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2006-02-12_Life Changing Ministry_Matthew 4.12-25

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Life-Changing Ministry

Matthew 4.12-25   |   Shaun LePage   |   February 12, 2006

I. Introduction

A.   Friday night, I went to my 25th high school reunion. I went to a Catholic high school—in fact, I went to 12 years of Catholic school. My senior year, our basketball team went to the final four of the Missouri state championships, so my teammates and I were given special honors during the homecoming game Friday night. After the game, I visited with my former classmates well into the Saturday morning hours. We had a wonderful time remembering our high school days and I had several opportunities to explain to my former classmates how I ended up as the pastor of a non-denominational Bible church. One young lady—who was one year younger than I—came up to me at the post-game party and began talking with me. I was a little nervous when I saw her coming because she comes from one of the most prominent Catholic families in Southwest Missouri. She is one of 11 children who are leaders in the Catholic community there. I assumed that when she got to the question, “What are you doing now?” and I answered, she would scold me. That happened at our last reunion. A lady chewed me out when I told her I was no longer a Roman Catholic. But what happened this time blew me away. She had already heard what I was doing and wanted to know all about it. As I gave her a brief job description, her face lit up. She said, “I think that’s wonderful!” She then began to explain that a friend in her workplace had invited her to take part in a Bible study. For some reason, she agreed to go and for the first time, she began to read the Bible for herself. As she spoke, it became evident that a “light had dawned” for her. She talked about how she now had a relationship with God instead of a religion. She said her prayer life has changed—for the first time, she was talking with God instead of babbling meaningless prayers. She told me of how she had been able to forgive someone who had hurt her deeply. Her self-description was of a woman who had been born anew—born again. A woman who had been blind—in darkness—and now she could see all that she had been missing.

B.    In Matthew 4:12-25, there is what—at first—appears to be a hodge-podge of details about Jesus. It is the first description in Matthew of the ministry of Jesus. As we take a closer look, it becomes clear that this is not a hodge-podge of details. It is the first look at the two major goals of Jesus’ ministry before the Cross. These two goals will reappear and reappear throughout the gospels, defining for us what our goals should be as well.

C.   Again, Matthew is answering the question, “Who is this Jesus?” In this passage Matthew tells us Jesus is “Light” and “Fisherman.” His message is “Repent!” and “Follow Me!”

II.   Body

A.   Matthew 4:12-25

1.    12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

a)    “Galilee.” John’s arrest prompted Jesus to begin His Galilean ministry. In other words, Jesus had spent some time in the south—in Judea—but John’s rejection signaled the beginning of Jesus’ rejection, but it was not yet time for Jesus to die, so He took His ministry north—to Galilee—for a time.

b)    “Zebulun and Naphtali” were the sons of Jacob. Zebulun was born of Jacob’s wife, Leah, and Naphtali was born of Jacob’s other wife, Rachel. In the time of Joshua, Zebulun’s descendents had become the tribe of Zebulun and the descendents of Naphtali had become the tribe of Naphtali. So, when Joshua led the people into the promised land and each of the tribes claimed a region of land, the tribe of Zebulun and the tribe of Naphtali set up house right next to each other in the same region—on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee in the north. In Jesus’ time, this whole region was simply called “Galilee.” “Capernaum” was a city right on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew tells us Jesus settled there when He left Nazareth—about 25 miles away. Matthew has two points in telling us all this:

c)    The key word in this section is “fulfill”. Again, Matthew is telling us that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. This is a constant theme in Matthew.

(i)   Here, Matthew tells us Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 9:1,2. This is a prophecy that tells us that “a great Light” would “dawn” in the “land of Zebulun and…Naphtali.” In the context of Isaiah 9, this “great Light” was none other than the Messiah.

(a)  The Apostle John described Jesus as “the Light”. John 1:4,5 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

(b)  “Light” illustrates God’s glory, God’s purity, God’s wisdom, God’s guidance. It illustrates Christ’s glory, Christ’s purity, Christ’s word and Christ Himself.

(c)  Jesus said in John 8:12, “…I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

(d) He said in John 12:46, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” In the context of our passage for today—Matthew 4—Jesus is telling us that those in darkness are those who do not know the Light. Those who do not know the Triune God of the Bible—unbelievers.

(ii)  But in other contexts, it’s clear that true believers can choose the darkness—in other words they can choose to live like those who are in darkness. They can choose sinful, immoral lifestyles.

(a)  1 Thessalonians 5:1-6: “1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”

(b) The obvious implication here is that we—the “sons of light”—are very capable of acting like those “in darkness.” Otherwise, he wouldn’t have to warn them to “be alert and sober.” Which takes us back to Matthew 4:17.

d)    What did the Light do when He dawned? He preached. In fact, He preached the same exact message John the Baptist had preached. Word for word. “…Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

(i)   This one sentence message was—no doubt—a summary of what Jesus preached. Matthew summarized Jesus’ preaching in this way to once again connect Jesus to John the Baptist. Jesus’ ministry fulfilled the prophecies of John, so Jesus continued to identify Himself with John.

(ii)  But don’t miss the significance of the message: “Repent!”

(a)  Jesus invited people to trust Him. In an evangelistic context, to “repent” means to turn away from whatever else a person is trusting and trust Christ. “Darkness” is the absence of light, so if a person is trusting anyone or anything other than Christ—no matter how spiritual it sounds or how intelligent it looks—it is darkness. It is not light. “Repent—turn away from darkness—for the kingdom of heaven is at hand—the Light King Himself has arrived.”

(b) Write this down: 1. Jesus gives light to those in darkness and says, “Choose Me.

1.     Don’t choose darkness. Don’t choose dead religion. Don’t choose self-destructive behavior. Don’t choose lies. Choose light. Choose a relationship with the King of kings. Choose a life that reflects that Light to the world. Choose truth. Choose Light.

2.     Jesus gives light to those in darkness and says, “Choose Me!” Write this under #1: We are called to reflect His light to those in darkness and say, “Choose Christ!”

2.    18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was 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 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.

a)    We know from John’s gospel that Peter, Andrew, James and John had already heard Jesus preach—they had spent time with Him. But they went back to fishing. Now, Jesus was calling them to commitment. They knew who Jesus was. They’d heard Him preach. It was time to decide whether they were going to fish or cut bait. This is what I want you to see: #2. Jesus gives ordinary people extraordinary work and says, “Follow Me!” Notice two colossal truths:

(i)   Jesus called His followers to make great commitments! He called His followers to completely reprioritize their lives—“Put Me first—above your business, above your family, above yourselves!”

(a)  In Luke 14:26, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

(b) In Matthew 10, Jesus sent out His twelve disciples to preach to the nation of Israel. Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, He said (yet) but start with the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He then told them they would be hated and persecuted. Let’s read verses 24-39 of chapter 10 to get a better picture of the kind of commitment Jesus asked of His disciples.

(c)   These men in Matthew 4 walked away from their livelihoods. James and John chose Jesus over their father! Jesus may ask you to do the same. Or, He may ask you to stay where you are. The point is that He calls His disciples to make Him their first priority. That’s the great commitment Jesus calls for!

(ii) Jesus called His followers to do great work! What does it mean to be “fishers of men”? Here’s a simple definition: Intentional pursuit of people for the kingdom.

(a)  Jesus intentionally went to Galilee of the Gentiles—He didn’t wait for the Gentiles to come to Nazareth. He went to them. He “let His light shine” (Matthew 5:16).

(b)  Jesus intentionally invited people to become followers—disciples. He intentionally invited these men to follow Him, then He spent time with them—teaching them, admonishing them, equipping them.

(c)   Paul told the Corinthians “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1; NIV). This is intentional discipleship.

(d) Listen to how Paul described his ministry to the Thessalonians: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. This is the intentional pursuit of people—intentionally calling people to follow Christ. This is the great work Christ calls His followers to do—to be “fishers of men.”

(iii)    Jesus called His followers to great commitment and great work! Extraordinary commitment and extraordinary work! His Church—His Body—should do no less! Write this under #2: We must offer ordinary people extraordinary work and say, “Follow Christ!”

b)    The rest of the chapter presents Jesus’ credentials for doing so.

(i)   Again, Matthew started out in vs. 12-17 by telling us that Jesus preached the gospel to unbelievers—including Gentiles. Then, Jesus called believers to follow Him in vs. 18-22. Next, we have the authentication of Jesus. In other words, “Matthew, if you’re going to tell us that this Jesus fulfilled prophecy and is the ‘Great Light’ and the ‘Great Fisher of Men’ who offers people the “kingdom of heaven” and calls people to make extraordinary commitment and to do extraordinary work, you’ve got to authenticate Him. You’ve got to show us some proof!” That’s exactly what Matthew did. Look at the rest of the chapter—verses 23-25.

(ii)  23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. 24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

(a)  Matthew reports that Jesus was “healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people…all who were ill…He healed them.” People from all over the country came and witnessed these things and followed Him. This was the fulfillment of prophecy. It was a taste of the kingdom as promised in the 35th chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah told us that in the kingdom, “…the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:5,6).

(b) But notice also that Jesus was “teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.” Why did Jesus do miracles? Why did God raise up miracle workers at various times in history? To authenticate the message—the Word of God.

1.     John 20:30-31.

2.      Acts 2:22

3.     Jesus did “miracles and wonders and signs” for a purpose—to authenticate, prove, demonstrate that He was and is the Son of God, the King of kings, the Messiah.

a.     Jesus came along “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” and His miracles showed that He knew what He was talking about.

b.    Jesus came along offering light to those in darkness and His miracles demonstrated that He was that “Great Light.”

c.     Jesus came along calling people to make extraordinary commitment and His miracles demonstrated that He was worthy of that commitment.

d.    Jesus came along calling people to do extraordinary work and His miracles prove that He is able to do supernatural, eternally significant, life-changing ministry through His followers.

III. Closing

A.   This passage is our introduction to the Life-Changing Ministry of Jesus Christ.

1.     He came as the “Great Light” and the “Fisher of Men.”

2.     He came to invite people to trust Him for salvation and then follow Him and grow up in their relationship with Him.

B.    Our ministry—if it is to be Life-Changing Ministry—is nothing more a continuation; a participation in the ministry of Jesus Christ.

1.     Jesus tells us we—His followers—are “the Light of the World” and that if we will “follow Him,” He will make us “fishers of men.”

2.     As His followers, we are to invite people to trust Christ and grow up in Him [PPT]. This is our purpose. Life-Changing Ministry is the work of Jesus and His disciples—His Church.

C.   The questions are obvious:

1.     Have you “repented” and responded to the “Great Light”? Have you trusted Christ for salvation? Are you trusting Christ for salvation? The “kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Trust the Light King.

2.     Will you follow Christ? Will you make the extraordinary commitment Jesus asks for? Will you participate in the extraordinary work He offers you? Follow the Fisher of Men.

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