Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Sermon from Matthew Chapter 4, in particular, on repentance.

Matthew 4:12-25 (NIV) 12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles—

16 the people living in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.”

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus Heals the Sick

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.



This morning’s reading is from the gospel of Matthew chapter 4. It describes the start of Jesus ministry, after his baptism by John, when the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove, and heaven opened up and God, the Father spoke, “This is my son with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus was then led into the wilderness for 40 days, where he fasted and was tempted by the devil. He resisted the temptations, and on returning, it says that having heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.


So, it wasn’t very long after John baptised Jesus, that he was put in prison by Herod.


If baptising Jesus was the peak of John’s career, he was not able to “enjoy” that event for very long.


Now, in chapter 2 of Matthew it says that when Joseph returned from Egypt (with Mary and the child Jesus, after the first Herod who killed all the young boys in Bethlehem had died) but he heard that Archaleus, the son of the previous Herod was reigning in Jerusalem, and as well as being warned in a dream (Joseph had a number of important dreams), he withdrew to Galilee, living in a town called “Nazareth”.


So, Joseph had some fear of Herod’s son, as well as God’s warning to cause him to head for Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.


In chapter 4, Jesus also avoids Jerusalem, in the wake of John’s arrest and also heads for Galilee.


Was Jesus, like Joseph, afraid?


I don’t think so. He had just spent 40 days in the desert starving and being tempted by the devil himself, later he walked straight up to the powerful demoniac who broke chains.

But Jesus was practical, and had a mission to accomplish, so he headed for Galilee, but this time he didn’t stay in Nazareth, he probably passed through Nazareth, and went on another 50km or so, and lived in Capernaum.


And, apart from anything else, he was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, which stated that the land of Zebulun and Naphthali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles,

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.


So this is what Isaiah said many years before (? 600 years before).


And here is the young, vibrant, motivated Jesus fulfilling this prophecy with all his might.


What is “Zebulun and Naphthali”?


Areas of the promised land.


But also, the names of 2 sons of Jacob, (who was also known as Israel, after he wrestled with God).


Remember there were 12 sons


In Genesis, Many, many years before Jesus’ incarnation, we read that Jacob moved from the promised land to Egypt because of the great famine, which Pharaoh had dreamt about and Joseph interpreted. Which led to Joseph being in command. But 400 years after Joseph, Moses, a descendant of Levi, one of Joseph’s brothers, rescued the Israelite nation from Egypt (who had made them slaves) and took them back to the promised land, and the land was divided amongst the 12 tribes, each region named after the sons of Israel, except that the Levites, who were appointed as priests and were not given land, instead they were provided for through the sacrificial system. But Joseph was given 2 allocations after his 2 sons Manasseh and Ephraim. So, there were still 12 areas. (see slide)


Naphthali and Zebulun were 2 of them by the sea of galilee.


And Jesus then lived, temporarily, in Capernaum.


If you look at Capernaum now, there isn’t much to see. (see slides)


But Jesus didn’t need much, did he?


He didn’t need a big shopping centre, or a car or a boat.


And even today there isn’t much to see, a few churches that mark certain sites, like where Peter lived, the place where Jesus gave the “sermon on the mount”, and the place where he fed the 5000.


So, it is ‘touristy”, but even though it’s touristy, it’s not a metropolis today, it still looks pretty sparse.


So, what did Jesus do there at Capernaum and Galilee?


He preached.


Both open air and in the synagogues.


(They have found ruins of synagogues, which is important historically.)


In chapter 5 to 7 of Matthew we have a pretty long sermon with lots of teaching that Jesus gave, probably not all at once. But it starts with the famous “beatitudes”.

They are the blessing announcements, starting with “blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is for them”


But in this passage in chapter 4 the stated preaching of Jesus is; “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Which is very much like what John was preaching.


So, I would like to look at what that means.


The Kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, is not a geographical area, though kingdoms are often defined geographically.


It is the place where God’s rule and authority are in place.


Now of course God is in authority in all the earth and in fact, in all of the universe, because he created everything, (and by the way, we heard from Hebrews and Colossians and other passages that Jesus himself, before he became man, was the creator, or co-creator with the Holy Spirit and God the Father.)


But the implication here is that, at this point, in this place, God’s rule was not being respected, or considered.


It’s a bit like the story we heard about the car being pulled up by police on the central coast somewhere and the occupants telling the police that they had no jurisdiction there. Meaning that they considered their car, a part of a different country that they ruled.

There are a few crazies out there with this type of attitude.

 Well that didn’t work, did it? Apparently, the police officer pulled out the window and probably arrested the occupants of the car because they did have jurisdiction there. God has jurisdiction everywhere doesn’t he?


What about in the pubs?


What about in a brothel?


Or a drug house?


Or a Hindu temple? In a remote part of India?


But this is the promised land, and both Isaiah and Matthew describe the land as living in the shadow of death, in darkness.


The implication is that they are actually far from God, whether by choice or other.


And I suggest that there was some choice in it.


What about Narrandera?


Are we in darkness?


Does the rule of God apply in Narrandera? In NSW? In Australia?


Do we follow Gods rules?


What about euthanasia, what about marriage? And I’m not even talking about gay marriage.

What about the name of Jesus?


Do we respect that name?


And do we respect the bible, God’s word?


I wonder what it was like in Galilee at the time of Jesus?


Jesus message was that they should repent.


What does it mean to repent?


The first answer is; “turn around.”


We have just had a new year, and many people do still make resolutions.

Is that repentance?


Sometimes repentance is simply stopping.


It can be really hard to stop. If I’m in an argument with my wife, it is hard for me to stop.


But that is what I should do.


But is repenting more than simply turning around, turning over a new leaf? Stopping the bad thing you are doing, maybe being sorry for doing it, and I’ve said in the past, being prepared to face the consequences of your actions, maybe even handing yourself in for a crime you have committed and gotten away with in the past, or confessing your guilt and apologising.

Yes, all of these things are repentance. But I think there is still more to true repentance. This came to me as I was preparing this, and I’ve never said this before, but I think true repentance is actually following Jesus.


You can decide to be good. You can decide to stop smoking or stop drinking or stop arguing or stealing or hurting others or scheming for whatever, and taking advantage of others etc, but the difference really happens when you decide to follow Jesus. I think that is what brings about proper repentance.


You see when you decide to follow Jesus you are saying that:

Jesus knows best,

what he says must be right,

how he tells us to behave and the way he tells us to live our lives is the right way to do things.


That is repentance,

 I think.


So, when we repent we become Christians, and when we become Christians we repent,

And following Jesus sorts out our character and our plans etc. In other words, as we mature as Christians we repent again and again, putting away old habits, and realising new habits also need to be put away.


What I haven’t said yet is that repentance is a gift that the Holy Spirit gives.


When the Holy Spirit is present he convicts us of sin and righteousness and judgement but he doesn’t leave us quivering in fear, he opens our eyes to the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done for us, and then we simply fall into place in our following of our wonderful saviour.


Remember the woman caught in adultery, in the end it was just her and Jesus, and he asked her, does no-one condemn you?


She answered no, and Jesus answered, nor do I condemn you, now go in peace and sin no more.


The Holy Spirit is God, and he also convicts us, but he does not condemn us, instead he shows us the forgiveness that Jesus has bought at great price for us, and we are then motivated to repent and sin no more.


So, in my theory, if you repent, you become a Christian, and you come to church.


If you repent, you love the bible


If you repent you love other Christians


If you repent, you love.


It’s not actually a burden, not a heavy one anyway, Jesus tells us his burden is light.


We may lose face, but that’s probably the best thing that could happen to us.


So, getting back to the passage, Jesus starts by preaching repentance, because God’s rule is coming back into importance, his kingdom is near, he is reasserting his control of our lives in this region.


And as he walked along the shore he saw Peter and his brother Andrew and he said come follow me. And they repented and followed him.


Now it doesn’t say here that they repented but if you read Luke 5 we find the story of how they had been fishing all night and then probably listening as Jesus preached from the boat, and then reluctantly they agreed to throw out their nets once more.


It wouldn’t surprise me if up to that point Peter had been angry about the lack of fish, and maybe about this religious bloke using their boat to preach religion, and that while Jesus preached about the goodness of God, he had been thinking that if God is so good, why won’t he make my life easier and give me some fish for a change? (Now I’ve just made all that up, but you can see what I’m getting at.) So, Jesus (who seemed to know what people were thinking) after he had finished preaching, told them to push out a little and throw out the nets once more, which they reluctantly did. But suddenly there were so many fish the boat was going to sink and they needed more boats and more fishermen.


Peter should have been excited, he’d never had such an experience, but instead he felt convicted in his heart of his sinfulness, which I do know because it says in Luke that he told Jesus to go away from him because he (Peter) is a sinful man.

That is repentance, confessing the truth of what we are truly like,

and then Jesus said come follow me, he didn’t tell Peter off, he didn’t care about his sinfulness, and Peter did follow, that is true repentance. He left everything to follow Jesus


Now leaving everything does not mean we sell our houses and leave our jobs, although it does mean that for some of us, but It does mean that everything in our lives comes second to Jesus.


Everything in our lives comes second to Jesus.


That is repentance.


I think.






It is, when the weight of our sin drives us to the only one who can carry the weight of our sin.


Acts 4:12 (NIV) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”


Now in Matthew there are less details, certainly less painful details. Matthew simply states that as Jesus walked along the shore, he saw 2 brothers Simon (Peter) and Andrew, casting nets into the lake, because they were fishermen, and he told them follow me and I will make you fishers of men, and eventually(?) they followed.


No, it says “at once”.


Once you can see who Jesus is, there is no hesitation.


So, Jesus is in the business of “catching men.” (He tells the disciples that he will make them fishers of men.)


That’s what Jesus does, and that is what he is still doing.


By “catching” we don’t mean enticing us into some strange cult that turns us into “weirdos”.


No, it means we become people who love God and are willing to serve others out of love, and willing to suffer out of our love for Jesus. We love, because he first loved us.


He also called 2 others, James and John, and they also repented.


And then Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching good news (that’s the net) of the kingdom. And healing every disease and sickness among the people. And Jesus became famous in that area.


The people in darkness have seen a great light, and that light is the life of men.  Without Jesus, we have no light and no life, and no way, and no truth. No way or light or life to anywhere and certainly not to God but with Jesus we do have light and life and the way to God.


So, let’s all of us repent and follow Jesus.


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life!



Ephesians 2:12-14 (NIV) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace


Luke 24:32 (NIV) They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”


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