Pastor Schroeder

Sermon text: Matthew 4:12-23

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With the dawn of so-called “reality” TV, it has come to be a regular occurrence, and it is no accident.  It doesn’t really matter if we are talking about American Idol, or the Voice, or America’s Got Talent, or Top Chef, or Next Top Model, or so many others; the goal is to tell the story of a previously undiscovered talent who gets his or her time to shine, as first they impress the celebrity judges, and then along the way they win the hearts of the viewers, so that people at home get sucked in and they keep on watching the show. 

Well, before there was reality TV, there was reality…Do you ever wonder what Mary and Joseph were thinking during the first 30 years of Jesus’ life?  After they fled to Egypt to escape King Herod, and then returned to Nazareth, the only glimpse we have of Jesus’ early life is when they leave him at the Temple in Jerusalem, and find him a few days later.  Jesus was 12 years old at the time.  And then?  Another 18 years of silence.  Talk about undiscovered talent!  The one whose birth was announced by angels and marked with astronomic events, the Son of God who came to be the Savior of the world is primarily known not for anything spectacular he does, but simply referred to as “the carpenter’s son.” 

But now all that changes.  Jesus has been baptized by John, anointed  by the Holy Spirit, he has been personally and intensely tempted by Satan, and he overcame the devil’s lies with the truth of God’s Word, and today’s Gospel reading marks a time of continued transition in Jesus’ life.  In these words recorded by St. Matthew, Jesus recognizes that it is now his time to shine.  We read the opening verses.

12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned 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 to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

It wouldn’t be an accurate statement to say that Jesus didn’t really do anything for the first 30 years of his life.  In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Let me explain….  If someone asked you, “What did Jesus do to save you,” how would you answer?  I suspect the vast majority of us would say that Jesus died on the cross to save us.  A number of us would add the fact that Jesus then rose from the dead on Easter morning to prove his victory over sin and death, that the payment for sin was complete.  We wouldn’t be wrong.  

But there is more to it than that.  You see, one aspect of Jesus’ work of redemption that we might sometimes overlook is the fact that in order for Jesus to be a worthy sacrifice to pay for our sins, he had to live a life of perfect obedience leading up to that sacrifice.  In what some might call the “active obedience of Christ,” it was necessary for Jesus to fulfill every prophecy, every commandment, exactly where, when, and how his Father wanted him to. 

We see it here in Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled; Jesus would live and work primarily in the region of Galilee.  It’s just one example of how Jesus did exactly what the Father wanted him to do, exactly where the Father wanted him to do it, and at the exact time appointed by his Father.  Even as he was waiting for his time to shine, Jesus humbly and quietly obeyed. 

How about us?  Whether you have lived 3 years, 30 years, or 90 years so far, can any of us say our lives have been characterized by humble and quiet obedience to our Father’s will?  Have we always waited patiently for God’s timing, or is it just as likely that we have tried to give him suggestions for how to do things better, according to our timing?  Do we willingly submit to his authority in how he commands us to live, or have we tried to find loopholes in his law and excuse our disobedience because it felt right to us at the time?  Instead of active obedience on our part, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that active disobedience would be a fitting way to describe how we have so often lived. 

That’s why it’s so important to note today how Jesus speaks and acts once his time to shine comes.  17From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  Jesus doesn’t just preach to the obedient.  No, he addresses our sin by leading us to admit it—to stop trying to hide it or excuse it or cover it up.  Jesus tells us to recognize the darkness that you were born into, the darkness that still shows its ugly face every chance it gets. 

Repentance is not fun, but it is necessary, because when Jesus calls us to repent, he isn’t just telling us what to do, giving us another command; he is drawing us to himself, inviting us to abandon all hope of finding or achieving righteousness in ourselves.  He wants us to find peace and rest and confidence in Him.  And if there is any doubt as to whether or not we can trust a man who makes such bold claims, we need look only at the works that accompany his Words.  23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

To everyone who confessed their sins, Jesus brought “good news of the kingdom,” words of light that scatter the darkness because Jesus not only has an answer for sin—he is the answer.  No more undiscovered talent.  Jesus shows himself to be the Light of the World, no longer hidden, but shining brightly in the truth he proclaims and the power he possesses. 

One more point that God’s Word makes for us today.  It’s not only about the past prophecies and present fulfillment.  As the Light of the world, Jesus also makes plans for the future—for his light to keep shining in our dark world after his 33 years here are over.  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 make you fishers of men.” 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.

Now, it would be easy to come away from these verses with admiration for these new disciples.  After all, they simply and immediately walk away from their livelihood to follow Jesus.  And we can all admit that they made the right response to Jesus’ call, but I would suggest that instead of focusing on them, we keep our focus on Him, and we see the absolute grace in Jesus’ call to discipleship. 

If you are familiar with the New Testament, you know that these names come up often.  As we get to know them better, we will see that Peter is impulsive, speaking and acting without thinking things through.  We will see how James and John prove themselves selfishly ambitious, most concerned with their own glory.  We will see how all of Jesus’ disciples doubt, all show weakness, all will abandon him at one time or another.  And none of that caught Jesus by surprise.  Jesus knows them, and yet he calls them.  And he has been doing the same thing ever since, from his position at the Right hand of God. 

Jesus knows you.  He knows your weakness, he knows your bad habits, he knows your history of sin, every time you have stumbled, every time you have fallen.  But it is Jesus’ time to shine every time you are reminded that Jesus didn’t come to call the exceptional ones, the ones who have the most potential, the ones who balance their bad traits with good ones.  No, he came to call sinners—sinners like Peter and Andrew, James and John, sinners like me, sinners like you—to be his disciples.  As his disciples, you are called to follow him, to serve him, to proclaim him and his love and his forgiveness in your part of the world, right where God has put you.  Know that every time that good news is proclaimed, it is Jesus’ time to shine. 

So, fellow followers, today is Jesus’ time to shine.  You’ve heard it before, and you will hear it again.  Through the faith that you have been given in Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven.  Period.  No exceptions, no loopholes, no limit.  Your sins are forgiven.  The kingdom of heaven is now yours, because Jesus fulfilled every prophecy, Jesus always obeyed God’s Law, Jesus was and is the One completed sacrifice that satisfied God’s wrath for our sin. 

Now, in his grace, He calls us to follow him.  May our Savior’s invitation always empower us to respond with faith, to find our forgiveness and life and purpose in him, to know Him and to make him known as we follow him to heaven.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.