find rest for your weary soul. Follow me and you will see the light of a new dawn. Follow me and you will have companionship and a true friend in the darkest hours of your life. Follow me and you will reach the goal of your journey, eternal life with God and with all the saints forever. Follow me.
Another word for follower is the word, disciple. And connected to that word we find another word, discipline. The Lord disciplines those He loves, says Proverbs 34. I think that’s what is really so hard about following Jesus. It means trust, or faith if you prefer. It means trusting that when things happen to you, and things always happen to you, that God means it for good even if the devil, the world and our sinful nature mean it for evil. That’s hard to see, isn’t it? Following Jesus is easy when everything is good. But when there’s a death, a loss, a heartache, a sickness, no job, no money, or worse still, when you’ve screwed up so bad you don’t know how to get out of it, when these things happen, then following Jesus isn’t so appealing.
You can be sure that St. Matthew thought this very thing many times in his life as a disciple. Today we remember St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist. Our text portrays the picture of a rich man picking himself up, leaving his old life behind, and following Jesus. We know that the road of Matthew wasn’t always one of faith to faith, victory to victory. Matthew, like the rest of the followers, the disciples, forsook Jesus at the cross. The road of this disciple wasn’t clear or easy. But our Lord picked him up, forgave him, set him apart as an apostle, and used a poor sinner like Matthew to bring the Gospel to generations not yet born.
Now if God can lead a sinner like Matthew to death and resurrection, He can do so for you, dearly baptized. The road that Matthew trod is the road of many sinner/saints throughout the ages. It is the road of Ezekiel and Isaiah. It is the road of apostles, martyrs, prophets, common Christians and mighty kings. It’s the road that your grandparents took, and theirs before them. This road, the road of salvation through the dead of Jesus, is well worn. Jesus has gone there before us, and He leads the way. In a way, we could look at this road to have as a victory parade. Jesus is at the head, and he carries the banner or your salvation to death and the other side, so that you know what’s coming.
Follow me, Jesus says. One writer (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) put it this way, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. …” Our Lord did not call the self-righteous to follow him. He called sinners, you and me. He calls you now to a better life. The life of discipleship, to which He calls you, is better, not because you won’t have troubles on the way. It isn’t an easier life, not in that sense. It is better because you are on the right road. It is the road of God. It is the road of salvation.
You can be on the most beautiful, paved road in the world. But if the road leads you to hell, it’s not so great of a road, is it? Lutheran pastor Bonhoeffer also said this, “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”
Follow me, Jesus says. Repent. Turn away from your sinful path, your road of brokenness which leads only to perdition. Follow me, Jesus says, and I will see you through to eternal life. Follow me, and you will live forever. Follow me, Jesus says, take up your cross, and I will never leave you nor forsake you. Follow me. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.