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Psalm 22:22-24 (Opening) 22  I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23  You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24  For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. Introduction The Bible is an interesting collection of books. It’s not really just one book, even though it’s usually bound into a single volume. There are different genres of literature in the Bible. There’s poetry, there’s historic narrative, there’s letters, and there’s prophecy. There are 17 books of prophecy in the Bible, 16 in the Old Testament, and one in the New Testament. But prophecy isn’t limited to the books that primarily contain prophecy. There’s prophecy scattered throughout the Old Testament. Not all prophecy in the Old Testament talks about the Messiah, but Matthew spends a lot of time in his Gospel pointing out Messianic prophecy that is fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Beginning of Light After Jesus was immersed by John, we’re told He went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and was tempted by the devil. None of the Gospels say which wilderness He went into. Remember, John was living in the wilderness of Judea, which is south and east of Jerusalem toward the Jordan river. Jesus may have been in that wilderness, or on the other side of the Jordan, which is about the same kind of area; hilly desert, with little or no vegetation, and about as much water. After He was tempted in the wilderness, Matthew tells us He returned home, but not long after that He started His ministry. Matthew 4:12-17 12 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 Gentiles— 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.” The Jews that Matthew was writing to would have known the tribal territories that were assigned when Israel conquered the Promised Land. Galilee was a large region, which included the areas of the tribes of Zebulon, Naphtali, Issachar, and some of Manasseh. The village of Nazareth is in the area assigned to Zebulon. Matthew tells us Jesus moved from His hometown of Nazareth to the relatively large fishing village of Capernaum, which is on the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum is in the tribal lands of Naphtali. Because of these two locations, and Jesus beginning His ministry there, Matthew quotes from Isaiah chapter 9 as a prophecy of the beginning of His ministry. Isaiah 9:1-2 1 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. Jesus’ ministry brought fame to the area around the Sea of Galilee. He attracted a lot of attention because of what He was doing and made the area north of the Jordan glorious in the eyes of many. It still is to a lot of people, because Jesus’ ministry started there. Jesus spent a lot of time around this area and traveling back and forth to Jerusalem. Think about how things were in this area. Capernaum was a fishing village, mostly Jews, but with some Gentiles mixed in. They were, of course, under Roman control, but Herod Antipas had local authority, basically a puppet king under Roman authority. Antipas was king of Galilee and Perea, the area to the east of the Jordan river, down to the Dead Sea. Living under Roman rule would have been considered living in darkness for the Jews. The Romans were over every aspect of their lives and extracted taxes as the occupying force of the area. Jesus was a Light in the area, showing the promise of God to the people who probably felt they had long been forgotten by Him. Jesus spent a lot of time in Galilee, gathering disciples from among the average people who lived there; fishermen, primarily. Peter, Andrew, his brother, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, lived in Capernaum and fished the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee to make their living. They left their fishing and followed Jesus in His ministry. Matthew 4:23-25 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, those having seizures, 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. Matthew shows the greatness of Jesus’ Light. Jesus attracted a lot of attention because of what He did. He traveled around Galilee and spoke in the synagogues. It wasn’t uncommon for a well-known, learned person who was traveling through town to be asked to read from a scroll and explain the scriptures he read to the congregation. But Jesus did more than that. Jesus healed people. Sick people; injured people; those possessed by demons; people with seizures; paralyzed people; if someone in the area heard about Jesus, they came or were brought to Him for healing. Like I said, Jesus made a big impact on the people in Galilee, so much so that His fame reached as far south as Jerusalem and beyond, and up north to Syria. Healing Jesus did more than heal people. He spent a lot of time teaching, and sometimes to really large crowds. Matthew chapters 5 through 7 are what we call the Sermon on the Mount. It’s possible this is a compilation of the things Jesus taught in Galilee, not something He taught in a single sitting, but it’s just as possible that the entire Sermon on the Mount was one lesson He taught to all the people that were gathered there. After He was done teaching, He returned to Capernaum. He healed a leper, and also met a Centurion on His return trip to Capernaum and healed his servant. Then, He went to Peter’s house. Matthew 8:14-17 14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Peter’s house seems to have been His home base when living in Capernaum. We can figure out a few things about Peter from these verses. First, Peter wasn’t poor. Peter lived in a house. And he didn’t live alone in this house, he lived there with his mother-in-law and we can assume with his wife, unless his wife had died. Peter’s wife is never mentioned, but here we see his mother-in-law living with him. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus continued His healing ministry by healing her, and then more people dealing with illness and demons came to Him for healing at Peter’s house. Matthew tells his readers that this is also a fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah. Isaiah 53:4 4  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. There’s a difference between what we read in our translation of Isaiah 53 and what Matthew wrote as the quote from Isaiah, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Our translation in Isaiah 53 is closer to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew bible. Matthew seems to translate the Hebrew on the fly as he writes about this prophecy, equating illness with griefs and diseases with sorrows. The Hebrew can be translated both ways. It’s possible that Isaiah was intending that when he wrote the prophecy down, so it can apply to both situations, Jesus’ healing ministry, and His sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Justice Jesus spent a lot of time traveling around Galilee and all around the Sea of Galilee, teaching and healing people. Wherever He met people who had a need, He would satisfy that need. Healing, possession, injury, whatever the problem was, Jesus resolved it. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Jesus healed a man with a withered hand in the synagogue. It wasn’t because of where He did it, or who He healed, it was because He did it on the Sabbath. Healing someone on the Sabbath was considered a sin, because it was work, and you are only supposed to rest on the Sabbath. When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, in front of everyone in the synagogue, the Pharisees were upset and started to conspire together how they could catch Him doing something bad enough to deserve death. Matthew 12:15-21 15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 18  “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19  He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20  a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21  and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” So, Jesus started telling people not to let anyone know He had healed them. I doubt this worked, because He was well known for healing people, so I’m sure when the Pharisees heard people were being healed, they knew it was Jesus who had done it. Matthew again refers to Isaiah to show fulfilled prophecy. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, He wasn’t quarrelsome, or loud or violent. He was gentle, and blessed everyone He came in contact with. One reason the Pharisees couldn’t use Jesus’ healing as a reason to arrest Him is because everyone who saw Him healing knew that He was able to do it because of the Spirit of God. To them, He was a prophet with the ability to heal, possibly The Prophet. But they weren’t sure. Matthew points to Isaiah 42 as a prophetic reference to what Jesus had done in this part of His healing ministry. Isaiah 42:1-4 42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2  He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3  a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4  He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. But there’s more here than He was doing during this time. The end of verse 1, for instance, says He will bring forth justice to the nations. Matthew translates that as Gentiles because it’s the same Hebrew word, goyim. Up to this point, Jesus hasn’t brought justice to the Gentiles. In fact, most of the Gentiles he came near respected the traditional Jewish stance that they couldn’t be in the same house as a Gentile, so they kept their distance; like the Centurion Jesus met on His way to Peter’s house in Capernaum. He knew he wasn’t worthy for Jesus to come into his house. But justice for the Gentiles was coming, because after His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In Greek, the word nations refers to ethnic background. The word is ethnos. It’s the same as goyim in Hebrew. It basically means everyone else who isn’t a Jew. Go and make disciples of them, too, not just Jews. That is Jesus bringing justice to all nations, or to the Gentiles. Mysterious But the problem with Jesus’ ministry was that He was becoming controversial. He was attracting a lot of negative attention from the people who were in political power in Jerusalem; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the rest of the Priests, and the Sanhedrin. The priests were primarily Sadducees, although not all of them, and the Sanhedrin was made up of primarily Pharisees, but again, not all of them. But because of the way He was healing people and blatantly going against the grain with the Pharisees and Sadducees, He had to change how He was doing things. So, Jesus started teaching using parables; stories about common everyday things and situations that could be understood to be referring to heavenly things, if you had a basic understanding of what Jesus had been teaching. When His disciples asked why He started teaching in parables, He replied by pointing to prophecy. Matthew 13:14-15 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Jesus was telling the disciples the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t get it, and most of them wouldn’t get it. But He knew the disciples would understand what He was teaching them. They may not have completely understood who Jesus was, but they understood more than the Pharisees and Sadducees did. Another reason why Jesus taught in parables was basically the same reason God shared information with Israel about the coming Messiah through prophecy. He was concealing His primary message. Just like when God spoke to Isaiah. Isaiah had just had a vision of God on His throne, with seraphim praising Him. Seraphim are a type of heavenly beings. Isaiah describes them as having six wings, two covering their face, two covering their feet, and flying with two. This vision terrified Isaiah, and he fell on his face and said he was a “man of unclean lips”. So, one of the seraphim flew to him with a burning coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips and proclaimed them clean. God asked who He could send out, and Isaiah volunteered. Isaiah 6:9-10 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10  Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” This is the scripture that Matthew tells us Jesus quoted to His disciples, applying it to the Pharisees and Sadducees. God told it to Isaiah referring to the people of Judah under king Uzziah. Jesus uses this prophecy to point out the lack of even the desire to understand His message on the part of many of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They knew the scriptures and should have recognized Him at least as a prophet who spoke God’s truth, but they closed their eyes and plugged their ears, figuratively. They chose not to understand what Jesus was talking about and why He was doing what He was doing. Matthew then introduces a series of parables that Jesus used to teach His disciples. Other people were there when Jesus told these parables, but like He quoted from Isaiah 6, those who had dull hearts, having no real desire to understand who He was and the truth that He was teaching, didn’t understand. Matthew 13:34-35 34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” Parables are like prophecies. They tell some spiritual truth, but they do it in a way that keeps the truth hidden from the individuals who aren’t supposed to understand. All the parables Jesus told revealed some sort of truth about the kingdom of heaven. Only the true Son of God could have known what He was teaching; but He taught it in such a way as to hide the information from those who were against Him. Matthew quotes from a Psalm here, and attributes it to a prophet. This particular Psalm was written by Asaph. Asaph was appointed by David to be a leader in the musical portions of the tabernacle and Temple worship. He was a Levite who would normally have worked in the Temple. David just applied Asaph’s talents to the musical aspects of the worship. Psalm 78:1-3 1  Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2  I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3  things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. Just like Asaph wrote, Jesus is telling parables that reveal ancient hidden truths. Jesus’ parables were like the prophecies that Matthew was pointing to throughout his book, ancient hidden truths that were finally revealed and fulfilled through the life of Jesus. Conclusion We, as followers of Jesus, have the same command that He gave His disciples before He ascended into heaven. We are commanded to go and make disciples of everyone. A disciple is a student, a follower, someone who learns from a particular teacher. In our case, that teacher is Jesus. We need to make disciples, immerse them, and then teach them to do what Jesus commanded us to do. If you’re not a disciple, a follower of Jesus, then we need to talk about how you can start following Him, and what you need to know to be immersed. Hebrews 2:10-12 (Closing) 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
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