January 22, 2017 – Matthew 4:12-25 – “Follow Me”

Follow Me

 

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

In Darkness

 

This past week I heard a person say how wonderful it was that at 5:30 in the evening it was still light outside. It was a commentary on how much we dislike these winter months when the time between sunrise and sunset is so short. We don’t appreciate the long dark evenings that extend far too long into the morning hours.

 

We don’t like another kind of darkness either. News stories of terrorists driving into crowds of people, exploding bombs in crowed city streets, or shooting people in an airport show a darkness that has us shaking our heads in disbelieve. A more hidden darkness is remembered today as we mourn the lives of millions of children taken from us over the past 44 years by what the world calls “legalized abortion.”

 

Yes we live in a world of darkness made that way by the entrance of sin into the world. We live in a world of darkness where family arguments and disagreements with friends take the joy out of life. We are disappointed and hurt by the words or actions of others. We are not happy with ourselves when we realized that sin has found a home in our hearts and minds.

 

An Invitation

 

If you are not sure of my assessment that we live in a world of darkness, again turn on your radio, television, or computer; open your mail or your Sunday newspaper. In these places, there are advertisements after advertisements for products or services promising to bring us out of darkness.

 

Auto manufactures tell us how happy life will be if we purchase one of their cars. Stores invite us to clear out our closets and fill them with new clothes. We are told that darkness will go away if we purchase new jewelry, the latest new perfume, or a day at the spa.

 

Advertisers invite us to purchase the newest electronic gadgets like a smart phone or a tablet so that we will not be in the dark. ATT, Verizon, and others are constantly trying to sell us their services for our phones, our internet connections, and our televisions so that we may live in the light of modern technology.

 

“Follow Me,” these advertisers are saying to us. “Follow me out of the darkness of your life by purchasing what I have to sell you.” “Follow us into the light of feeling better for a short time until we tell you that you need something else new, hip, and trendy to bring you out of the never ending darkness of life.” That’s the message we are told day in and day out by those promising to shed light into our world.

 

Isaiah Promises

 

Isaiah wrote about people who where living in darkness, deep darkness in their lives. He wasn’t writing about people whose credit cards were maxed out or who were in foreclosure on their homes. Isaiah wrote about real darkness.

 

Isaiah was talking about people who were separated from God because of their sin. They were in darkness because they had no hope of forgiveness. He was writing about people who in many cases didn’t even recognize the spiritual darkness in which they were living.

 

Isaiah gave hope that there would be a time when people who where in spiritual darkness would see a great light, a time when they would experience joy beyond all sadness, a time when God would step into history in a miraculous way.

 

Jesus Comes

 

The tax collector Matthew, who himself at one time was lost in spiritual darkness, tells us in today’s gospel reading about Jesus fulfilling the prophecy that Isaiah had made. Matthew tells us that when Jesus started his public ministry in Galilee and that in him Isaiah’s words came true.

 

Jesus came as the Light of the world, a light no darkness could over come. Jesus came preaching a message of repentance. He came to shed light on the need to confess sins and trust in God’s mercy for forgiveness.

 

Jesus came to shed light in the lives of all people so that no one has to stay in the darkness of sin and death. He came to give a new life where he would live in the heart of a believer to change their everyday life so that they could and would love God and others.

 

This is what the kingdom of heaven is all about, it is about the One who is the Light of the world coming to redeem the world and so that we no longer have to live in a world of great spiritual darkness.

 

Follow Me

 

As Jesus began his public ministry, he called men to be his disciples. He said to them “Follow Me.” They would learn from him as he taught about repentance. These disciples watched as the Light of the world went from town to town confronting people who sat in darkness.

 

They watched him as he shed the light of God’s law on the lives of those people who did not think they were sinners. The disciples watched Jesus as he shed the light of God’s grace on those who felt the guilt and shame of their sins.

 

As the disciples followed Jesus, he did not bring a new light into the world. His message was not innovative. It was the message of the prophets before him. He did not change the eternal words of his heavenly Father, words of mercy and grace. Jesus came to fulfill God’s words of mercy and grace. He came to be the living word and light of God.

 

The disciples followed Jesus all the way to Jerusalem. There on the darkest day of the world they saw the Light of the world suffering and dying on the cross. Their first reaction was that the ruler of all darkness had won, but on the third day, the Light rose from the dead.

 

Darkness had not overcome the Christ. The Light was victorious. Through faith in Jesus Christ there is no separation between God and man, between those who sin and the One who judges.

 

He Says To You

 

Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, says to you, “Follow Me.” Jesus came to bring you out of darkness into his marvelous light. To follow Jesus out of darkness begins by confessing along with Paul, “The good that I would do, I do not do and the evil that I do not want to do that is what I keep on doing.” Rm 7:19

 

To follow Jesus means that you cannot hide your sins from yourself. You cannot pretend that without forgiveness your can stand before God and claim to by one of his children. Following Jesus means that you must go all the way with him to the cross to see what your sins cost him and his heavenly Father.

 

To follow Jesus means to go to the tomb on Easter morning and see that it is empty. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that by God’s grace you will follow his Son to your own resurrection. On the day when Jesus comes again, your tomb will be empty, your body will be restored to a glorious body that will have no end.

 

The light that Jesus shines into your world is a light of Law and Gospel. The light that Jesus shines into your life does not change, it never gets dim, and most certainly it never needs replacing by a new or brighter light.

 

To follow Jesus ultimately means that you live in his light. Although the darkness of your sinful nature is always with you, the Lord’s face is shining upon you with his forgiveness. His Holy Spirit is leading you in the paths of righteousness for his sake.

 

Jesus says to you today, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jn. 8:12

 

 

 

 

Light To Others

 

Jesus came into the world to be your light, so that you would know forgiveness and the love of God. He came so that no matter how dark it is in the world you would have his light. That is why he called you to follow him so that you would walk in the light.

 

He also called you to follow him because he knows that there are all sorts of people around you who are in the dark. Your Lord called you to follow him so that you could be a light in the world, a light to those around you who are in darkness.

 

It is through your everyday life and your words that they can see the light of Christ reflected. You are called to be witnesses to the love of Jesus just as the apostles became witnesses. Jesus said of you, “You are the light of the world … so that the world might glorify God.”

 

A light has dawned on you, you has made you a light in the world.

 

 

 

 

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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