Matthew 4:18-22 - "Matching the Master"

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward
February 3, 2008

Read Matthew 4:18-22.

Are there any music lovers here today – anyone who truly loves music? Today, before we begin talking about our text from Matthew, I want us to watch a video of Master Andres Segovia, the greatest classical guitarist of the 20th century. In this video we see Master Segovia in his 1965 class of guitar students who are also studying to become master guitarists.

Watch: http://profacero.wordpress.com/2007/11/19/andres-segovia-master-class-1965/.

Students were only admitted to Segovia’s Masters Classes by an invitation from Segovia. [1] Such an invitation meant that he considered you to be (or to have the potential to be) one of the best guitarists in the world. A class usually began with students arriving early and tuning their guitars. They exchange music. A few may try to impress the others by playing some incredibly difficult piece.

Then, slowly, as the time approaches, a silence dawns, like the silence before a storm. The Master approaches. Segovia is on his way. Everyone waits. Suddenly Segovia walks through the door, with slow relaxation. Everyone stands.

Segovia sits at center. The students are now free to sit again. After some greetings and some instructions on the music of the day, Segovia calls a student to the center to perform. The Master offers comments: “Cleaner here. Would you please play that passage again? Crescendo here. Keep the tempo- don't pause at the end of each phrase. Be careful of your tone. … Well, you must work on that some more.”

One day in class, a student was amazed that Segovia could achieve such wonderful sound while his right hand hardly seemed to move. Segovia explained to the class how important it is to have absolutely perfect finger nails, to allow subtle differences in angle when touching the strings. At this point he began to demonstrate. Students came forward from around the room to get a closer look. Many sat on the floor in front of him. Some lied down at his feet looking carefully up at his hands to see the tiniest detail. The disciples were literally at the master’s feet.

However, these demonstrations of technique and the suggestions and criticism only account for a portion of Segovia’s impact on his students. In these Masters Classes, there was something that transcended the student/teacher relationship. Something more than knowledge or content or technique was being taught.

Michael Lorimer, one of Segovia’s students and now also a famous guitarist, explains it like this: “Just as important as everything he says, perhaps more important, is his presence. … The power of Segovia's teaching … is the relationship of apprentice and master, based on the idea that it is important to be in the presence of one who knows, a master.”

“Through Segovia's playing, my understanding of the guitar's potential expands. … Segovia's playing has shown me paths for transcending my limits and for reaching more feeling in my playing … Segovia has found the life force in the music and always keeps it in the center of his playing. He makes clear what is essential… Being around Segovia, I embrace more feeling in myself.”

The master and the disciple. Simply being with the master expands our universe. Giving loving, devoted attention to the master and to the master’s teaching shows us how to transcend our own limits. The master’s life “makes clear what is essential.” The master and the disciple in music.

To borrow a phrase from Brian McClaren, “Jesus was a master of making the music of life.” He didn’t use the wood and string of a guitar or a piano. He used the “skin and bone, smile and laughter, whisper and shout,” of a real body and a real life. And using this instrument, “he invited the disciples to learn to make beautiful life-music in his secret, revolutionary kingdom-of-God way. He helped each of them learn the disciplines and skill of living in the kingdom of God. They watched him play, watched him live and interact, and imitated his example until they began to have the spirit of his style, the power of his performance.”[2]

When Jesus walked along the beach on the Sea of Galilee and called out to those fishermen, “Come, follow me,” he was inviting them into this kind of apprentice/master or disciple/master relationship. He wasn’t just saying, “Hey, come on, let’s go for a walk.” He was using a very special phrase that was used for rabbis (Jewish teachers) and their disciples.

Ray Vander Laan explains how this normally worked on his website: www.followtherabbi.com. (This is a great website, and I highly recommend it.) At age 5, boys began the study of the Torah. At age 12, if the boy succeeded in memorizing the Torah, he started learning two things: the rest of the Hebrew Bible and a trade (like fishing or building). At age 15, most people were finished.

However, a few of the most outstanding students looked for a famous rabbi to take them on as a disciple (or talmid). This was the top of the line – like getting into Harvard. Very few boys ever made it this far. Usually, the boy would find the rabbi and get up the courage to ask if he could “follow” the rabbi.

At this point, the rabbi had to “size up” the potential candidates. This was a really big deal for the rabbi because his reputation was on the line. Disciples weren’t just students. They weren’t just trying to get knowledge. Almost anyone can get almost any knowledge if they work hard enough long enough. But disciples were after something more. Disciples want to become who the rabbi is and to do what the rabbi does. So the rabbi has to decide, “Does this kid have what it takes to be like me? Does this kid have the ability, the commitment, the heart to do what I do, to live like I live?” Maybe he asked the boy some questions. Maybe he decided to just watch him for a while. But eventually, he either said, “Sorry, kid, you don’t measure up,” or “Come, follow me.”

Those words were very important. Once the rabbi said, “Follow me,” the kid became the rabbi’s disciple. Instantly, the kid’s life comes into focus. He was just admitted into the Jewish Harvard or Seoul National University. From now on, the kid has one calling, one consuming passion: to be like the rabbi. They want to be like the Rabbi more than anything else in the world. They listened to every word he spoke, every prayer he prayed. They watched everything he did. They answered his questions and asked more questions. They followed him wherever he went. They obeyed every instruction he gave. They were whole-heartedly, unreservedly committed to the rabbi, with one goal in mind: I want to be who he is.

Ray Vander Laan tells a story about a time when he saw a modern Jewish Rabbi (you know with the long beard and the little black hat) and his disciples (10-15 year old boys). They were traveling, maybe in an airport or a bus station or something, and the rabbi had to go to the bathroom. He gets up to go to the bathroom, and along behind him come the train of little disciples. They’ve got to be with him in the bathroom, maybe not in the stall, but at least in the bathroom. He might pray while he’s in there. He might say something to somebody. How does the Rabbi interact in an airport bathroom? This is an important question if you have committed your life to becoming exactly like the rabbi.[3]

Are you starting to get a sense of what it meant to be a disciple? The disciple was passionately committed to the Master, to the rabbi. More than anything else in the world, the disciple wanted to be just like the rabbi.

Now, let’s go back to that story of Jesus and Peter and Andrew and James and John.

A young rabbi has just come to town, and he has been stirring up a lot of attention with his message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). Capernaum was a small town (1,500 people), so everyone had heard the stories of this new rabbi. The fishermen brothers may have even been to hear him preach, “The Kingdom of God is at hand, right here at our finger tips. We just have to start living it.”

These guys have apparently finished their study of the Hebrew Bible, and they have decided to settle for fishing. They aren’t out looking for a rabbi. They aren’t trying to be anyone’s disciple. Maybe they just don’t think they have what it takes to be a rabbi. They are just going to pursue their trade: fishing. Not a bad life – a little smelly maybe, but always enough food for the family.

Suddenly, while the brothers are going about their day’s work, full of sweat and smelling like fish, they see the rabbi. He has already seen them, and he has something to say to them: “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people.”

Remember, now, “follow me,” was a special phrase, used only for rabbis and disciples. Jesus was inviting them to be his talmidim, his disciples. Jesus was saying, “Come, be my disciple, and I will show you how to do what I do, how to be who I am.”

This was extremely unusual. Rabbis didn’t usually recruit their own disciples. Usually the disciples went up to the rabbi, begging to be a disciple. But this rabbi, this young rabbi who preached that the Kingdom of God is near, went up to four fishermen and said, “Follow me. You can be like me.”

We have to get a real picture of the opportunity and the cost here. The cost was everything. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were committing everything they were and ever hoped to be into Jesus’ hands. They were leaving behind everything they ever had, their family, their way of living, their security. They were committing to change anything that needed to be changed, to whatever needed to be done, to go wherever they needed to go. The cost was total and absolute.

But for these four fishermen, the opportunity outweighed the cost. This was like winning the lotto for them. They were suddenly vaulted to the top of their class. They were the elite. They were invited to be talmidim, disciples. The freshest, newest, most powerful rabbi of their time believed in them. Not only that, Jesus believed that they could be like him. Jesus believed that these four fishermen could be like him. He believed in these guys so much that he didn’t wait on them to come to him. He went out to them and specifically chose them out of the crowd to be his disciples.

This rabbi seemed to understand the ways of God like no one else. And he was inviting them to be like him, to learn his life, to also understand and live the ways of God, and to “fish” for other people to live this way.

Maybe these four brothers felt like the people in Jesus’ stories: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hit it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13:44-46).

Yes, the cost was great. The cost was everything. If they said yes, their life would never be the same. They would have to give up everything to follow Jesus. But obviously, the opportunity was even greater. They didn’t have to think twice. They were getting a bargain. They were giving up their lives to get his life! What a deal!

They said, “Yes!” Right then and there, Peter and Andrew dropped their nets on the beach and followed Jesus. James and John left their dad in the boat to figure out the nets for himself, and they followed Jesus. Of course, they would. Of course, they followed. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, they said yes.

Now, Jesus also walks down the beach beside our Sea of Galilee. He walks down SsangYong Daero or on the sidewalks of KNU. He walks down this middle aisle. And he looks into our eyes and into our hearts. He sees all that we are, all that we know, all that we have, all that we have ever been. He knows us completely, and he looks at us with a smile and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people. Come, be my disciple, and I will teach you to do what I do. I will help you to become who I am. I believe in you. I believe you can be like me. Come, follow me.”

Did you catch that? Jesus actually believes we can be like him. Jesus actually believes we can do what he does. Jesus actually believes we can live like he lives. And he asks us to do it. He asks us to follow him.

Now, like Peter and Andrew, James and John, we need to face honestly the cost and the opportunity.

The cost is total, absolute. Jesus asks for everything. Jesus asks for unflinching, unlimited obedience and commitment. Those fishermen standing there beside the Sea of Galilee didn’t really know who Jesus was. They didn’t understand all about him and his message and the life he would demand from them. They hadn’t heard all of his teaching yet. They hadn’t seen him die on the cross yet. But they committed to follow him anyway. They put their old life, their old ways behind them. They made a total commitment to change whatever needed to be changed, to do whatever needed to be done, to go wherever they needed to go. The cost is great!

But for us as well, the opportunity is even greater. The greatest teacher who has ever lived has invited us to be like him. The wisest man who ever walked the face of the earth has invited us to learn his wisdom. The best life-musician who has ever played the music of life has invited us to sit as his feet for private lessons. We have the opportunity to be like Jesus, the Son of God. We have the opportunity to live in and to live out the Kingdom of Heaven in our everyday lives. We have the opportunity to change the world by fishing for people to join this movement of grace and love that will be the healing of the universe. We have the opportunity to live the very life of God in our world.

This is the great exchange. We get to trade our lives, our broken down, worn out lives, for Jesus’ Spirit-filled, love-charged, peace-giving, true Life.

The cost is great, but the opportunity is greater. The cost is great, but the opportunity is immeasurable. The cost is great, but the opportunity is infinite!

Jesus is here. Jesus is walking down these aisles, looking into your heart, and asking you a question: “Will you follow me? Will you be my disciple? Will you give up everything you have and receive everything I have? Will you give up all you are to receive all I am? Will you follow me?”

Lent begins this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. We’ll be having an Ash Wednesday service here at 7pm. I hope you’ll come. Throughout Lent this year, we’ll be preaching from Jesus most famous sermon ever, “The Sermon on the Mount.” This is widely considered to be the summary of all Jesus’ teaching. This is Jesus’ basic view of life in the Kingdom of God. We’ll be talking about it for seven Sundays. I challenge you to read the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 5-7) at least once every week for the next seven weeks. If you really want to be a disciple of Jesus, if you really want to live life his way, this is a good way to start.

Jesus is looking into your heart and asking one question: “Will you follow me?” What is your answer?



[1] The following description of Segovia’s instruction is a blending of accounts from two of his students in these articles: John Mills, “The Teaching of Andres Segovia,” First published in the EGTA Guitar Journal no.4 (July 1993), http://www.egtaguitarforum.org/ExtraArticles/SegoviaTeaching.html; and Michael Lorimer, “Andres Segovia – The Teacher,” http://www.michaellorimer.com/segovia.html.

[2] Brian McClaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, (W Publishing: Nashville, 2006), 77.

[3] Ray Vander Laan, “Rabbi and Talmidim,” http://www.followtherabbi.com/Brix?pageID=2753 and “To Be a Talmid,” http://www.followtherabbi.com/Brix?pageID=2076.