I love theme parks. When I was in elementary school and middle school, I’d get so excited when the teacher would announce to the class that we were going to Disney World or Universal Studios. I remember when the youth group from my church announced that we were going to Busch Gardens. I nearly lost it, because not only did I love theme parks, but I especially loved theme parks with roller coasters! But then the day came when our church announced that we were going on a trip to a new theme park in Orlando called the Holy Land Experience. Now this was cool, because it was like Disney, but with all your favorite Bible stories and characters. As a matter of fact the first person I saw when we entered the theme park was Matthew the tax collector sitting at a tax booth. He began to tell us all about the life and ministry of Jesus and how he became one of His followers.
Well today I want you to buckle up your seat belts as we allow this same Matthew to take us on a spiritual rollercoaster ride from the 21st century to the 1st century and back. Allow your mind to capture the scene Matthew is painting for us today through the scriptures. It was a time of deep spiritual, political, social and religious darkness. Sound familiar? It’s at this time that a Light begins to dawn on the horizon of human history. Jesus is baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit in the Jordan river. Then He gets victory, on our behalf, over the Devil’s temptations in the wilderness. And now, in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, He begins His long anticipated work of establishing His Kingdom as the Messiah. This Kingdom came in a very unexpected way to most of the people that were awaiting it’s arrival. He begins His work among the Jews in Judea. Then sometime after hearing that His cousin, John the Baptist, was put in prison He left that area of Judea, which was becoming increasingly hostile, and went into the region of Galilee. This was a region full of Gentiles or non Jews. This was the region where Jesus grew up. As a matter of fact, the first place Jesus goes is His hometown of Nazareth. It’s in this place that Matthew wants you to see the dawning of a movement in a dark place. Because today, Jesus invites you into three ways He urgently needs the Kingdom to dawn in your life. We pick up the story in verse 13…
After spending sometime with family and friends at His hometown in Nazareth, Jesus then moves to the nearby city of Capernaum. It was a fishing village right by the Sea of Galilee. It became the home base of Jesus’ ministry. It is here that Jesus lived among and ministered to Gentiles that were described by the prophet Isaiah as sitting in darkness. The source of this deep darkness was a misapprehension of God’s character of love. It was the light of God’s love revealed in Jesus that launched the Kingdom. And as His follower He needs this same light to be revealed in you! You see, the Kingdom begins to dawn in your life when…
People See and Hear the Light
When we were living in Laurel, MD, several of us from church gathered every week in a grow group that met in a home. We sensed God moving us to meet in a more public space, so we started gathering at the Panera Bread in the Laurel Town Center. While we would be there fellowshipping, eating, laughing and discussing the word, we soon began to realize that people saw something about us and began to approach us. One time a cop stopped at our table to publicly affirm what he was seeing. Another time an employee said he enjoyed listening in on our conversations. And one night a young lady approached and asked if she could join us. She is still with the group today. Why? Because she could see and hear the light in us.
Matthew quotes the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah, because he wants you to know that Jesus fulfills this prophecy of bringing light to this largely Gentile region. However the light didn’t just start shining when Jesus started His public ministry. Yes, Jesus preached for 3 1/2 years, but He lived among them for 30 years as a living incarnational witness. The light had dawned on them for 30 years in the way that Jesus lived. Think about what it says to us that Jesus spent the majority of His life on earth living the Gospel before He ever preached it! People could see the light in how He lived, so that when He finally spoke, it came with authority.
You see, the Gentiles of Galilee didn’t just see the light of God’s love in Jesus, they also heard it. When Jesus opened His mouth to preach, He picked up the same message that John the Baptist preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” However Jesus adds a new element to this message. Mark 1:15 informs us that Jesus added, “The time is fulfilled…believe the gospel.” Jesus was announcing that the 69 of the 70 week prophecy of Daniel 9, about the advent of the Messiah, was now fulfilled in Him. As the Messiah, the King, He proclaimed that God’s heavenly reign had now been brought near to earth in His life, ministry and ultimate death on the cross. This gospel of the Kingdom, was the core message of all His teachings and parables. The people were to hear this message, repent or turn and join His Kingdom, by believing the good news. This was the message that launched a movement. John Ortberg, in his book, “Who is this Man?” puts it this way,
This Kingdom message and movement was rising in the midst of king Herod’s kingdom and Rome’s empire. It was provocative. It was penetrating. The Light could now be heard. And Jesus wants this same light to be revealed in your life.
The light of God’s love needs to first dawn in how you live. The people in your family, in your neighborhood, in your school or on the job need to see the Light in how you live among them. This can only come from a daily relationship with Jesus through prayer, the word and seeking the indwelling Holy Spirit. As people start to see Jesus in you, then the Holy Spirit will start to give you opportunities to develop relationships with them. Now some people just stop there. They say it is enough to just live the life. Well not if you’re a follower of Jesus. They don’t just need to see the light, but they also need to hear the light. As you build relationships with people, the Holy Spirit will organically begin to give you opportunities to speak to them about Jesus.
But then what? Well in verse 18, Jesus now shows us the next step in the dawning of the movement…
“CJ” Claypole S. Cousins Jr. is simply a man who is in love with Jesus. His passion is to live, preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to preaching and teaching, CJ also loves to sing and write about Jesus. He also serves as the pastor for Youth, Young Adults and Children at Vienna SDA Church in Vienna, VA.