Summary: A call to repentance, a call to change to our country, to the church, and to ordinary people.
We continue this morning with our walk through a short book written by a friend of Jesus called Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector, and 2000 years ago being a tax collector really was an unpopular job!
Being a tax collector was a bit like being a ‘collaborator’ during the Second World War. When the Germans invaded France most of the French people wanted them out. A few became ‘collaborators’, working with and working for the invading enemy. Collaborators were themselves seen as enemies of the nation.
When Jesus walked the earth, The Land of His birth was occupied by an invading Roman army. Tax Collectors were collaborators, collecting money for the enemy. Ordinary people were desperate for rescue, just as the French were during the war.
So the author of this particular short book is remarkable. He was once a hated man, and yet his friendship with Jesus and the book which he later wrote have become famous! Matthew later tells us about the time when he met Jesus: transformation occurred in his life from that day onwards. His life was literally ‘turned around’. Matthew’s life had been heading in one direction, but after his encounter with Jesus, his life took on new meaning.
The wonderful news is that people encounter the risen Jesus today. He died on a wooden cross of execution but death could not hold him. He rose from death, ascended to heaven and now we can encounter the Spirit of Jesus today and every day! Have you encountered the Spirit of Jesus? Would you like to encounter the Spirit of Jesus?
Ordinary people were desperate for rescue. They wanted the Romans out and they expected war.
Jesus’ second cousin John the Baptist arrived on the scene saying “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2 (quickview) ). In other words, God’s rescue is coming. Be ready! Be prepared. Change your ways!
John is thrown into prison because his call for change was unacceptable. He was ‘politically incorrect’ (not PC) and so he was arrested.
Jesus now continues and explains the message of John, and with a lovely personal touch, perhaps a sign of Matthew’s friendship with Jesus, the author tells us that “Jesus went and lived in Capernaum” (Matthew 4:13 (quickview) ). In doing so, Jesus fulfilled an ancient prophecy written over 700 years before his birth. Indeed I find it fascinating that Jesus fulfilled dozens of prophecies written long before his birth, some of which he had absolutely no control over at all: Such as the place of his birth, the method and place of his execution, and the place of his burial.
So Jesus begins his 3 year ministry with a message which permeated all that he did, all that he said, and all that he asks of ordinary people like you and me today. The basic message of Jesus was this: His words, not mine, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17 (quickview) ). Another translation of the Bible (the CEV) puts it accurately like this: “Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.”
I believe that this message of Jesus applies today.
1. Jesus says to our country: “Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.”