2023-01-22 Epiphany 3
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When one considers the best inventions thought up by mankind, you can get a plethora of answers. Water heaters. Indoor plumbing. Hydraulics. GPS navigation. But probably one that surpasses all the rest is … the nightlight. It has almost magical properties and the power to chase away the monsters under your bed and keep the boogie man stowed away in the closet where he belongs! The power of that little glowing light bulb is enormous! It pushes away the shadows and helps us feel that we aren’t alone. The darkness can be an eerie place. It makes our imaginations run wild with sinister possibilities. When we can’t see our world around us it can feel quite alarming.
I remember a family camping trip up at Waskesiu Saskatchewan when I was a wee lad. One evening the camp was hosting an outdoor nature activity: an interactive class on wolves. They showed a wolf movie at night in the outdoor amphitheatre with a nature hike to follow. The park ranger guide was going to try to howl at some wolves to see if they would howl back. Just after the movie was over I was walking around the little outdoor movie amphitheatre and it was already very dark. All of a sudden out of nowhere comes a blood-curdling bark from a massive German Shepherd! He was at least 10 feet tall with massive drooling teeth! I was so scared I’m sure I could have won the first place medal for high jump as I flew into the air and right over the bleachers! The darkness can be a really scary place!
The season of Epiphany is all about light. A light that no darkness, not even the most scariest Northern Saskatchewan wolf-based darkness, can overcome! This light that I am talking about is Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. Think back with me for a moment. Epiphany began with Jesus’ baptism – his entrance into public ministry. Last week was Jesus’ identification day as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, who totally obliterates our sin and bears the burden we could not bear. This week we focus on 3 new things about our Lord Jesus.
The first thing has to do with light. Our text from Isaiah gives us some very interesting imagery. It’s actually Old Testament prophecy about Jesus. Isaiah says that in the future God will honour the Gentiles of Galilee. Where does our Gospel lesson from Matthew take place? You guessed it, with the Gentiles of Galilee! I guess Isaiah called that one right! He says that the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those living in the land of the shadow of death on them a light has dawned. Like a glorious Saskatchewan sunrise, full of vibrant colour and beauty, the entire sky lights up the radiance of the sun. This is exactly what Jesus does when he comes into the land of the shadow – that is, our lives. Jesus comes into the darkness of our sin and our death and brings us the light of His salvation and life. Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away our sins fills our hearts with the light and life of His salvation which was won for us by His death on the cross.
Through His death and the innocent shedding of His blood, our forgiveness has been made possible. Isaiah talks about it like shattering the yoke that burdens people. It’s a grand release from the heavy weight of sin death. Just like removing a very heavy backpack from the shoulders, that’s what Jesus does to our sins. He brings release from the that great burden of sin. Christ is indeed the light that has dawned upon the darkness and gloom of our lives.
The second new thing we will learn about Jesus is that He liked to fish. Or at least, He liked to hang out with guys who liked to fish. As Jesus is out for a stroll along the sea of Galilee He sees a couple of brothers – the same guys from last week: Andrew and Simon (Peter). And yes, you guessed it they were fishin’. Jesus walks right up to them and says “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (MT 4:19). And as the Scriptures tell us, they immediately left what they were doing and followed Him. He walks down the lake a little bit more and finds 2 more brothers James and John out in a boat with their dad. He says the same thing to these two and lo and behold, they also leave everything and immediately follow after Jesus. Notice one important aspect of this event. The four brothers immediately followed Him. They got up and left everything to follow Jesus. Now there are two possibilities: 1) Fishing in Galilee was a dead-end job and so they were all looking for a career change, or 2) There is just something about Jesus that makes people want to follow Him!
I am going to go with option number 2! There is just something about Jesus that makes us want to follow Him. It might be because He was a really cool guy with His teachings and healings and miracles. It might be because He is God’s Son. It might be because He is the Lamb of God who takes our sins away. It might be because He gave everything just to be God with us, Emmanuel. It might be because He gives us salvation and purpose, shining the light of God’s Kingdom into our dark world. He gave the disciples a new purpose in their lives. He plucked them out of their fishing careers and gives them a new mission: to become fishers of men. To be evangelists! To shine the light! This will be a mission not only to the children of Abraham but also to the Gentiles, the non-Jews. The Messiah has come for us too. This new light of truth and salvation has now dawned into the lives of all people.
Jesus also speaks these words to us today as well. Rise and shine, it’s Jesus time! He’s going to rearrange your life to be sure and the retirement plan is great in heaven! When Jesus calls us, will we drop everything to follow? Will we heed the call to be fishers of men today? Here, in the holy city of Moose Jaw (potholes)? Or how ’bout in your families or in the workplace? Will we follow Jesus? Will we be His disciples?
The last line of our Gospel reading shows us how the light breaks into the darkness: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (MT 4:23). Teaching. Preaching. Reaching. That’s what Jesus did. He taught the common people with stories and parables. He taught the learned scholars in the synagogues. The Scriptures were the lamp for their feet and the light for their path, just as they are for us. As we read the Word, as we study it and learn more about the light we find our hearts and minds illuminated by the heavenly light of God’s Kingdom.
As Jesus preached, He brought light into this dark world of sin, He also brought a kingdom of Grace with Him. A kingdom of light and forgiveness of sins. That’s why his chief message was Repent! Repent, for the kingdom is near. He was saying get right with God. Not by what you do but by repentance and faith in God’s messiah – Jesus the Christ. This is the Good News of the Gospel. People like us who were in the darkness and shadow of our sins have seen a great light in Jesus. Our sins are forgiven and totally taken away by faith alone in Jesus. We participate in this ministry as well as we tell our friends and family about Jesus. As we invite them to church to hear His Word. As we offer to pray for our friends, family and neighbours in the bad times and in the good times.
The last part of Jesus’ ministry was healing. Matthew says that he healed every disease and sickness among the people. These were miraculous healings that Jesus performed. These signs and miracles that Jesus did gave what He said credibility. His Words were made even more powerful by His actions. It made His words more real to people. This is the same thing for God’s people today. As we are living our faith and bringing God’s healing Word to people our actions and deeds become more important for giving what we say credibility. God calls us to a higher standard of conduct and walking in His ways. But people are not perfect and the darkness of sin rears its ugly head for all people, regardless of who they are. It’s a reminder that if you put your faith and trust in people, you will be let down time and time again. People are sinful and we like the darkness. That is why God says “put your trust in me!” Trust the one who will never let you down or abandon you in the darkness. This is why Jesus had to come, to bring healing and light for sinners such as us. It is only in the Gospel where we can find healing for our lives. Thanks be to God for Jesus, the light of the world! Amen.