Summary: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their Synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” Matt. 4:23.
Matt. 4:12-23 Theme: Proclaim the Goodnews of Christ
Text: Is. 8:22-93; 1 Cor. 1:10-13, 17; Matt. 4:12-23
Introduction: In the providence of God the message and ministry of John the Baptist served two special purposes. Firstly it prepared the hearts of the Israelites for the advent and revelation of their long awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. Secondly it provided a link between the dispensation of the Law and the prophets and the dispensation of the gospel initiated by Jesus Christ. God will not leave Himself without a witness, or His Church without guides and when one useful instrument is removed God will raise up another. In Matthew’s introduction to the life and ministry of Jesus we discover the way Jesus ministered and the way He expects us to minister as His disciples. He teaches us that the good news of the Kingdom has priority over everything else. This is the reason why when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He immediately left the area and began His ministry of preaching the good news, teaching and healing. He placed the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom as a priority in His life. He put it before his mother and brothers, before His own needs and ultimately even before His own life. Jesus’ example teaches us to serve God by seeking His will in whatever situation we find ourselves, placing our lives before Him in prayer and sharing the Good News. God has called us and sent us with a message. He has sent us to proclaim the Good News of Christ.
Step One: The Good News of the Kingdom
a) Repentance from dead works
The good news was the message that Jesus came to bring and He stated it clearly in the first sermon that He preached saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near”. It is the good news of God’s love for His people, our restored relationship with Him, and our entrance into His Kingdom. This Kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is the Kingdom of eternal life and entrance into it is only through repentance and faith. Repentance is vital to a right relationship with God and is the first response to the gospel that God demands. It is a necessary preparation for the revelation of the Messiah. Nothing else can come before it and nothing else can take its place. Repentance means to change one’s mind and is a decision and not just a perceived spiritual experience. It is an inner change of mind resulting in an outward turning back, or turning around, to face or to move in a completely new direction. Repentance is more than being sorry for past sins. It is a determined and purposeful turning away from a sinful past and a full-hearted turning to God. It is putting into practice our Christian beliefs and not just giving verbal assent to them. It is the end of the old life and the beginning of the new life.
b) Faith towards God
True repentance always precedes true faith and without true repentance there can never be true faith. Without repentance faith alone is a mere empty profession. This is one reason why the experience of so many Christians today is so unstable and insecure. They are professing faith but have never practised true repentance. They are trying to build without first laying a foundation. As a result the faith they profess procures for them neither the favour of God nor the respect of the world.
Illustration: George Gallup, in a poll taken on spiritual life in America, uncovered that a majority of Americans believe that Christ rose from the dead and is a living Presence today. Yet very few translate that belief into action. Gallup remarks “There is little difference in ethical behaviour between the churched and the unchurched. There’s as much pilferage and dishonesty among the churched as the unchurched. And I’m afraid that applies pretty much across the board: religion per se, is not really life changing. People cite it as important, for instance, in overcoming depression – but it doesn’t have primacy in determining behaviour.” This is indeed a sad comment on Christianity. Just as being a descendant of Abraham did not guarantee salvation, neither does being a member of a Church. Only genuine repentance and faith can do this. True repentance will impact and determine our behaviour. John the Baptist prepared the people for the first coming of Christ by calling them to repentance. We have been sent to proclaim the good news of Christ and repentance is what ushers us into the Christian life. I once heard the story of an American woman on her first visit to Europe. She rented a car to tour the tourist sites only to return it the next day complaining that it was too loud and too slow. The rental firm told her that she had been given the best Mercedes, the quietest and the fastest. To prove her point she drove them a short distance driving the whole time in first gear. She had never driven a car with gears before and drove, as she was accustomed to with her automatic. The man from the rental firm took the wheel and began to drive. The car moved fast and made no noise at all. She learnt how to change gears and immediately fell in love with the car. This is the way many Christians behave. They not only fail to change the gears of their Christian lives properly but even attempt to drive without releasing the brakes. This makes the journey almost impossible. Inevitably the journey would end with damage to the car leading to an accident and injury to the occupants. We cannot lead the Christian life without first repenting of our sins. Without repentance we should not be surprised when we cannot live or enjoy the Christian journey.