Matthew 4:12-25 – The King Goes Fishing

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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-
tiles—

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 heJesus calls the disciples by the sea 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. Isaiah 9 out of darkness into lightWhen 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.From Darkness to Light Cross

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.

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John 1:29-42 – Holy Thief

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John 1:29-42—The next day he [John the Baptizer] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Passover Lamb 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dear saints, you could contemplate the first words out of John the Baptizer’s mouth for the rest of your life, for the rest of eternity, and still not exhaust them. “Behold, Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is Jesus.

We look around this world, and we find sin. We look at the news, and we find sin. We look at the internet and our Facebook pages, and we find sin. We look at our home life, and we find sin. We look at how we treat our families and friends, and we find sin. We look at our marriages, and we find sin. We look at how we raise our kids, and we find sin. We look at how we spend our time, and we find sin. We look inside ourselves, and we find sin.

Sin and evil and death are all around us. But wherever we find sin, we are to find Jesus.

Jesus is this Lamb who took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. But we refuse to believe this. We insist on taking this honor – yes, honor – away from Jesus. We think it is dishonorable for the holy Son of God to bear all the world’s sin. However, when we do this, we become even worse. We take hold of our sin that sin becomes even stronger. We try to justify ourselves and the sin we have committed. We hold up a shabby bit of improvement in whatever area of our lives even though we have ignored all the other ways in which we have sinned against God.

To show us our sin, God has given His law. God has told you how you should live. God has shown you what you should do and what you should not do. God has given His Commandments to show you what you are, and here is the verdict: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Ro. 3:10-18).

God’s Law lays a heavy burden upon you. Your sin is at your throat. The Law has saddled you with your every failure. No amount of good works or pious living will lessen the load of your sin.

Like Isaac, you ascend the mountain with Abraham (Gen. 22:1-14). The wood of your sin is laid on your back, the fire of judgment is in hand, but there is no animal for the sacrifice. And so you ask your heavenly Father, “I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” You are bound, set upon the wood, and the knife rises over you.

But just as the knife comes down to kill, there is Jesus. You unexpectedly find the Sacrifice caught in the bush. You discover the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus says to you, “You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute. You have not sinned, but I have. The entire world is in sin. However, you are not in sin; but I am. All your sins are to rest on Me and not on you” (Luther). He is willing to become your servant, willing to be your sacrifice. Jesus was slaughtered, roasted on the cross, and eaten (Luther).

Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is the Holy Thief. He takes what is not His, the sin of the world, and claims it all as His own.

Jesus sees the sin of the world, and He does not, He cannot, remain idle. Jesus confesses all the sin of the world before God, and God lays on Christ the iniquity of us all (Is. 53:6). The Lord strikes Jesus for those sins (Is. 53:8).

Brother and sister, do not doubt that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is the Gospel message. This is your salvation.

The Law says that sin lies upon you. But when you see sin surrounding you, overwhelming you, and engulfing you, remember Jesus says that your sin is His.The Lamb of God

When Satan comes to accuse you, remember this. Tell him, “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Jesus says that He has taken those sins from me. Go talk to Christ about those sins; they are His now. The Lamb has stolen my sin.” Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Matthew 3:13-17 – Jesus, You Come to Me?

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Matthew 3:13-17—Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”Baptism of Christ 1

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus keeps doing unexpected things. Last week, we saw the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple. Mary was upset that He had stayed behind in Jerusalem putting herself and Joseph through torture. Jesus responds, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my heavenly Father’s business.” With such a response, you would expect Jesus to leave Mary and Joseph behind, begin living on His own, and starting His ministry. Instead He does the unexpected. He returns to Nazareth and is submissive to Mary and Joseph.

Now in Mt. 3, we fast-forward to thirty-year-old Jesus. Maybe, He has matured to be more conventional and predictable, but no He continues to do the unexpected.

John has been preaching out in the wilderness, “Repent for the reign of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2). All sorts of crowds were coming to John the Baptizer confessing their sins and being baptized. And John points the people away from himself and to Another, to Jesus.

John preaches, “I am baptizing you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will cleanse His threshing floor and will gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire” (Gibbs’ translation of Mt. 3:11-12). But what happens next is unexpected.

Jesus arrives in the wilderness. He comes to the banks of the river Jordan, the place where the sinners are coming in response to John’s preaching, “Repent.” Does Jesus come to baptize with the Holy Spirit? Does He come bringing with His winnowing shovel and that unquenchable fire? No. Instead, Jesus unexpectedly comes for the same reason all those sinners are coming – He comes to be baptized by John.

This is shocking because Matthew has told us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy, “’Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Mt. 1:22-23). The angel tells Joseph that the Child’s name shall be Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins.”

This Jesus, Yahweh with us to save us from our sins, appears among sinners, and what does He do? It’s not what John expected, and it’s not what we would expect God to do either. Jesus stands side by side with sinners in order to be baptized.

John is appalled. John tries to prevent Jesus. “Hang on here Jesus, I am the one who needs to be baptized by You, yet You are the one coming to Me?”

John’s preaching was directed to sinners who needed to repent of their sins. The sinners needed to be baptized in order to enter into the community of God’s people. Why does Jesus come? Does Jesus need to repent? Does Jesus need to be converted? Does Jesus need to be brought back into the people of God? Of course not! And John knows all of this.

Jesus, in essence, tells John, “Allow it, let it be, for now, for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” What righteousness is Jesus talking about? Many places in the Old Testament, but especially Ps. 71 equates God’s righteous acts as the saving deeds of God. Ps 71:15 15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day (also Ps. 71:2, 16, 19, 24). Jesus, the sinless Son of God, comes to be baptized for sinners to fulfill all righteousness because He is your Savior who bears your sins.

Jesus' BaptismJesus’ baptism works backwards compared to yours. In your baptism, your sins were washed away (Act. 22:16; Heb. 10:22). But Jesus’ baptism put your sins upon the Son of God. Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan which were filled with the sins of the people who had been baptized by John. Jesus took a bath in your dirty bath water. Jesus does the unexpected; He comes to you, sinner.

As sinners, we have this false conception that we need to move up because God cannot move down. We think that the separation caused by God’s holiness needs to be bridged by us. We think we need to clean up our act and get our life straightened out so we can come to God. But that will never work.

Covered in the slime of our sins, we will never be able to clean up enough. Filthy rags of works-righteousness don’t clean the piles of dung that are our sinful lives.

Jesus does the unexpected; He comes to you. Jesus choses to identify with sinners instead of with God. Jesus comes to us in the likeness of sinful flesh (Ro. 8:3). He does not count equality with God a thing to be grasped and empties Himself.

Jesus takes everything that has gone wrong with us – our sins – upon Himself. Jesus, the pure Son of God becomes the greatest sinner. He does this to fulfill all righteousness to bring salvation to you.

Jesus is the Servant of God described in our Old Testament text (Is. 42:1-9). Jesus brings justice to the nations without breaking a bruised reed or quenching a faintly burning wick. He will not be thwarted until He establishes justice on the earth. He comes to us sinners as a light. He opens our blind eyes; brings us prisoners out of the dungeon and the prison of darkness. Isaiah goes on to tell about this Servant of Yahweh: Though Jesus does no violence, God’s will is to crush Him. Jesus bears our iniquities to make us accounted righteous (Is. 53:9, 11).

As Jesus comes up from the sin-filled waters of the Jordan River, the heavens are opened, and the Spirit of God descends and rests upon Jesus. The voice of God speaks, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

God is certainly pleased with His Son, Jesus. But how can you know if God is pleased with you? Sinner, you stand naked before a holy God in all your sinful ugliness and He in all His perfect holiness with no buffer in between. It is not a pretty picture.

However, at the right hand of the Father, sits Jesus. Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush. He doesn’t give you a list of things to do to make your nakedness less appalling. Instead, Jesus looks down at the nail holes in His hands and feet and says to the Father and the Spirit, “This is what gives him holiness before Us. He is mine. In his baptism, he was with Me in My death. Therefore, He will never die again.” Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

Luke 2:40-52 – Finding the Jesus You Thought You’d Lost

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Luke 2:40-52—And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.Jesus in the Temple Twelve

Before we really dive into this text, I believe it is incumbent upon me to make one very important observation: Parents, this text proves that even if your kids were perfect and sinless like Jesus, you would still be stressed out. Press on.

This text is unique as it is the only time in all of the Gospels where we are given a glimpse into the life of Jesus as a child. The vast majority of the four Gospels deal with about 3.5 years of Jesus’ 33 years on earth, and a significant chunk of that focuses on one week – Holy Week. So why does Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, include this account that is at least mildly embarrassing for Mary and Joseph, the parents of the Messiah? Well, this event becomes the theme of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

For twelve years, Jesus has lived with His parents being perfectly obedient to them. He listened to the Scriptures in the synagogue and became filled with wisdom. This Passover is significant for Jesus because He is twelve years old; in other words, Jesus was considered to be spiritually mature. On top of that, twelve years old also places Jesus on the threshold of becoming an adult.

The family journeys up to Jerusalem. Large groups of people would travel together to go to the feasts. After celebrating God’s deliverance, Mary and Joseph’s caravan of friends, neighbors, and relatives leaves Jerusalem. They would all be spread out, some traveling more quickly and others more slowly. People in the caravan knew where they would meet and camp. But when everyone assembled at the meeting place, Mary and Joseph don’t find Jesus.

I would guess that every parent knows the panic of not knowing where your child is, even if it is only for a few seconds at a playground or in a store.

Imagine traveling for a whole day and realizing your child is not with you. And this is not any child; Mary and Joseph both know that this Child is the Son of God who will save His people from their sins. They had been entrusted with raising Him, and now He is lost. Though it was only for a moment, even Mary and Joseph failed at being parents.

Jesus is gone. Mary and Joseph experience the hellish terror of losing a child. They are apart from Jesus. To be without Jesus is hell, even when that Jesus is only a twelve-year-old boy. He is the Savior of the world. Whenever we are without Him, we are in hell – eternally suffering in our sin, eternally dying.

Mary and Joseph lost Jesus, and we do too. We lose Jesus often. We take our eyes off of Jesus and become distracted with many things. We worry and fret about what we see in the news. We fuss about our bank and credit card statements. We pester ourselves with planning for the unforeseeable. And we stew about our health problems. We focus on how we are doing in every area of our lives – our social skills, our parenting, our mariages – we look at all these things and we see our many failures. We let the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh distract us and lead us far, far away. We lose Jesus.

But Jesus is never lost. He is always right where He has promised to be.

After three days, Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple. They are amazed and in wonder at finding Jesus sitting among the teachers listening to them and asking them questions. Imagine their shock and amazement and joy at finding their Child, not playing baseball or video games, but sitting and talking with pastors and spiritual leaders.

Even in her joy, Mary is somewhat dumbfounded. In her emotional mix of relief and irritation she says, “How could You do this to us? Your father and I have been torturing ourselves searching for you.” And Jesus, you have to love this especially from a twelve-year-old boy, calmly answers, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”

Now, this translation is debated. Literally, Jesus says, “I must be in the things of My Father.” Jesus doesn’t say exactly what ‘things’ of His Father He needs to be in. Every translation fills in the blank for us. Most English versions will translate this, “in My Father’s house.” But the King James does a better job I think when it translates Jesus as saying, “in My Father’s business.”

Jesus is never lost. He must always be doing His Father’s business.

Even Jesus’ word must here is significant, especially in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus talks a lot about the things He must do: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God” (Lk. 4:43); but most importantly five times Jesus either directly or indirectly says that He must suffer, die, and be raised on the third day (9:22; 13:33; 17:25; 22:37; 24:44). Even when Jesus does what He must do and “gets lost” in death, He is right where He has promised to be.

You see this event of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus is very similar to the scene Easter morning (Lk. 24:1-11). A small caravan women arrive at the empty tomb expecting to find Jesus, but He is nowhere to be found. For Mary and Joseph, Jesus was lost in Jerusalem for three days, and for the women, Jesus was lost in death for three days. Mary and Joseph are asked why they were searching for Jesus, and the women are asked why they are searching for the living among the dead.

But Jesus is never lost. Jesus is always where He has promised to be. And He is always asking us, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s business: dying and rising and forgiving your sins?”

Communion Cross with JesusJesus is still doing His Father’s business, working in His Word and Sacraments. When you lose Jesus, remember that it’s not Jesus who is lost. Jesus will always be found where He has promised to work. That means Jesus is here through His Word. He is here in this bread and here in this wine doing His Father’s business of removing your sins from you.

If it is possible for Mary and Joseph – the people chosen by God to care for Him – to lose Jesus  than you certainly can lose Him too. Too often we assume that we can bring Jesus with us on our own business. And eventually we get the sense that we are far from Him, but it is not because He has moved.

Go and search. When you look in the right places – His Word and Sacraments – you’ll always find Him. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forever. Amen.