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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

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Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

“Come, Follow Me,” Jesus Said - January 26, 2020 - Third Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 4:12-25

Today we move back into the Gospel of Matthew where we are privileged to have Matthew show us more prophecy fulfilled. Remember, one of Matthew’s goals is to show us that Jesus is the promised Messiah and he does that by his constant reminder that what Jesus is doing is done to fulfill what the prophets have said the Messiah would do. If you were listening close to the readings of the Old Testament lesson and the Gospel lesson you may have noticed that parts of them sounded the same. Both lessons point out that “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.” If we took the time to sit down and think about it, and if we did not know what we were reading, if we did not know when it was written, we might imagine that these words were spoken to us today. How much more pointed can Isaiah’s words be, especially as we live in a world in which our own country is at war against terrorism and we have military troops stationed throughout the world for our protection. Even more, daily we are told of events of robbery, murder, abortion, adultery, fornication, and all other forms of evil which are rampant in our own country and world today. We are living in the land of the shadow of death, physical death and apart from faith in Jesus, eternal death. We would be in despair if it were not for the good news coming from the Gospel words from our text, “on us a light has dawned.” That light that has dawned we know is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and with Him we have forgiveness. I said, one of Matthew’s goals is to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. I believe a second goal and really a goal for us today is that we take Jesus seriously, and yes, all that it means to take Him seriously.
 
As we move into our text for today we begin with Matthew’s persistence of showing us more prophecy being fulfilled. We begin with verse twelve, “12Now when [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16the 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’” (v. 12-16).
 
Matthew begins by explaining Jesus’ move, from Nazareth to Capernaum, by telling us that it happened after John had been put into prison. At this point the ministry of John the Baptist comes to an end and the ministry of Christ Jesus is shifted into high gear. Jesus’ move was because of John’s imprisonment, but it was also a move to make it better for Him to be able to reach more people. Jesus moved to Capernaum because it was on the trade route on the Sea of Galilee, in other words a lot of people from around the world came through this place, thus, this was a prime place for teaching, preaching and healing. This was a prime place for reaching many people with the good news that the Kingdom of Heaven was near.
 
Jesus’ move to Capernaum was not just so that He could reach more people, it was also a move to fulfill today’s Old Testament lesson from Isaiah, “1But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (9:1-2)
 
Jesus’ move was a move to call the people out of the darkness of sin, death and the power of the devil. Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God and so He came as a Light for the kingdom of God. Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God and to call us out of our darkness of sin, death and the power of the devil.
 
At first we might not think much of this one person, Jesus, as being able to do much, much less than be a light for the world, however, one light can do a lot. If you have ever been in a cave where there is no light and turned out all the lights, it is very dark. Yet, if you light one little match, it lights up a lot. And here we are talking about Jesus, God in flesh, who is able to do more than we might think or imagine. Yet, at this time He is merely working to usher in the kingdom of Heaven.
 
Continuing on in our text, Matthew shifts to the calling of the disciples. Matthew tells us that Jesus called the first four disciples to make them apostles. We pick up reading at verse eighteen, “18While walking 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. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21And 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. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (v. 18-22).
 
Last week we heard how Andrew had been hanging around Jesus to see if He was the Christ, the Messiah and after doing so he was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. The first thing Andrew did was to tell his brother Simon Peter that they had found the Messiah. The natural order then is what happens in our text, Jesus comes to call Simon, known as Peter and his brother Andrew to be His very close disciples, and to give them a special call as His apostles. Jesus tells them, “I will make you fishers of men.” These are words to which these two fisherman could readily relate. They knew about catching fish, now Jesus would teach them how to “catch” people for the kingdom of God. And if you are wondering, the difference between a disciple and an apostle is this, anyone who is a believer and follower of Jesus, who is learning from and about Jesus is a disciple. You and I are disciples of Jesus. Yet, Jesus specifically chose and set apart twelve to be apostles, those sent for a specific purpose.
 
Jesus also calls James and John, the sons of Zebedee. These two brothers were business partners in the fishing industry with Peter and Andrew. They, too, knew the fishing business quite well and now Jesus would teach them how to “catch” people for the kingdom of God. Now Jesus would make them His apostles as well.
 
You may have noticed that I skipped verse seventeen earlier because this verse and the last verses of our text give us insight into Jesus’ preaching. Verse seventeen and twenty-three to the end of our text read, “17From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (v. 17). “23And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan” (v. 22-24).
 
Jesus began to preach, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus’ words were very similar to the words of John the Baptist, who you might recall, also preached, “repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus preached the word of which He was the fulfillment. The kingdom of heaven was near, it was right there being ushered in by Jesus Himself. Jesus preached the word, “repent” which literally  means to change one’s mind. To repent meant for a person to change their mind about sinning, to turn one hundred-eighty degrees in the opposite direction of sinning, to turn from living in the darkness of sin, in the land of the shadow of death and to move to living in the light in the kingdom of heaven.
 
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching, preaching, and healing. He took the good news to the people. He did not wait for them to come looking for Him. Although, as the people began hearing Jesus’ Word, seeing the miracles He performed, being fed by Him, and so on, they began to flock after Him so much that He had little or no time to Himself. And after the Jewish leaders heard Him, they threw Him out of their synagogues so He had to do His preaching, teaching and healing out in the countryside.
 
Interestingly enough, Jesus continued to show Himself to be the Christ, by His teaching, preaching and healing. It is the Gospel writer, John, who persists in showing us that Jesus is the Christ by the signs and miracles He performed. Here Matthew, without using the words, “These things were done to fulfill what was said through the prophet,” shows us that Jesus is the Christ, by His teaching, preaching, and healing.
 
As we move further into the twenty-first century, four weeks already here into 2020, we are reminded by Matthew, that Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God. This means that we are now living in the kingdom of God. Even so, while we are living on this earth we continue to face the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. We continue to face the temptation to be about our business in this world as if this is all we have, forgetting about our life in heaven, literally not taking Jesus seriously.
 
Thus today, Jesus continues to call us to repentance. He calls on us to repent of neglecting His Word and Sacraments, and lest we think that these words do not apply to us who are here today, we need to remember that even at our best we are still not perfect. Jesus calls us to repent of neglecting to help and befriend, to speak well of and stand up for, to put the best construction on everything. He calls us to repent for neglecting to speak out and stand up against the sins of this world. He calls us to repent of being tolerant of sin. He calls us to repent for the many times we have gone along with the thoughts of this world, that I am not my brothers keeper and that what a person does is no one’s business but their own.
 
Jesus calls us to follow Him. He calls us to go against the ways of this world, to follow Him in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. He calls us to believe in Him, to strengthen our faith  in Him through making regular, every day and every Sunday, and diligent use of the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. He calls on us to remain faithful to Him, through all of life. And not only does He call on us to follow Him, He moves in us to answer His call.
 
Jesus comes to us in our world today to bring healing. He comes in our world to rescue us from sin, death and the devil. Of course, all this He has already accomplished through His own death on the cross, but He comes to us to make His achievements ours. He comes to make His death our death. He comes to make His resurrection our resurrection. He comes to make His work on the cross our own personal salvation. He comes to give to us personally the gifts that He has to give, the gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
 
Jesus gives us His gifts through the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments. He comes to us through these means, which means that apart from these means there is no being given His gifts. That is why it is so important that we make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, so that we may be given the gifts that Jesus has to give to us.
 
Jesus was born into this world to shine through the darkness of sin, death and the devil, to give us the way to eternal life. By His fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies, He has shown Himself to be who He said He is, and by His teaching, preaching, and healing He comes to us to give us the gifts of life, eternal life and salvation. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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