Light for the Last Days

A first step to discipleship in repentance

SHORT TALK

30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Acts 17.30-31

Lord, we thank you that we can come to the Word of God. We thank you for the truth of the scriptures and pray you help me to speak, pray you help those who are here to hear. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

I’m going to continue looking at Matthew’s Gospel today. We began earlier looking through the Gospel of Matthew and, last week, we looked at the first part of Matthew 4: the Temptation in the wilderness.

We now look at the passage where Jesus begins His ministry.

Two things happened previous to this:

  • first of all He was baptized. The Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of the dove and he heard the voice from Heaven saying ‘You are my Son in whom I am well pleased’.
  • then, He went into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil

Therefore, Jesus is prepared to go and to minister. Let us read Matthew 4.2 through to verse through to the end of the chapter:

And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’

and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Matthew 4.2-25

Praise the Lord!

Jesus begins His ministry. There are three things I want to note from this passage:

  • first of all, the primary message: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand
  • secondly, the calling of the first disciples and the words which you’ve just sung: I will make you fishers of men and,
  • thirdly, the miracles: healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people

I’m going to speak mainly about the calling of the first disciples and what it means to be a disciple today.

Jesus begins his Galilean Ministry and you see the map showing you where He goes. He comes up from where He has been living in Nazareth here up to Capernaum on the north side of the lake of Galilee and begins to minister in this area of Galilee. He is also going into Decapolis. People are coming to Him from Decapolis over this side from Syria which goes right down to part of what is today’s Israel, the then Roman province and to Judea.

Therefore, that is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the region of Galilee where His ministering mainly was, a highly populated area.

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, there about some 3 million people living around Galilee. It was a very rich agricultural land and there was also the Sea of of Galilee with its fishing industry. It was a mixed area with Jews and Gentiles but predominantly Jewish.

As a career move for an aspiring Messiah probably setting off in Capernaum, it was not what you’d think to do really. You’d probably better off going down to Jerusalem and to Judea. Galilee was considered a bit of a backwater as far as the religious life was concerned and yet, in God’s strategy, it was the place where Jesus began His ministry.

It was also the place where it was prophesied in the Book of Isaiah that He would be

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Isaiah 9:1-3

And Matthew is very keen to connect the ministry of Jesus with the Prophecies of the Old Testament to show there is a continuation between the old and the new, that Jesus is the fulfilment of Prophecy in the Hebrew scriptures and that He was the One who was bringing light into the darkness, bringing the light of the Gospel, the light of His Word into the darkness of the world.

We see how He began to preach ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand‘.

When we looked at the previous chapter (chapter 3), we saw how John the Baptist also began his ministry by saying ‘repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand‘.

And we read in the book of Acts that when Peter began his ministry, preaching on the day of Pentecost, after he preached the Gospel on the first preaching of the Gospel, he concluded then by saying to them ‘Repent, let every one of you be baptized in the name of the Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’.

We also read that as Paul went around the Gentile areas of Greece in Acts chapter 17, he says,

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”

Acts 17.1-3

In all those scriptures, you can see that the Gospel begins with the message to repent, to turn around. The Hebrew word for repent is תשובה [tšwbh/teshuva] which means ‘to change your direction’. The Greek word is μετάνοια [metanoia] which means ‘to change your mind’.

So, there has to be a change in the way you think. You go and change your lifestyle when you come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand‘. Sometimes people say is there a difference between ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ found in Matthew and ‘the Kingdom of God’ which you find in Mark and Luke?

Really, there is no difference at all. Both mean the same: Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God. It means the place where God rules. God rules in the Kingdom of Heaven, God rules in Heaven. God wants to rule on the earth through His people who believe in Him, and to come into the Kingdom of Heaven you have to repent, you have to come out of the rule of the kingdom of darkness.

Last time we looked at the activity of Satan and the devil and we saw that Jesus called him the ruler of this world, the ruler of this present world darkness. When you come to Faith in Jesus Christ, you come out from under the control of the ruling power of evil of Satan, the ruling power of the world of darkness into the kingdom of God where God is ruling, and that involves a change in your direction, a change in your thinking, a change in your lifestyle as you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Acts chapter 17 Paul reminds us that there is a day coming when God is going to judge the world in righteousness, according to how we have responded to this message. It is important that we do respond, because the kingdom of this world is a doomed kingdom, and the day is coming when Jesus will come back, judge the world in righteousness, and everything will then change. There will be an eternal separation between those who are outside of the Kingdom and those who are inside of the Kingdom through repentance and faith.

That’s why repentance is the primary message, why it all begins, all of the scriptures tell us: how John began with repentance, Jesus began with repentance, the apostles began with repentance, and it is where we begin when we come to faith In Jesus the Messiah.

Tony Pearce

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