Sunday (January 26): “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light”
Scripture: Matthew 4:12-23
12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper'na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb'ulun and Naph'tali, 14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 "The land of Zeb'ulun and the land of Naph'tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles -- 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."Meditation: Do you know the joy and freedom of the gospel – the good news proclaimed by Jesus Christ? John the Baptist’s enemies had sought to silence him, but the good news of salvation which he pointed to could not be silenced. As soon as John had finished his testimony, Jesus began to speak of the good news of salvation in Galilee. Galilee was at the crossroads of the world and much traffic passed through this little region. It had been assigned to the tribes of Asher, Naptali and Zebulum when the Israelites first came into the promised land (see Joshua 9). For a long time it had been under Gentile occupation. Isaiah foretold (see Isaiah 9) that the good news of salvation would be proclaimed in this land and reach to the Gentiles. Jesus begins the proclamation of the gospel here to fulfill the word of God which had been promised long ago. The Old Testament prophets spoke of God’s promise to send a Redeemer who would establish God’s reign of peace and righteousness. That time is now fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.
18 As he walked 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 about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
Jesus takes up John’s message of repentance and calls disciples to believe in the good news (gospel) which he has come to deliver. What is the good news which Jesus delivers? It is the good news of peace (restoration of relationship with God), of hope (the hope of resurrection and heaven), of truth (God's word is true and reliable), of promise (he rewards those who seek him), of immortality (God gives everlasting life), and the good news of salvation (liberty from sin and freedom to live as sons and daughters of God). The gospel is the power and wisdom of God: power to change and transform our lives and wisdom to show us how to live as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit the Lord makes it possible for us to receive his word with faith and to act upon it with trust.
In announcing the good news, Jesus made two demands: repent and believe! Repentance requires a life-change and a transformation of heart and mind. The Holy Spirit gives us a repentant heart, a true sorrow and hatred for sin and its consequences, and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future. The Holy Spirit gives us grace to see our sin for what it is – rebellion and a rejection of the love of God. God’s grace helps us to turn away from all that would keep us from his love. Faith or belief is an entirely free gift which God makes to us. Believing is only possible by grace and the help of the Holy Spirit who moves the heart and converts it to God. The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the mind and makes it easy for us to accept and believe the truth. To believe is to take Jesus at his word, to believe that God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to redeem us from the slavery of sin and death. God made the supreme sacrifice of his Son on the cross to bring us back to himself. Do you know the love of God that surpasses all else and that impels us to give him our all? God wants to change our way of thinking and transform our lives by the power of his word.
Jesus chose as his closest friends and co-workers those who were ready to follow as his disciples and he gave them an unusual mission – "to catch people for the kingdom of God". What kind of disciples did Jesus choose? Smelly fishermen! In the choice of the first apostles (Peter, Andrew, James and John) we see a characteristic feature of Jesus' work: he chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, had no wealth or position of power or prestige in society. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special marks of distinction or social ranking. Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would become under his direction and power. When the Lord calls us to be his disciples and co-workers, we must not think we have nothing to offer him in exchange. The Lord Jesus takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and he enables us to accomplish great things for his kingdom. Do you believe that God wants to work in and through you for his glory?
Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will "catch people" for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the gospel. Paul the Apostles says, "But thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 2:15). Do you show others around you the joy of the gospel and do you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives that they may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the knowledge of his love?
"Lord Jesus, your ways are life and light! Let your word – the good news of the Gospel – penetrate my heart and transform my mind that I may see your glory and truth. Help me to follow you and do what is pleasing in your sight".
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall
I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of
whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD!