The people who were in darkness saw a great light
Matthew 4:12-25 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was 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 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 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. 24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
As we closed out last year looking at Revelation and the coming kingdom of heaven, we saw that even the events of the Great Tribulation are not intended as punishment, but rather so that sinners would repent. Now, as we look at today’s text and the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry, it says: Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In John 8:12 Jesus says: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Repentance is choosing to walk in the light rather than in darkness. A person cannot walk in the darkness with the light. It is turning from darkness to the light. 1 John 1:5-9 says: God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The message of repentance is not preached by many today. Instead, people are encouraged to come to God for His benefits. The message of grace has somehow replaced the call to repent. It is not that we don’t come to Christ just as we are, but we cannot come to Him and remain as we were. Ephesians 2:8-10 says: By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. If we are truly saved by grace, we will walk in the good works that God has prepared for us and prepared us for. We will not continue to walk in darkness. In Isaiah 5:20 God says: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! God did not make sin acceptable by grace. By grace we are changed, cleansed from sin so that we are acceptable to God.
The text says: “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.” There was a noticeable difference, a contrast between light and darkness, when Jesus was present. In the same way, there should be a noticeable difference in our in our lives if Jesus is present; if we are walking with Him. For far too long many Christians and even much of the church has allowed the culture to influence how we live. We have allowed the darkness to influence and permeate our lives rather than being the light that dispels the darkness. In Matthew 5:14-20 Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” If we allow the darkness to dictate how we act, what we say and what we do, we by our agreement with darkness, teach others that God has changed His mind about sin. Our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, because we have the righteousness of Christ if we walk with Him. If we walk with Him, then we must walk in the light, doing the good works of God, to His glory.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, may You so overwhelm me in Your light that there is no darkness left in me. I choose to repent, to turn from darkness to light; to no longer allow the world to influence me, but rather to be a light in the darkness of the world, through You and for You. Amen.