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). 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). 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). 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.”
2. Jesus says to His church: “Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.”
3. Jesus says to ordinary people: “Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.”
1. Our Country:
Here are some of my observations, some of which you might agree with.
The people in Jesus’ day expected a military leader, a Messiah to drive out the Romans. That was not the way of Jesus. He said repent, turn back to God, change your ways. It seems to me that as a country we generally believe we can solve problems in the world by sending an army. Jesus said repent, turn back to God, change your ways.
Generally as a country we seem to have a phobia, a real fear of asylum seekers, many of whom would face death if they returned to their country of birth. Generally, as a country we say “not in my back yard”. The wisdom of the Bible is full of a generous attitude towards the stranger, the outsider. For example (Deuteronomy 10: 18-19 CEV), “The Lord defends the rights of orphans and widows. He cares for foreigners and gives them food and clothing. And you should also care for them …” Jesus said repent, turn back to God, change your ways.
As a country we have become ridiculously ‘politically correct’. We’re not supposed to do or say anything which might upset someone else, because of course they are free to do and say and behave as they wish. We truly live in a ‘liberal’ and ‘free’ society. There is a book currently on sale entitled ‘The Noble Koran’. In it, the author encourages readers to believe that all Christians and all Jews should be exterminated. Despite the Government’s assurances that religious hatred will be dealt with they have done nothing about the book. Jesus said repent, turn back to God, change your ways.