17From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.
18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. 20At once they left their nets and followed him.
21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24News 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. 25Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
-- Matthew 4:17 - 25 (NIV)
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. Jesus, Im not sure that sort of language is going to get you very far in this day and age. You need to tone it down a little bit. The people of today would think that you are being too judgmental. I mean, it doesnt fit with the warm fuzzies of Christmas, or the grace of Easter. By the way, tone down the miracle stuff. Most people wouldnt believe any of it anyway. Magicians and movie magic are pretty standard fare today, and people just wouldnt believe that this stuff is really happening. Just keep preaching your Gospel of love, dont tell people they need to change (theyll get offended), and dont do anything wild and crazy. Oh! And by the way, those guys you chose for disciples they just wont do. That Peter tends to get out of control, and he will just turn people off. Those brothers, James and John, theyre just a couple of hot-headed troublemakers. As a matter of fact, they have a reputation in town for getting into trouble. Andrew is a maybe. True, hes calm compared to the other three. However, hes such a wallflower no one will pay attention to him. We think you need to get some dynamic personalities. Get some real charismatic types you know the type they like to hire for TV. Make sure that you invite some of the bigwig church leaders who can help you make a name for yourself. Besides, if you dont ask them, they might be offended. That reminds me; dont preach anymore sermons telling people they need to change. Yeah, that repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near stuff. Its judgmental and people might be offended. Now, go out there and get them boy! What do you mean, I cant do it that way, and its not consistent with love?
I dont think we would give Jesus much of a chance today. We tend to filter out the uncomfortable passages of the New Testament and remember a whitewashed version of the Gospel. This doesnt mean that Jesus did anything wrong, He just would seem rather harsh at times. We dont like pain, and we especially dont like facing the pain that we dont measure up in some way. Telling us that repentance (change) is necessary in our lives in order to enter the kingdom of heaven isnt just uncomfortable its downright painful. After all, we are the religious people of the day. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior we are IN!
Whats that Jesus? Well yes, the religious people in your day, the Sadducees and Pharisees, had pretty much the same attitude. Were different, we have you. I know, you warned that some Christians were going to be surprised on the Day of Judgment (Matt. 7:21-27; and Matt. 25:31-46 among others), but that always refers to someone else and not us. We love you. We believe in you, and we go to church every Sunday. Well no, I dont do that. You really didnt mean that we had to try and obey all your commandments did you? After all, its just a set of guidelines, and some of them are too hard to follow. Well no, but that person is so hard to love. Besides, he hurt me terribly. Whats that? I have to forgive him in the same way God forgave me? I dont know if thats possible. Besides, those rules are just guidelines. We dont really need to follow them anyway. Youre starting to sound awfully judgmental Jesus. Where is this love you were always talking about? It doesnt sound like love to me. Well, yes Peter, James and John did change dramatically. But, they needed to. We dont need to change like they did because were already pretty good. Yeah, yeah No one is good, except God. You know what I mean! We told you, we believe, we read our Bible, we go to church (most Sundays), and some of us even attend Sunday school. What!? I guess you can call that gossip. Well, she really did all those things. How was it wrong sharing it amongst ourselves? Everybody already knew anyway. We just shared the important details. No, no one talked to her about it. I dont like this; lets talk about something else now.
Do we share the Good News? Of course we do. We call all these programs outreach and missions. Our churches support missionaries all over the world. I dont know who the missionaries are for those other churches. Oh, you asked me who our missionaries are. Well, lets see now. We support some guy in Africa I think. It doesnt matter. I concentrate on local outreach. What kind of things do we do? Well, we have fellowship dinners. How is that outreach? Well, it lets our visitors know just how friendly we are. When was the last time I invited someone? Oh, I guess its been a couple of weeks ago. What, its been six years right after I joined the church? Well, you are Jesus and I guess you would know. Funny how time flies when you are so busy. Yes, I know Peter, James and John did a lot of evangelism. But theyre different; we dont all have the gift of evangelism. Besides, we dont know many people who arent Christians. What do you mean that the church has become isolated? We are right out in the open for all to come in. Well yes, I guess outreach does mean that you go out to reach them. It would just be wrong to socialize with them. After all, they are sinners. Well yes, your disciples went out to them. Oh yes, and you did too. But thats different youre Jesus. Besides, the religious people, the Pharisees and Sadducees, killed you for doing that. They killed your disciples too. What do you mean; Im more like a Pharisee than Peter, James and John? When you asked Peter, James, John and Andrew to follow you they did, and you are still waiting for me to follow you. I think I understand now. You were demonstrating love all the time. Even your harshest words were meant to save us, Repent and follow Me.
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