17th January 2023
Read (Matthew 4v12-25)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
It was time to move from the ministry of John the Baptist to the ministry of Jesus Christ. John had come as the herald of Christ and his ministry had been completed but there was to be no retirement for John. Matthew tells us that John was arrested and as we will see later in the Gospel, John's death would come in a tragic way. In response to John's arrest Jesus headed north to a place called Galilee (v12). The move was a practical one as it removed the Lord from the gaze of Herod Antipas but it was also a move which fulfilled Scripture once more.
Matthew tells us that Jesus left Nazareth and lived in a place called Capernaum in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali (Zebulun and Naphtali were two of Jacob's twelve sons). The prophet Isaiah once decreed “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9v1-2)
Do you see Matthew's point? Galilee was seen as a place of darkness far from Judah and the temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah also refers to it as "Galilee of the Gentiles". In Christ's day the region was a mixed place but just over one hundred years later, Jewish people had largely disappeared from Galilee. Christ the light of the world had come and was shining in the place of great darkness. Christ had come and His good news was for Jew and Gentile alike.
As John left the scene, Christ began to preach saying "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (v17). I've heard far too many people saying that Christ's message was one of acceptance, love and peace. The same voices argue that Jesus was never judgemental and never one to mention sin. Brothers and sisters, do not be mislead. Christ came preaching the essential need of repentance for sin. True repentance is a Spirit worked grace where we understand the filth of our sin and the need for forgiveness. Repentance causes us to flee to Jesus and to fall at His feet seeking mercy.
The ministry of the Lord had begun but He wouldn't act as a lone ranger. Jesus called two fishermen to follow Him and to become "fishers of men" (v19). Simon Peter and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed Christ (v20) and they would soon be joined by two other fishermen James and John the sons of Zebedee (v21-22).
Christ and His followers went throughout the region of Galilee teaching in synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons (v23-24). Soon great crowds gathered and followed Christ coming to Him from Galilee and the Decapolis in the north and Jerusalem and Judah in the south (v25).
We can only imagine what it would have been like to have witnessed the ministry of Christ first hand. Imagine the joy of walking behind Him, witnessing every miracle and hearing His powerful teaching which was greater than anyone before or since. But we cannot go back in time and we are certainly not to be pitied. Every local church where the Scriptures are read and faithfully preached is a blessing to the local community that surrounds it and in those places there we will find Christ.
He continues to call humanity to repentance and faith and He still extends the hand of friendship to guilty sin soaked sinners. It will not always be this way but thanks be to God for this extraordinary day of grace. The Baptist prepared the way and he was followed by the Christ who still declares "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"
Q52 What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment? The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.