I. Into my life
II. Into this world
Matthew 4:12-23 12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, dear Christian friends,
Do you remember your child’s first word? Many people do. To hear that first intelligible word come out of your child’s mouth is a monumental event as it signals growth, maturity and wisdom.
Have you ever wondered what the baby Jesus’ first word was? Was it Abba, the Aramaic word for father or Immah, the Aramaic word for mother? Besides Jesus, probably only Mary and Joseph know the answer.
We hear so very little about Jesus’ childhood, so for the first thirty years of his life, all the words of Jesus recorded for us consist of his limited interaction with his parents after they found him conversing with the teachers of the law in the Temple and his conversation with John the Baptist at the time of his baptism. His first recorded public words are found in this text. Did you hear them when they were first read? Are they memorable? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Why these words? Shouldn’t it have been words like “for God so loved the world” or “it is by grace you have been saved”? While they are not the most memorable words, they were effective and insightful, a combination of law and gospel, the two main teachings of the entire Bible.
These words— and all of Jesus’ recorded words throughout all of Scripture— glow like a bright light in a dark room. They are inviting, informing, inspiring! Whether it is these words or any of the rest of Jesus’ teaching and preaching, they are a beacon shining into the dark recesses of our own sinful nature and into this world of darkness in which we live. Following the words of the song sung earlier, we fervently pray, SHINE, JESUS, SHINE! I. Into my life II. Into this world.
Sin and all its components— greed, hatred, idolatry, lust, selfishness, etc.— and all its companions— the devil and his dedicated demons as well as this wicked world— resided in each of our hearts from the time we were conceived in our mother’s womb and that sinful nature was a creepy, scary place of darkness, abounding with evil and wickedness. Unfortunately, it still is and still lives in us!
But now, as children of God, baptized with the simple water and saving Word, we have Christ living in us. He is a bright light! He is a beacon of hope! He is a boundless beam of forgiveness and love and salvation shining into our once-totally pitch-black hearts!
What a difference Jesus makes in our hearts and lives! He came to fulfill the law for us! He came to fight against Satan for us! He came to finalize our salvation!
Now we don’t have to do what Satan tells us to do! Now we can do what Jesus wants us to do! Now we don’t have to face the condemnation of our sins and spend eternity in hell! Now we can confidently anticipate a home in heaven forever!
But because we are not perfect and that sinful nature continues to work against us, we need Jesus’ words to tell us to “repent”. Hear him as he tells you today, and everyday as needed: “Repent of that arrogant attitude! Repent of that despicable deed! Repent of that wicked word!”
For, “the kingdom of heaven is near”! Jesus made us part of his kingdom of grace by bringing us to faith and he wants us in his kingdom of heaven for all eternity! So, continue to pray that Jesus continues to shine in your life! That is why you are here today, right? You know the power of his Word and Sacrament which are here to keep the light of salvation shining in your heart. You want his light to continue shining brightly in your life!
Jesus did his work not just for us but for all people! Look at the areas/individuals who received the light of his salvation through his teaching, preaching and healing: Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”… As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee…
Our prayer is not only that Jesus shines into our life with his forgiveness, love and salvation, but into this world as well because we know how dark it is, filled with every kind of evil! How can we expect him to do this? His three-year public ministry of preaching…teaching…healing is over and he won’t return to this earth until the final day of judgment, so we won’t depend on this.
Will he shine into the world miraculously? Can he shine a bright guiding star above his home in Bethlehem and bring in kings from across the globe to worship him? Absolutely! He did it once, he can do it again. But that is not something I am going to depend on.
He has told us how he wants to shine into people’s hearts throughout the world. He says he wants to involve us! He has instructed us to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mk 16:16) and “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). He says we are to “live as children of light” (Eph 5:8) and “let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:16).
This Epiphany season is all about Jesus making himself known as Savior of the world! We are almost halfway through it! What have you done to shine his saving light into the lives of others? What can you still do before this season ends or before your life ends or before this world ends? Which family member needs you to have that conversation about what happens to them after they die if they don’t know Jesus? Which neighbor needs you to do that kindly act so you can tell them why you did it and point them to see the Light of the world? Which missionary needs that extra special gift of your money to enable them to reach out to those you will never meet?
Shine, Jesus, shine! That is our ongoing prayer for our own lives that we might never lose sight of the forgiveness, love and salvation Jesus won for us. That is also our prayer that Jesus might lead us to shine his light into the lives of others that the whole world might shine with the light of his salvation!