Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “The Light Shines on People for People” based on Matthew 4:12-23 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, January 26, 2020
The excitement had been building for centuries. Generation after generation had been waiting with bated breath, anxious with anticipation for the Messiah who was promised through the prophets to make his appearance. They waited. And then they waited. And then they waited some more.
As the days, the weeks, the months, the years, the decades, and the centuries passed, God’s people were given some small slices of strength as the Father sent his mouthpieces to sate their thirst. Men like Moses and Micah, Jonah and Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Zechariah all gave glimpses that the time for that Messiah to arrive was near.
But the days of the prophets were now coming to a close. Yes, there was quite a bit of a to-do happening with that camel-hair clothed locust eater, John the Baptist, out in the desert. But, after four centuries of almost complete silence, now even this “last of the prophets” had been arrested. They wouldn’t be able to hear his voice or the promises of God he was proclaiming and preaching anymore. It was beginning to get dark again.
But the darkness wasn’t only present because of silence. In the verse just after the section of Scripture set before you today, it says that people in that area were ill with various diseases…suffering severe pain…demon-possessed…having seizures, and…paralyzed.
The shadow of death had certainly been looming large over this land of Zebulun and Naphtali. Stuffed and steeped with sickness and disease, this land was also a walking museum tour of past attacks from foreigners who had laid siege and utter destruction upon the people of God. Those Northern tribes were on the front lines of just about every battle where Israel had been beaten and, after God’s people were finally restored to this homeland, it was now riddled with remnants of those foreign nations. Dirty, disgusting, unclean, and uncircumcised Gentiles outnumbered the people of God in the land that God promised to them for their possession.
And now the Messiah arrived? The time and place God had planned for so long to send his Son into, the situation and site inside which Jesus would begin his public ministry was this…this dank and depressing gloom?
Well…yeah. That’s kinda the point. Elsewhere, Jesus makes it clear that it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick; that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners; and that he came to give rest not to those who are living the sweet life on Easy Street, but to those who are weary and heavy burdened.
And, that, friends, is good news for you and for me. That’s because, while hopefully this congregation can be seen as a beacon of light in the Hartford area, it isn’t because you, the people here today, are healthy, righteous, and living the dream. Doesn’t it feel like the darkness is sweeping over you? Don’t you feel the shadow of death looming large over you?
Did you come here today, mumbling through the confession of sins because you didn’t really have anything to be so contrite about? Or, did you come because you, too, are looking for a place to escape the darkness of your own sin and the sin that, on a daily basis, seems to envelop you?
What is it that has caused so much darkness in your life? Is it just because you live in a world completely covered with sin? Or, like the complete opposite of a lamp, have you been dimming this place and time with your own darkness?
Sickness and disease seem to strike without bias or partiality, but how much pain and sadness have your words and actions caused? Broken relationships can come for any number of reasons, but how many times has your selfishness and self-centeredness been the source of loneliness for others, or even for yourself?
When Jesus arrived so many centuries ago into the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, into Galilee of the Gentiles, he didn’t take his people out of the darkness. He entered into it. He embraced it. And, thankfully, just as he did back then, still today, in place of his people; in place of you and me, he endured it.
He took the darkness of sin onto himself and received the punishment that was due, that you and I and that all people of all time deserved, because of it. When he went to the cross, he took the death that loomed large over you and, in its place, put the light of faith and life eternal.
He shined that light of life, love, and forgiveness on you so that you could not only see the darkness in which you live and how often you have been spreading your own darkness, but also for you. He shines that light, through his Word and Sacraments, to give you life, to love you, and to apply that forgiveness to you.
When you feel the darkness of this world surrounding you, come back to the light and bask in the glory of the Son. Listen to Jesus speak and hear him tell you to repent. Do not revel in the darkness or try to hide yourself inside it. Stop dimming it further. Turn away from it and run towards the light that Christ shines on you for you.
With the excitement that has been building for centuries; with the same bated breath that your faithful forefathers anxiously anticipated the Messiah’s return at the end of time, wait for his arrival. Hear the Word your God speaks through his mouthpieces today to quench your thirst and strengthen yourself by means of his Sacrament today. The night is indeed darkest just before the dawn. You are living in darkness in the land of the shadow of death, but the Light is coming again soon. With the same certainty that you have that the sun will come and shine again tomorrow, trust that the Son is coming to shine the true light again soon. Not to call to repentance, but to take you to life eternal. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.