St. Matthew 4:12-25
January 26, 2014 AD
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 4th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
John and Jesus
When the Lord sends His Son into the world He does not send Him without a herald. Truly angels announced His nativity but it is the voice and finger of the Baptizer who points Him out and prepares the Way. Just as Elisha had his Elijah, so also Jesus has His John. The lesser prepares the way of the greater. The light of the prophet surrenders to the Light of the world as a flickering candle surrenders to the rising of the morning star. John must decrease and Jesus must increase. John is not the Christ but has been sent before Him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom rejoices greatly to hear His voice for His voice is the voice of love divine. His Words are the light of eternal life. The baptizer’s joy is now complete. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Thus also is John’s labor complete. He has pointed to the Lamb and He has prepared the way. His work is done. His joy is full. John must decrease. Jesus must increase. He is arrested and doomed to die a martyr’s death. He who preceded the Christ in conception, birth, and ministry, now precedes Him in prison and soon . . . death. Jesus will follow and Jesus will redeem, John and all who believe on His Name. For the Lord has sent His Son, not to condemn the world but to save it.
Dwelling in the Land of Darkness
With John in prison awaiting Herod’s henchman, Jesus withdraws to Galilee, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. He withdraws not to escape the wrath of a villainous king in Jerusalem, but rather to bring the light of the Gospel to those dwelling the land of the shadow of death. He goes to wage war against the darkness, to wield the sword of the Word in the deep shadows. He goes where the darkness hovers over the hearts of the people like a pall and they that dwell there suffer the torments of the adversary and their own conscience.
You see beloved, there is no light where there is no Jesus. Without Jesus and His gospel we are left in the deep shadows of this world, resigned to the blight of our own hearts. We are never more alone than when we are in the darkness. We know it. We feel it. In the darkness we cannot see. In the darkness we can only feel. Thus in the darkness we let ourselves be guided by our feelings. But our feelings are really more like gropings. Our gropings hurt and harm our neighbors as we abuse and are abused by others lost in the darkness. All we want is certainty but in the darkness we left to ourselves. And there is no certainty with ourselves. There is only arrogance or despair. Either the strong go about groping after others trying to find a way out, working to muster a glimmer of light on their own. Or everyone else, the others who are trampled upon by those trying to find a way out. These poor souls are manipulated and deceived with flattering words and optimistic thinking.
Whether its arrogance or despair neither will shine and both will eventually give way to fear. Darkness breeds doubt and doubt feeds fear. And fear trembles in the darkness because the heart doesn’t know what’s lurking around the corners, in the shadows, down the alleys. The heart has no certainty of what may come today, tomorrow, or ever after. This is life in the darkness. This is life in sin. This is life under the curse. This is your life apart from Christ. Only one thing is truly certain with such a life – “The wages of sin is death.” The darkness of your heart and this world is darker than you think.
But the gospel is all about good news. John’s preparations weren’t meant to further our dread but make the rough paths smooth. The coming of Jesus brings light to our dreary world because the coming of Jesus brings the Word made flesh. When Jesus appears in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali He preaches. His appearing is all about His preaching and His preaching is all about repentance. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand, near, as near as Jesus is near. Sin earns death and both sin and death meet their match in the King who preaches in Zebulun and Naphtali.
Where there sin there is death and where there is death there is darkness. And the world was never as dark as the day sin ravaged Jesus on the cross. On that day sin and death did their worst. They wailed, they raged, they spit upon and they lashed against. The fullness of their dread curse was unleashed on one man for all men, on Him for you, Christ Jesus for the world. No sin was left un-punished. No deed was left un-atoned for. On the tree Jesus became the curse to destroy the curse. In His death Jesus died to slay death once for all, once you and me and the world. The crowds they mocked Him. The disciples they were ashamed of Him. The Father abandoned Him. The soldiers they pierced Him. The darkness enveloped Him as the Daystar bowed low before Him. No light in the world except Him who is, was, and ever shall be the Light of the World.
In that darkness it seemed as though all hope was lost. The preacher was silent, the prophet was dead, the master was crucified. Yet the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not over come it, the darkness has not understood it, the darkness cannot conquer it. The Light scatters the darkness and on the third day, before the rising of the sun, the tomb was found to be empty. Christ is risen we hear the angel say. Risen in glory! Risen, never to die again! Risen, as the light and life of the world! Risen for you and me and all who would draw near, all who would hear the Word and follow the Savior by faith!
Call out of the darkness to the light of Christ
And so as Jesus goes about preaching repentance and the Kingdom’s nearness, so also does He go about calling the lost out of the darkness. Those hearing His voice follow Him with faith. Disciples’ ears are tuned to His Word. Where the Word is preached, taught, and confessed in its truth, there is Jesus shining light in the darkness, calling sinners to repentance, showing mercy the trampled, lifting up the downtrodden, binding wounded hearts and healing broken lives.
In the same way Jesus has called you, even by name. When you were baptized into Christ you were called out of the darkness. The Light of the Divine Word enveloped you as the water and word poured over you. Devils and demons, ghosts and evil spirits were literally chased away as Jesus took you to be His own dear child, gave into your heart His death and resurrection, and filled you with His Holy Spirit.
Called out of this world’s darkness you have been called into His marvelous light. His light is wherever He is. And He is wherever His Word is rightly preached, taught, and confessed. To be called into His light is to be called into His presence where Jesus’ words of absolution chase away the darkness of your sins. These Holy Words give you the certainly you desired but lacked when you were lost in the darkness. Therefore, dear Christians walk in the light as He is in the Light and theblood of Jesus will cleanse you of all unrighteousness.
Jesus and Me
Beloved in the Lord, as with John so also it is with us. Jesus must increase and I must decrease. Such is the life of repentance and faith. Where I would create my own certainty, establish my own light, live my own life, I must repent and allow Jesus to grow within me and my life. His Word is to shine in my heart and His life is to be my light and my salvation. Where there is no Word of Jesus there is no promise of Jesus’ presence and thus no light. There is light only in the Word of Jesus. And Jesus’ Word is found His Church among His people. Here in this place we gather before Him who is the light of the World so that His light shines on us and in us for our good and for His glory. And having thus lived in the light the day shall come when the morning star arises and never sets again. The day shall come when the darkness is no more and sin’s wages assumes its position as Christ’s footstool, when our bridegroom appears and gathers His bride from the far corners of creation. Yes, beloved having thus lived in the light of His Word the day shall come “when [we] will see his face, and his name will be on [our] foreheads. And night will be no more. [We] will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be [our] light, and [we] will reign forever and ever. (Rev 22:4-5 ESV)” AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!