“Walking in the Light Together” (Matthew 4:12-25)

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 26, 2020

“Walking in the Light Together” (Matthew 4:12-25)

“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.” So Isaiah prophesied, some seven hundred years before Christ. Then when Christ came on the scene and began his ministry, that prophecy was fulfilled, as Matthew records: “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.”

Who were those people on whom the light dawned? Certainly, it was those people in Galilee who witnessed Christ’s ministry, his healings and his preaching and his teaching. With Christ shining forth in his words and his works, the light was surely shining on them. But they’re not the only ones. For the light of Christ is surely shining on us, as well. Now today we want to find out what that means for us in our lives as Christians and in our life together as church. And so our theme this morning: “Walking in the Light Together.”

“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.” That’s us. We dwell in the shadowlands of darkness and death. Darkness surrounds us. Death is all around us. Just yesterday I got a phone call from a friend of mine I’ve known since kindergarten in Chicago. He called to tell me that his mother died Friday night. She was 93 years old. Now I remember her ever since she was a young mom, and I’d go over to his house to play. But then the years passed, and the decades passed, and I saw her for the last time this past August. She had dementia, and you could tell she was going downhill. And now she has died. But that’s the way life is here in the shadowlands. Death happens. It comes calling for all of us.

And it’s not just death. It’s the darkness too. We live in a land of darkness. Sin, defiance of God’s commands, people doing what God says not to do. Thursday, January 22, marked the 47th anniversary of the horrible Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down laws against abortion. Abortion is a form of murder. It is the willful taking of innocent human life. What is evil in God’s sight, this our nation has approved. Likewise, with the decision that made homosexual supposed “marriage” legal. This too is an abomination in God’s sight. We live in a land of darkness.

But it’s not just the darkness out there. Worse than that, it’s the darkness inside of us. It’s the darkness inside of me. Yes, even Christians have the darkness of sin and rebellion against God within us. It’s our old Adamic nature lurking within us. The old Adam was drowned in baptism, but he has a habit of coming up for air and tuning out God and doing whatever he feels like. And I am the one tuning out God and doing whatever I want. I want what feels good for me. I don’t care what God says. I want what I want. That, my friends, is sin. And it’s the darkness inside every one of us.

And this is why we die. We’ve all got the sin disease. But here’s the good news. Without our doing anything to deserve it, without any good in us, what happened? The light invaded our darkness. Life has dawned in the shadowlands of death. It came in the coming of the Christ. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Jesus shows us what life is all about. He shows us where to find it, the true life, life as it is meant to be. The light comes from him. And the spotlight shines on Jesus himself, for he is the source of the life and the light.

Jesus, our brother, came into our hall of gray and gloomy sadness, and he lights up the room! When we get to know Jesus, we discover what life really is! It finally dawns on us, something we hadn’t known, that we can know God, in Christ, and this is a good thing! Jesus comes, full of grace and truth. He comes, with healing in his wings. He comes, dispersing the darkness and enlightening our minds. We have peace in the present and hope for the future, in him.

What Jesus has done–he, the very Son of God–is to overcome the darkness and death with his light and his life. Jesus lights the way. He is the way. Jesus himself walked in the way of God’s commandments, which we have not. He did the righteous thing, every time. Jesus fulfilled the way humans should live, walking in the light. But then the darkness tried to overcome his light. Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and tried in the darkness of night. He was handed over to be crucified, and darkness literally fell over the land. But the darkness, even death, could not overcome him. He conquered, Jesus did, precisely by his death. This was how he stomped on the devil’s head and destroyed death. Jesus delivered us from the power of death by taking our sins upon him and letting the judgment fall on him instead of on us. Death’s stranglehold on us is broken. The victory remains with life. Jesus is risen, and trusting in him, we too will rise. For those dwelling in the shadow of death, on us the light has dawned.

Now we are the people living in the light. God has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now how do we live as children of the light? What does it mean for us to be walking in the light, as individuals and as church together? Today I want to suggest three things, all coming from our text: 1) Repent. 2) Follow Jesus. And 3) Be fishers of men.

First, repent. This is a word I need to hear, and I think you do too. It’s a word Jesus is speaking to us today: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Where Jesus is, there is the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus is here, dwelling in our midst. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus is here. The kingdom is near. We’ve been called out of darkness. We’ve been brought into the light. So, brothers, how can we still live like we’re children of the world? We’re not. So we can’t. Therefore, repent. Give up the ways of darkness. Quit tuning out God. Stop living for self, setting ourselves up over others. Repent. Turn from those old, selfish, sinful ways.

Now for each one of us, that can mean different things at different times, within the same week, even within the same day. Whenever we fall into the old ways, and we know we have veered off into the darkness again, that is a time to repent. Take a look at your own life, and line it up with the Ten Commandments. How have I been failing to love God with my whole heart? Have I been failing to love my neighbor as much as I love myself?

For example, how have I been using my tongue to speak of my brothers and sisters in Christ? Do I tear down my church, speaking ill of my fellow church members behind their backs? That was the sin that St. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for, divisions within the congregation. Paul writes: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.”

That’s just one example. Brothers and sisters, we need to be walking in the light, and walking that way together. If you or I have been doing otherwise, we need to repent. When you see those things in yourself, repent. Ask God to forgive you for Christ’s sake, and to pick you up and help you to do better.

So that’s the first point: Repent. Now number 2: Follow Jesus. That’s what Jesus told the fishermen. “Follow me,” he said. “Be my disciples. Learn from me. Follow me in faith. Follow me into life.” This is the life of discipleship. This is what it means to be walking in the light. To be following and learning from Jesus.

And this didn’t stop when you were confirmed. Jesus is about making disciples for life. We are lifelong learners. How do we do that? Certainly, by coming to church every Sunday, every chance we get. This is where Jesus speaks to us through his word. To follow Jesus means to listen to his voice, to hear what he has to say. And to go even deeper, I encourage you all to come to Bible class also. As we study the word together, your faith will be deepened, and you will be better equipped to live as Christ’s disciple. This is not just academic. Discipleship is knowing Christ. It’s growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then applying it to your life, putting your faith into practice, putting love into action.

1) Repent. 2) Follow Jesus. And 3) Be fishers of men. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus told the fishermen. Now of course this applies in the first place to the apostles, and from there to pastors, as preachers of the gospel. But in a broader sense, this call to be fishers of men applies to the church as a whole. How will more people come into the net of the church and find life? Through the witness of Christ’s people. How you live and how you talk will have an effect and an influence on others. How you speak of Jesus to your friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors–the people you know, the people you have a relationship with, the people you encounter and get to know–you are Christ’s witness wherever you go. How you speak of your church, St. Matthew’s, and of the joys of Christ you experience here, the hope you find, even amid the struggles of life–this is part of your witness. You’re being fishers of men when you are attracting and inviting others to join you here where Jesus is.

Friends, this is where the light of life is shining. The kingdom of heaven is here, at hand. So, it’s time to repent of the ways of darkness. Jesus is calling us to follow him, to grow in our life of discipleship. And as we do, we will naturally be those fishers of men, bearing witness to the Savior. Brothers and sisters in Christ, walking in the light together, let us be the church.

Published in: on January 25, 2020 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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