Matthew 4:12-25—Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so 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 Gen-
16 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.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
18 While 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. 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 And 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 And 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. 24 So 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. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
You have heard the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” but is it true? It often seems so. I graduated from seminary, but four months passed, and I still had not taken a call to a congregation. Needing to do something to help our dwindling bank balance, I traveled to Williston to work the potato harvest while Sarah and the kids stayed back in Minneapolis.
I woke up at about 4:00 AM to drive out to the farm where I would be staying. Once I was out of the city and in the country, it was pitch black. The loneliness of being away from family and the darkness of those pre-dawn moments mirrored how I felt – alone and without a job and without a prospect. However, after driving for about 15 minutes, a faint light started to break. The light grew quickly, and soon the sun creeped over the horizon and blasted my sleepy eyes. I couldn’t have gotten away from the blinding light even if I had wanted to.
I wish I could say that the quickness of that dawn inspired me. It didn’t. However, the darkness of being alone and unemployed did disappear as quickly and inescapably as the darkness of night. As I worked that potato harvest, I got a call from John to come and interview here at Christ the King.
The early church father, St. John Chrysostom, wrote, “For in truth the condition of men was at the worst before Christ’s coming.” The last two verses of Isaiah 8:[21-22], just prior to our Old Testament text which is also the portion quoted by Matthew, speak about the condition before Christ came, “They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”
But then Christ comes. When He arrives, the people dwelling in the darkness and in the shadow of death are unable to escape the light which is dawning upon them. Jesus bursts over the horizon announcing, “Repent, for the reign of heaven is at hand.” The announcement that God is beginning to work banishes the darkness and causes the shadows to flee.
The light comes. Jesus, Christ the King, announces the end of the darkness. But His first actions are different than what we would expect of God when He comes to bring His reign to earth. Jesus goes fishing for fishermen. As the light of the reign of heaven dawned upon the first disciples, Jesus speaks, “Come after Me.”
Andrew and Peter, James and John have no option but follow the Light and do as the Light of the world commands – they come after Him. That word of Christ calling out, “Come after Me,” is so powerful that it confiscates the disciples. In this way, the light overcomes and overwhelms the darkness.
No matter how dark and large a room is, if a small match is lit, the light will be noticeable from anywhere in that room. So it is with Jesus’ message, “Repent, for the reign of heaven is at hand. Come after Me.” The message has grown brighter and brighter throughout the centuries of church history. New voices are proclaiming the same message given first to the disciples. Those disciples became the apostles who took Christ’s message entrusted to them into all nations. They baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They have taught us all that Christ has spoken. And Christ’s promise, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” remains true.
I do not know what darkness surrounds you today. Maybe it is a darkness that has plagued you for decades, maybe the shadows of darkness are lengthening and just now creeping upon you. But whatever that darkness is, it is not stronger than the Light of Christ. Jesus is the true Light who gives light to everyone (Jn. 1:9). The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not and cannot overcome it (Jn. 1:5).
And even when it appeared that the darkness had fallen so thick and so black that even the apostles doubted, the Light shines again. Not even the death could extinguish the light that Jesus brings to this dark world.
Jesus is the light of the world who overcomes all darkness. His call to come after Him is for you, and you have no choice but to follow. To remain in the darkness is death and hell.
Jesus is not an accessory to make your life better or easier or more flashy. No. Jesus brings the reign of God to earth. Jesus has come and broken into this sinful world to reclaim and save it – He claims you through His Word and Sacraments. And Jesus will come again for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are His now and forever. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.