The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
ďThe people who sat in darkness have seen a great lightĒ

Scripture: Matthew 4:12-17

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? John the Baptistís enemies had sought to silence him, but the gospel cannot be silenced. As soon as John had finished his testimony Jesus began his 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 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. The Old Testament prophets spoke of Godís promise to send a Redeemer who would establish Godís rule.  That time is now fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus takes up Johnís message of repentance and calls disciples to believe in the good news 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.  Godís 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.

"Lord, your ways are life and light!  Let your word penetrate my heart and transform my mind that I may see your power and glory. Help me to choose your ways and to do what is pleasing to you".


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(c) 2002 Don Schwager