Out of Darkness (Matthew 4:12-17)

If you would have asked any Jew during the day of Jesus, the majority of them would have assumed Israel’s Messiah would start His ministry in the religious epicenter of the world—Jerusalem. Israel’s capital is the city of God, the city of the great King and the location where all the religious elites spent their time. But our Lord didn’t inaugurate His ministry there. His ministry began in Galilee, an obscure and despised region in Israel.

After being tempted by Satan, Jesus left the wilderness when He heard that John the Baptist was arrested (see Matthew 4:12-17). I’m certain our Lord was avoiding facing the same fate. It was too early in His ministry to endure similar opposition.

When He arrived, His first stop was Nazareth (4:13), but we know from Luke’s gospel that Jesus didn’t spend much time there because He was rejected and nearly killed (Luke 4:16-30). Therefore, He left His hometown for a nearby village called Capernaum. It would seem many human circumstances were sending Jesus all around Israel. John is arrested. Jesus leaves for Galilee. His hometown rejects Him. Jesus leaves for Capernaum.

Though the human element is certainly a factor, you can be sure God’s sovereign will is being accomplished. Upon His arrival to Capernaum, Jesus fulfills ancient prophecy (4:14-16). Capernaum is the old territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, two of the twelve tribes of Israel.

A little background is helpful at this point. In the days of Joshua, Israel was commanded to overtake the land of Canaan. God also commanded them to drive out the inhabitants of the land lest their gods and false religions become a snare to the children of Israel. Israel obeyed God’s command to raid the land. However, they failed to drive out all of its inhabitants. Many Gentiles were left and this caused endless problems for the Jews. By the time Jesus came on the scene, this region is full of false religion and the worship of false gods. Galilee was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” (4:15). The religious established scorned them and steered clear of going there.

Jesus, on the other hand, began His ministry in the midst of spiritual darkness and death (4:16). The light of the world went to those who needed Him most. Our Lord called them out of the darkness and into the light, and He did this with a simple but profound message that still preaches today: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus didn’t merely call these people out of darkness. He commanded them.

The way we come out of darkness is by repenting of the darkness we love so much. I’m talking about sin. If you’re like me, you know sin all too well. It’s a part of the fabric of our being. And if you’re honest, apart from God’s grace, you love your sin more than you love Christ. Left to our own devices, we would all choose our sin and perish apart from the Lord.

But Jesus shines a light into our lives. He lets us know there is a different way. If we repent and turn to Christ, we’ll be saved. Repentance consists of three things—confession, contrition and conversion. We confess our sins to God. We agree that we’re wrong and we ask for forgiveness. We also express genuine contrition and sorrow for our sin. And then we turn to Christ, we trust in Him and are converted.

When we do this, we find inclusion into this Kingdom that Jesus promises is so near. While the fullness of His Kingdom is a future reality yet to come, Jesus reigns upon the thrones of everyone’s hearts that trust in Him.

Reflection Questions:

  • What does it mean that Jesus calls us out of the darkness and into the light?
  • How does knowing the three elements of repentance bring us to a better understanding of how to deal with our sin in responding to the gospel?

This devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana. He is currently a Master of Divinity student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.

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