Summary: A consideration of how Jesus fulfilled the promise God made through Isaiah, that the Messiah would cause a light to shine on the people walking in darkness.
TITLE - Jesus: The One Who Lights Our Way
SERIES - Matthew’s Portrait of Jesus As The Fulfillment of God’s Promises (Sermon # 6)
TEXT - Matthew 4:12–17
DATE PREACHED - March 1, 2009
COPYRIGHT © JOE LA RUE, 2009
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A. Have you ever been in complete, total darkness? I remember visiting Mammoth Cave National Park in southeastern Kentucky years ago with my parents. I was probably about twelve years old at the time, and going deep into a cave seemed like a really exciting thing to do. We were assigned to a tour group, and our tour guide did a great job pointing all the stalactites and stalagmites and explaining how they were formed. And then, when we were deep in the belly of the cave, the guide told us that he wanted to show us what it was like in the caves before they were wired with electric lights. He said, “You have never really experienced darkness until you have experienced the darkness of Mammoth Cave!” I’m not sure why, exactly, he wanted us to experience that, or why he thought that we would want to experience it, considering that our tour group included a number of young children. But, he evidently thought that it was a good idea. So he flipped the light switch, and the world around me instantly went black.
Two impressions immediately seized me. First, it was dark. It was very dark. Our guide was right: I realized that I had not ever experienced darkness—not like that darkness, at least. It was total, complete, pitch-black darkness. It was the kind of darkness where you could not see anyone, or anything. It was the darkest darkness I had ever been in.
The second impression that seized me was that someone in our tour group was not thrilled to be in such darkness. Some child in our group began to shriek and cry in complete terror.
Now, as I stood there listening to this young girl, I was at first amused. I was a twelve year old boy. Hearing some girl scream like that was funny. ‘What a girl!,’ I thought. But then, in the darkness, another thought popped into my mind. ‘What if she’s not just a silly, scared girl? What if something has happened? What if there’s a bad guy, or a wild animal in this cave, and he—or, it—has got her?’ And I freaked myself out! I did not scream, but I felt like screaming. I realized that not only could I not see the girl who was screaming, or what was happening to her, I would not be able to see the animal or bad guy if he came to get me. And it was scary!
Then I thought of a new thing to worry about, that momentarily took my mind off the possibility of being grabbed by a bad guy or torn to pieces by a wild animal. I began wondering, ‘What if the tour guide takes his hand off the light switch? He will never find it again! We will never be able to find our way out! We will die in this cave . . . in the dark . . . with that girl still screaming!’
It’s okay, you can laugh. It’s a funny story. But I am telling you the truth: I was never so glad to see light as I was when the tour guide flipped the switch back on. If you have ever been in total darkness, you may be able to relate. There is something special—magical, even—about light illuminating total darkness. One minute you can see nothing, and the next minute you can see everything.
B. In a spiritual sense, that’s the exact effect that Jesus had on our world during his ministry, and that he continues to have today. Prior to meeting Jesus, people were lost in spiritual darkness. They groping around in the dark, trying to come to know God.
1. The Jewish people had God’s Old Testament, which the apostle Paul described in Rom 3:2 as a “great” benefit over the condition of the non-Jewish, Gentile peoples. But, God’s revelation to them had been perverted into a legalistic code of “dos” and “don’ts” by their teachers, who taught it in such a way that it was impossible for the common person to have a relationship with God. (Matt 23:3, 13).
2. The Gentile, non-Jewish people had it even worse: They were lost in utter spiritual darkness. The Bible says that they were “without hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12, NIV). Instead, they “were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist” (Gal 4:8, NLT): they worshiped a myriad of idols, trying to find their way to God. The apostle Paul described these efforts as “groping” for God in Acts 17:27—the word conjures up the image of a blind man, reaching out, desperately trying to find something that he knows is there but cannot quite locate.