When the light of God came into the world it began to shine in a small fishing village and from there would spread to the whole world. Some were willing to receive that light immediately changing their entire lives. What about us?
I pray that the beginnings of Christian discipleship encourage us to also be bold disciples.
We will look at Matthew 4:12-23, the place where discipleship began, and how ready those first disciples were to drop everything to follow the Light of the world.
Matthew 4:12 When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. 13 He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 “In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”
17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Matthew 4:13 Capernaum
Jesus “moved to Capernaum” and spent most of his ministry near there, the Hebrew hamlet of “Nahumville” on the north shore of Lake Galilee. There were no paved streets, or public restrooms and the synagogue, reputedly built by the Roman centurion whose servant Jesus healed, was the community center. It was a small fishing village on a main road. Peter and his wife owned a house there. Homes were stone with thatched roofs. A paralyzed man was lowered through such a roof and Jesus healed him there. Perhaps Jesus chose this town on a major trade route as a center of his early ministry because his first disciples would come from there.
Matthew 4:15-16 Darkness and Death
As we read the words, “people who sat in darkness” and “those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow,” do we understand the burdens we all carry as a result of bad decisions? Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride all have consequences. A prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-4 spoke of one who would shatter the yoke that burdens. If our western democracies are really free then we don’t need Jesus. But the truth is, only Jesus can give us true freedom. That Old Testament prophecy began to be fulfilled exactly where it was predicted to be, in Capernaum along the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.
Matthew 4:15-16 A Light has Shined
In a dark world where is the light? Diplomats try to stop wars and death but have failed. America has been involved in a hundred armed conflicts since its founding. Legislators try to shine a light on things but our land remains in darkness. America has fallen to 20th in one freedom index. Jesus’ message is considered to be foolishness outside of Christianity (1 Corinthians 1:10-18). David sang “the Lord is my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27:1-9). Beginning at Capernaum “a light has shined” into this dark world of death. Jesus announced the kingdom of heaven. Most of Capernaum refused that message. Have we seen this “great light”?
Matthew 4:17 Repent
Many people listened to the newcomer, a hillbilly from the backwoods of Nazareth with radical ideas. “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Some were angered. Others thought it was foolishness. Yet, a few devotees walked off their jobs to follow him. Are we lost, without hope and desperately in need of this ancient message from Capernaum? Repentance is the primary message (Matthew 4:17; Luke 24:47). It begins like the Greek word suggests, as a change of heart. In the beginning God said, let there be light, and in the beginning of the new creation, God sheds light into our hearts.
Matthew 4:17 What Jesus wants Preached
What is a central theme of Jesus’ preaching? He began preaching repentance and the kingdom of heaven. He concluded his ministry preaching repentance and forgiveness (Luke 24:47). He instructed this same theme be preached in all the world (Matthew 28:19-20). Repentance is a continual life-changing experience beginning as a change of heart and progresses towards an ever changing life of becoming more like God in every way. When we submit to God, we are forgiven all our past wrongdoings and come under the protection of his spiritual kingdom. We grow less interested in the useless pursuits of this world and more interested in living the way of real joy.
Matthew 4:20-22 Intuitive Decisions
Proverbs suggest not making snap judgments (Proverbs 18:13, Proverbs 19:2, Proverbs 29:20). Are quick decisions always wrong? We make intuitive spur-of-the-moment decisions every day, sometimes long term. We also see people make impulsive decisions which they don’t stick with, like the parable of the seed sown on stony ground that quickly springs up but has no root and no staying power. The disciples also made a sudden decision to follow Jesus. It is appropriate to make some choices speedily, even decisions with lifelong consequences. Going with our instincts can be the right choice. If we trust that Jesus will lead us to green pastures, why delay following him?
Do we see really Jesus as the Light in a dark world? What hinders us from following Christ more fully?