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From darkness and death to light and life
Author Don Schwager – Scripture: Matthew 4:12-17,23-25 (for the Feast of Epiphany see Matthew 2:1-12)
12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
23 And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity 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, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
Meditation: Do you know the joy and freedom of the good news (Gospel) of the kingdom of God? John the Baptist’s enemies had sought to silence him, but the good news of God’s kingdom of salvation cannot be silenced. As soon as John had finished his testimony Jesus began his in Galilee. Galilee was at the crossroads of the world and much traffic passed through this little region. It had been assigned to the tribes of Asher, Naptali and Zebulum when the Israelites first came into the land (see Joshua 9). For a long time it had been under Gentile occupation (non-Jewish nations).
Jesus brings the light and truth of salvation to the world
The prophet Isaiah foretold that the good news of salvation would reach Jews and Gentiles in the “land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (Isaiah 9:1). Jesus begins the proclamation of the Gospel here to fulfill the word of God. The Old Testament prophets spoke of God’s promise to send a Redeemer who would establish God’s rule. That time is now fulfilled in Jesus who brings the light and truth of the Gospel to the world.
The “good news” brings peace, hope, truth, promise, immortality, and salvation
Jesus takes up John’s message of repentance and calls his hearers to believe in the good news he has come to deliver. What is the good news which Jesus brings? It is the good news of peace – the Lord comes to reconcile and restore us to friendship with God. The good news of hope – the Lord comes to dwell with us and to give us a home with him in his heavenly kingdom. The good news of truth – the Lord Jesus sets us free from the lies and deception of Satan and opens our mind to understand the truth and revelation of God’s word (John 8:32). The good news of promise – Jesus fulfills the promise of God to reward those who seek him with the treasure of heaven. The good news of immortality – Jesus overcomes sin and death for us in order to raise our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body which will never die again. And the good news of salvation – the Lord Jesus delivers us from every fear, every sin, and every obstacle that would keep us from entering his everlasting kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy.
The Gospel is the power and the wisdom of God – both power to change and transform our lives and wisdom to show us how to live as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit the Lord makes it possible for us to receive his word with faith and to act upon it with trust and obedience.
The Gospel demands a response of faith and obedience to God’s gift of salvation
In announcing the good news, Jesus makes two demands: repent and believe! Repentance requires a change of course – a turning away from sin and disobedience and a turning towards the Lord with faith and submission to his word of truth and righteousness (right living according to God’s truth and moral goodness). The Holy Spirit gives us a repentant heart, a true sorrow and hatred for sin and its bad consequences (the wages of sin is death – Romans 6:23), and a firm resolution to avoid whatever would lead us into sin. The Holy Spirit gives us grace to see our sin for what it is – rebellion and a rejection of the love of God. God’s grace helps us to turn away from all that would keep us from his love.
Faith or belief is an entirely free gift which God makes to us. Believing is only possible by grace and the help of the Holy Spirit who moves the heart and converts it to God. The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the mind and makes it possible for us to accept and to grow in our understanding of the truth. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we can know God personally and the truth he reveals to us through his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior is to accept God’s revelation of his Son as the eternal Word of God and the Redeemer who delivers us from the tyranny of sin, Satan, and death. God the Father made the supreme sacrifice of his Son on the cross to atone for our sins and to bring us back to himself.
Do you want to grow in the knowledge of God’s love and truth? Ask the Holy Spirit to renew in you the gift of faith, the love of wisdom, and the heart of a disciple who desires to follow the Lord Jesus and his will for your life.
“Lord Jesus, your ways are life and light! Let your word penetrate my heart and transform my mind that I may see your power and glory. Help me to choose your ways and to do what is pleasing to you.”
7 I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling
12 kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The true light of revelation to the Gentiles, by Chromatius (died 406 AD)
“The Evangelist commemorated in this passage the prophet’s words: ‘Beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light’ (Matthew 4:15-16) In what darkness? Certainly in the profound error of ignorance. What great light did they see? The light concerning which it is written: ‘He was the true light that illumines everyone who comes into this world’ (John 1:9) This was the light about which the just man Simeon in the Gospel declared, ‘A light of revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people Israel’ (Luke 2:32). That light had arisen according to what David had announced, saying, ‘A light has arisen in the darkness to the upright of heart’ (Psalm 112:4).
“Also, Isaiah demonstrated that light about to come for the enlightenment of the church when he said, ‘Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you’ (Isaiah 60:1). Concerning that light also Daniel noted, ‘It reveals the profound and hidden things, knowing those things which are in darkness and the light is with it’ (Daniel 2:22), that is, the Son with the Father, for even as the Father is light, so too is the Son light. And David also speaks in the psalm: ‘In your light shall we see light’ (Psalm 36:9), for the Father is seen in the Son, as the Lord tells us in the Gospel: ‘Who sees me, sees the Father’ (John 14:9) From the true light, indeed, the true light proceeded, and from the invisible the visible. “He is the image of the invisible God,” as the apostle notes (Colossians 1:15).” (excerpt from TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 15.1)
[Note: Chromatius was an early Christian scholar and bishop of Aquileia, Italy. He was a close friend of John Chrysostom and Jerome. He died in 406 AD. Jerome described him as a “most learned and most holy man.”]
Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2020 Servants of the Word, source: www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.
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