IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




The Dawn of God’s King

Date: Oct. 25, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

Matthew 4:12-25

Key Verse: Matthew 4:16

“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.”

You can tell by all the commercials that it must be getting close to election season. And the 2016 campaign is already a mess. Scandals and problems for the candidates abound around every corner. Among them are: the Clinton campaign has the Benghazi and email scandals, Scott Walker had state employees working on his campaign while on government time and Trump is obnoxious and his company filed bankruptcy four times. It seems like none of the candidates are very honorable and worthy to be president of the United States. How often does it seem like we’re just voting for the lesser of two evils? There doesn’t seem to be anyone that draws us to them or that shine in the light, rather each one has their own form of darkness. On the other hand in today’s passage we’ll catch a glimpse of someone who not only shines like a light but actually dispels the darkness, a leader who draws us to himself, one who is worthy to be followed and a king we should desire.

Let’s take a look at the first part of our passage today, verses 12-16. “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew 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 of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 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.”” At this point in Israel’s history it has been dark for a long time. Now what do I mean by that? [they didn’t have lights? They hadn’t invented candles yet?] What I mean is, for a little more than 460 years there hasn’t been a prophet of God to proclaim his word. The last prophet was Malachi who died in 430 BC. Essentially God has been silent for nearly half a millennium. [that’s what I mean] And then all of a sudden, [bam] John the Baptist arrives on the scene. [its like a switch has been flipped on] He begins to preach the word of God so powerfully that people everywhere start to follow him out into the desert to hear his message. Voluntarily they begin to confess their sins and want to be baptized. He causes such a stir that everyone is wondering if he is the Messiah. [can he be the one we’ve been waiting for?] However not everyone likes to hear John’s message of repentance, especially those who don’t really have a connection to God. And the king, Herod, finally locks John up in prison. This event reveals just how dark the time of John and Jesus really is. When you can be thrown into prison just for telling someone to repent, the air is thick with darkness. But not only that, it’s politically dark because the people suffered living under the cruel oppression. Their country was occupied by Rome, they had abusive leaders and paid heavy taxes. The time was also spiritually dark because [as I said] there is no true word of God and the high level Jewish leaders are corrupt and very legalistic. And lastly the time is physically dark for the people were suffering from so many medical problems like; severe pain, demon-possession, seizures, paralyzation, and many other diseases. The people were truly living in darkness.

As we heard last week in Mike’s message Jesus went out into the desert to be tempted. After Jesus returns from his battle with Satan in the desert he went home to Nazareth filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. (Lk 4:14) But Matthew writes that Jesus left Nazareth, why? We find out in the book of Luke what happened. When Jesus came back from the desert, he was a different man, he had made the transition from a carpenter to a preacher. And in a short time news about him spreads all over the whole countryside about his powerfully teaching in the Synagogues. At first everyone is amazed by him and they speak well of him. But then on one particular Sabbath after reading a passage from the prophet Isaiah about the Messiah’s ministry of preaching and healing and meeting every human need, Jesus stands up and says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” (Lk 4:20) and he’s essentially proclaiming that he’s the Messiah. The people are stunned and began to grumble saying, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” In response, Jesus rebukes their unbelief and all of a sudden the people react in fury and they force him out of the Synagogue and began to drive him out of town. They even try to throw him off a cliff but he does his Jedi mind trick and walks right through the crowd. (Lk 4) Jesus went to his hometown people so they could be the first ones to hear the message of salvation and instead of accepting him, they and were filled with indignation and they reject him. After John’s imprisonment and his hometown’s rejection, Jesus no longer has a reason to stay in Nazareth and so he goes to a new town. Capernaum was larger and more significant than Nazareth and strategic in its lakeside setting on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter, who we meet in this chapter, happens to live in Capernaum and this becomes Jesus’ home base of operations.

Here we find Matthew connecting Jesus’ transition from Nazareth to Capernaum as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 9:1-2. (This was whole point in writing his book was to show how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy) It’s here in the small details of God’s word that I find so interesting. Looking at this map you’ll see that Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the tribes of Israel and this is the land where they settled. And from this different map you can see that both of them make up Galilee. (I don’t know if you’ll remember this from our 2 Kings study but) The prophet Isaiah first spoke these words when the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III, attacked the northern nation of Israel in 732 BC. The people were under heavy oppression but Isaiah said that they would see a great light and that Galilee would be honored. Little did they know that Isaiah’s words had dual meaning and point to Jesus nearly 500 years in the future. If you look closely at both of these maps you’ll see that Nazareth is in Zebulun and Capernaum is in Naphtali and both are in Galilee. [I think that is pretty neat]

Let’s take a closer look at Isaiah’s prophecy specifically verse 16 here in our chapter. Earlier I mentioned a little bit about the people living in darkness but let’s go a little deeper into it. When I say people living in darkness in the shadow of death, what comes to your mind? [give time to respond] Usually we think about some kind of oppression. Maybe something like the Jews during world war II. Certainly war is brutal. In the seven year period between 2007 & 2014 did you know that 21,415 civilians were killed in Afghanistan. That comes out to 3060 per year or about 8 people killed every day. These are not soldiers, these are innocent people that were killed. That’s oppression. During this same period there were 81636 people killed. [11662 /day or 32 per day] [picture] That is terrible, but did you know during that same time period 164345 people were killed in the drug wars in Mexico. That comes out to 23478 per year or 64 people a day. That’s 1 person every half hour for seven years straight. We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the devastation in Syria and how ISIS has been oppressing the people so badly that so many are fleeing to Europe. [picture] It’s been terrible. But this is nothing new, did you know back in 1991 people were also fleeing Albania going to Italy. [picture] These may some modern examples of people living in darkness. Living in America, we don’t experience such darkness. We think waiting for an elevator only to find jam packed, or sitting in traffic is like the shadow of death. [picture] Well, maybe this traffic jam that took place in China earlier this year, it lasted 9 days. [all that traffic is going 1 way]

Another example of people living in darkness would be people living in sin. Some may not even realize that they are living in sin, others do know it and prefer living in darkness because it hides all their bad deeds. They don’t like the light because it reveals who they really are. Like those who hide their sin – not wanting to struggle with it, may be even those who go to church on Sunday. Or what about the person who lives a mundane life, only concerned about their survival. They are like sheep with their head down looking at their food and eating and wandering and eating and wandering some more until over time they’ve wandered so far away that they’re lost and they may be in danger and not even know it. This is what it’s like when people lose sight of God and they become lost. This is real, I heard yesterday from a friend that his teenage son is in the hospital because he wanted to kill himself. People living in darkness don’t know God personally and they may think life without God is better than life with God.

In the Bible there is this concept of “Light” versus “darkness,” which refers to the knowledge of God or obedience to his word versus not knowing God or disobedience to his word. It’s a battle of good and evil, of light and dark. However what Isaiah saw that was revealed by God was the Messiah, Jesus would shine into the darkness and would light up God’s purpose and bring freedom to those who are oppressed. Jesus clearly says that he is “the light of the world.”(Jn 8:12) Jesus goes into all the dark places and shines his light. If you have ever been in the dark for a long time, your eyes get adjusted to it but when the light is turned on, you have to close your eyes until they adjust. Like a prisoner in solitary confinement and the cell door is opened, or the dawn of a new day the light brings a sense of hope and change.

Jesus is the light, the disciples were drawn to his light. Jesus’ message for those dark times is found in verse 17, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”” “From that time on” reveals a changing point in Jesus’ life. There are 3 changes in Jesus’ life: Here – Jesus begins his ministry, IN mt 16:21 – Jesus begins to talk about his death, and in Mt 26:16 – Judas looks for an opportunity to hand him over. Jesus wanted the people to know that repentance brings a time of refreshing and renewal. Jesus’ message was a continuation of John’s message. He wanted them to know that the kingdom of heaven, his kingdom, was so close to them. I remember a story about one of the first artic explorers, he was so close to his final destination but decided to camp for the night thinking he could get there in the morning but he never made it. He froze to death overnight. It was so close, within reach but he didn’t reach for it. The kingdom of God is so close, within reach, it’s a shame to not reach for it.

Next we see Jesus as he shines his light on his disciples. Their ordinary lives suddenly become extraordinary. [don’t you want your life to be extraordinary?] Jesus saw Peter & Andrew fishing, they have already encountered Jesus when Andrew was a disciple of John (John 1:35–41), so Jesus’ call is not as abrupt as might otherwise be imagined. Matthew nevertheless emphasizes their decisive response. Jesus related the gospel to what they were familiar with and could understand. The disciples were called to shine like Jesus and reveal him to the world. They were called to be fishers of men. Both sets of men, immediately leave what they are doing and follow Jesus.

Jesus heals the sick (23-25) Jesus’ ministry consisted of: Moving around throughout Galilee, teaching, preaching, and healing. Mark 1:30 tells us that Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law in Capernaum early in his ministry. Jesus’ teaching, preaching & healing ministry revealed his authority and who he is, namely the Son of God. Matthew left the private lakeside setting as Jesus’ public ministry gets underway. He travels throughout Galilee, preaching spontaneously to open-air crowds and making guest appearances in local synagogues (cf. Luke 4:16–17 for details). The message he preaches (v. 17) is “good news.” From which comes the English word gospel, which would become so linked with Jesus’ message in Christian circles.

Jesus truly is the message of good news because he is a leader that is worthy for us to follow. Who else can compare to him? Looking at the past and current political leaders, we can see how they fall short. Not many were worthy leaders. Some were good but not many. However, Jesus is worthy. He is the great light. He comes to save his people who are living in the shadow of death. He has authority to heal sickness and power over death. He doesn’t use his power to rule over people and serve himself. Instead he is compassionate and a shepherd for suffering people and ultimately he used his power to give his life to save us from destruction. Now I ask, what kind of leader do you want to follow?

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The Lord God Moves About Your Camp

Deuteronomy 23:1-25

Key Verse: 23:14

Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.

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