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Matthew 4:12-25 by Robert Dean
Do you walk faster in the dark, hurrying between the pools of light from street lamps and listening for rustling sounds? A world without light would be unthinkable. Listen to this lesson to learn that God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all. Expose the devil's masquerading as an angel of light and understand the significance of Jesus referring to Himself as the Light of the World. See that the Word of God is a light shining in the pagan world that enables us to cast off the works of darkness and clothe ourselves in the armor of light. Explore ten ways light is described in Scripture.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:44 mins 5 secs

Snapshots of Jesus' Messianic Credentials
Matthew 4:12-25
Matthew Lesson #015
December 8, 2013

Starting in verse 12 we have several snapshots. This is one of those transition periods in Matthew's Gospel that moves us from the opening episodes of Jesus' ministry as He has been baptized by John the Baptist and immediately taken by the Holy Spirit to go into the wilderness for forty days of testing. We have seen that Matthew actually leaves out the first year of Jesus' ministry. That first year takes place mostly in Judea, in the area around Jerusalem.

Matthew 4:12 NASB "Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee". This takes place approximately a year after the early events of Matthew chapter four. Some of what Matthew has is organized chronologically. The first four and a half chapters are chronological. The past part is more of a topical arrangement as a transition into the Sermon on the Mount that begins in chapter five. In chapters eight and nine we will see another major topical arrangement. All of these events from 4:12 through the end of chapter eleven happened during the first part of Jesus' ministry. They are roughly chronological but they are arranged topically because Matthew is making certain points about Jesus messiahship. Then we see the rejection by the religious leadership of Jesus' messiahship in chapter twelve where they accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Matthew is writing to prove a point, not to create a historical biography. Luke is the one Gospel that is most consistently chronological. 

John the Baptist and Jesus had overlapping ministries, as we learn from the first part of John chapter four. But John had run foul of Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas had taken the wife of his half-brother Philip for himself. It was an act of adultery, of betrayal, and as a result of that John accused him of adultery. This didn't sit well with Herod Antipas. It really angered his wife and so she pressured him and eventually Herod arrested John and put him in prison. Eventually Herodius will induce her daughter Salome to trick Herod into offering her something, and she said: "I want the head of John the Baptist on a platter". That leads to John's death.  

A lot of people talk about why Jesus now goes to Galilee. He goes to Galilee not so much (although some suggest this) that He is avoiding the political pressure of Herod Antipas, but He is heading north for several different reasons: to fulfil prophecy, to get away from the hostility that has been developing from the Pharisees, and He is also going to conduct His ministry in the north among the villages and towns of Galilee, and a number of other things will take place there. This allows the heat that is developing in the south in Jerusalem to simmer down. Jesus does not want to be arrested before the proper time.    

Matthew 4:13 NASB "and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum …" He left Nazareth. That takes us back to a Luke 4:16. When Jesus returned from the south He went through Samaria where John tells us about His conversation with the Samaritan woman. "… which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali." That is a quote from Isaiah 9:1, 2. The territory of Galilee was small, about sixty miles by thirty miles. But it had over 200 villages and towns, each with hundreds if not thousands of people. This was going to be a prime area for the Lord to go to to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. 

Matthew 4:14 NASB {This was} to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: [15] "THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES— "  The area since the time of before the deportation of the southern kingdom (586 BC), going back to the time of Isaiah, became known as Galilee of the Gentiles. Often it was this area in the north that was subject to invasions by Gentiles forces. The Romans, too, had a strong presence here. Tiberius was a Roman city. Capernaum means the village of Nahum. It was possibly named for the prophet Nahum and could have been his home town. In Jesus' time it was a flourishing, prosperous commercial city. There were Gentiles who lived there as well as Jews, and it was the place where Matthew had his tax office. It was a place where Peter came to live and where our Lord also came to live.    


Light and darkness are significant metaphors and descriptions in Scripture.

1.      Light is one of the few attributes of God which is attributed specifically and wholly to Him. Scripture says God is Holy; God is love. These are specific declarative statements. It is not that God isn't omniscient or omnipresent, but nowhere in Scripture does it say God is omnipresent; it is stated in other ways. These three attributes—God is holy; God is love; God is light—are specifically stated in the Scriptures. Light indicates His righteousness, His purity; that in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5. 1 Timothy 6:16 talks about God dwelling in unapproachable light, who no man has seen or can see. James 1:17 uses the same imagery: "God is the Father of lights, within whom there is no variation or shifting shadow," literally.  

2.  Light is used in Scripture to depict a couple of different aspects of God. It indicates His pure righteousness as well as His illumination of truth. He reveals truth in darkness. We see both of these aspects in numerous passages. For example, Psalm 37:6 emphasizes that aspect of righteousness. NASB "He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment [justice] as the noonday." Psalm 36:9 NASB "For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light." There are two things that are associated with light there that come up several times. One is life. The life of God is also light. This is the same thing that John says about Jesus in the first chapter of his Gospel: "In Him was life and His life was the light of men." It is in God's light, His illumination, that we are able to understand other things. Ultimate understanding comes from revelation. This exposes truth to us so that we can then think clearly and properly understand and interpret our experiences. In other words, rational thought is ultimately guided and directed by God's revelation. Our understanding and interpretation of empirical things is also determined by God's revelation. Psalm 43:3 NASB "O send out Your light and Your truth …" See how light is connected to revelation there. " … let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places." That light gives us guidance and direction. This is seen again in Psalm 119:105 NASB "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path." So God's illumination is not just out there somewhere functioning independently of things, it is localized in His Word. It is God's Word that illuminates the path of life, illuminates our thinking. Psalm 119:130 NASB "The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple." You and I cannot understand life or the direction of life without the light of God's Word. It is the Word of God that illuminates pour thinking, and apart from that we are walking in darkness.

3.  When the writer of the Gospel of John speaks of Jesus as the logos, the Word of God—"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"—he goes on to describe the Word of God as being the source of life and the light of the world. Two great passages on this are the first chapter of John and in the third chapter of John, following the well-known conversation with Nicodemus, and of course John 3:16-18. John 1:4 NASB "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men." His life itself had an illuminating aspect to it. it reveals to us the Father, as He will go on to say in John 1:18. John 1:5 NASB "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… [7] He [John the Baptist] came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. [8] He was not the Light, but {he came} to testify about the Light. [9] There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." Here we have a clear statement of common grace that through the incarnation Jesus illuminates every man to fundamental, general truth about God and the need for salvation.

This goes along with Romans 1:18, 19 that everyone knows that God exists for this knowledge is evident in them, for God has made it evident to them. John 3:19 NASB "This is the judgment, that the Light [Jesus] has come into the world, and men loved the darkness [Negative volition] rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil." They are committed to self-justification. [20] "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." In fact, what they want to do is extinguish the Light.

We see that a lot in our culture today. As the influence of biblical Christianity gets less and less, and as pagan thought grows more and more, they are coming out of the closet and expressing their hostility to Christianity and Christian traditions more and more. We will see within the next ten years things that we have never imagined, just as we see things to day we never imagined ten years ago. The only thing that is going to strengthen us and fortify us for what is coming is the Word of God. Because when we get to a point where we, as many believers before us, go through overt persecution for our overt faith in Christ the only thing that is going to sustain us when we possibly could lose everything that we have, is going to be the one thing we can never lose, and that is the knowledge of God's Word that is in our soul and our understanding of His promises that sustain us. That is what gives us hope. No matter how dark things might appear God always gives us hope that sustains us through His Word.

John 3:21 NASB "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." If you are a believer your focal point should be to come to the Light, to learn the Word of God, so that it might expose the wrong that is in your thinking and that it might help you understand how to live rightly before God.

4.      Jesus referred to Himself as the Light of the world. John 8:12 NASB "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'" We are told in verse 20 of this chapter that Jesus spoke these words in the treasury while He was teaching in the temple. The temple treasury was in the outer court of the temple. Jesus came to that place at the end of the feast of the tabernacles. During the feast of the tabernacles the Jews would celebrate what they called the illumination of the temple. They would fill the courtyards of the women with menorahs and for a week this would illuminate, send forth a tremendous stream of light out into the darkness surrounding the temple. It was designed to commemorate the pillar of fire that illuminated the way of Israel in the wilderness wanderings under Moses. At the conclusion of the feast as the menorah were being extinguished Jesus walked onto the temple precinct and said: "I am the Light of the world." He is the one who provides true light in the midst of the darkness. In John 9:5 again He proclaimed this. NASB "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world", and also in John 11:9. That light indicates divine revelation, providing direction, guidance and knowledge for people, as we see in passages like Romans 2:19 NASB "and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness." In 2 Corinthians 4:6 it provides the knowledge of the glory of God. In John 1:18 we are told that Jesus is the one who expresses this most fully, NASB "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained {Him.}". His role is to illuminate us as to who God is.

5.      In Ephesians 5:13, 14 we are told, NASB "But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, 'Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.'" Jesus is the source of illumination for us.

6.      Believers are called sons of light. We are sons of light because that becomes part of our new nature as members of the royal family of God. Luke 16:8; John 12:36 reference believers as sons of light. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 NASB "for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness." Since we are sons of light we are to live a certain way. How are believers to live? We are to live in a way that illuminates the world around us on the basis of truth. Ephesians 5:8 NASB "for you were formerly darkness [positionally], but now you are [positionally] Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light." Because we are positionally sons of Light we are to live like sons of Light. This connects to the same imagery over in 1 John 1:7 NASB "but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light …" Both passages talk about the Christian walk in the Light.

7.      A lot of people ask the question: How do you get the connection of the filling by the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18 with confession of sin in 1 John 1:9? Ephesians 5:18 doesn't mention confession; 1 John 1:9 doesn't mention the Spirit. How do we connect those? It goes back to the context. Ephesians 5:8 says we are to walk as children of Light; 1 John 1:9 is talking about walking as children is talking about walking as children of Light. Those who are children of Light confess their sins when they shift from walking in darkness to walking in light. Those who are walking in the Light in Ephesians 5 are those who are filled by means of the Spirit. When we are not walking in the Light we are not being filled by means of the Spirit. So when we put these things together we understand that confession means recovery when we start walking like children of Light and stop walking in darkness.

8.      Christians, by virtue of their of their position as receptors or receivers of revelation are also light, and we are to function as light. Matthew 5:14, 16 say that we are the light of the world. That which is set on a hill cannot be hidden, so we are to let our light shine before men so that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

9.      Believers are to put on the armor of light. That is, the armor of protection that comes from light or divine revelation. When we study God's Word it gives us the protection we need to live in the midst of a dark and pagan world. Only from the Word of God do we receive the armor of light. Romans 13:12 NASB "The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."

10.  We need to realize that Satan is a master counterfeiter. He counterfeits this light and masquerades as an angel or messenger of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14 NASB "No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." So the only way we can have discernment of what is true light and what is the false light is to know the Word of God.        

So Jesus came in that first appearance into Galilee, and it is described as a light shining in darkness, illuminating the people who sat in darkness. And this is the same ministry today through the Word of God. Through both the living Word and the written Word we can know truth, and that truth is what enables us to live life in the world on the basis of reality so that we can experience the fullness of life that God has given to us.