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01.26.14 Summary of Jesus Ministry Matthew 4:12-23 Sermon Summary (Grace Lutheran)

by on January 27, 2014

By now our New Year’s Resolutions are broken. It’s time to start again . . . again. God is calling us to new resolutions, not based on our aspirations alone, but beginning somewhere else.

Summary Points

  • Matthew’s stage is set by Isaiah
  • The three parts of Jesus’ ministry
  • The shortest summary of Jesus’ good news
  • Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of heaven
  • What results when we become learners and doers

The prophet Isaiah set the stage for the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. Eight centuries before Matthew, the Assyrians were conquering the tribes of Northern Israel including Galilee, Naphtali, and Zebulun. In this situation, Isaiah promised the birth of a new king, frequently symbolized in the ancient world as the coming of light, who would bring hope to God’s despairing people.

At Christmas, Christians celebrate the coming of a new light and a new king in the birth of Jesus Christ. After Christmas we celebrate a season of Epiphany, which means “manifestation,” when the luminosity of Christ’s light grows.

Matthew uses this imagery. He reports that Jesus moves from Nazareth to Capernaum, that is, the very regions of Isaiah’s text. His ministry is revealed following John’s arrest. And as his light begins to shine ever brighter, his following grows.

Matthew breaks down Jesus’ ministry into three parts when he closes this passage with the words, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

The proclamation of Jesus was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This was the same proclamation as John the Baptist’s (cf. 3:2). Jesus built upon and developed John’s message. Jesus’ proclamation leads to the calling of the first four disciples, Andrew, Peter, James, and John. But it begs two questions: What is repentance? What is the kingdom?

The second of Jesus’ ministry activities according to Matthew was teaching, and content of Jesus’ teaching was the nature of the kingdom of heaven. In the following three chapters in Matthew, Jesus delivers the famous Sermon on the Mount which begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom.” Here we have a summary depiction of God’s kingdom.

The foundation is, of course, the list of Beatitudes. From there we learn that in the kingdom, people are as concerned about their thoughts as about their actions. In the kingdom, people love their enemies, and serve beyond what is required. They do not judge others, and they are generous without seeking attention or reward. In the kingdom, heavenly treasure is valued over earthly treasure, and worry is replaced by daily trust in God. And as a summary of this teaching, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray for and live according to the kingdom using the Lord’s Prayer.

This presentation of the kingdom teaches us also what the nature of repentance is. It is most simply living a life of wisdom. The Sermon on the Mount ends with the promise that those who hear this teaching of Jesus and orient their lives around it are wise. Repentance is changing our attitudes and actions to conform to the teaching of Jesus’ kingdom.

Here’s a final observation about Jesus’ teaching ministry. Jesus taught at all times and places—this sermon was delivered “on the mount,” yet Matthew makes a point of telling us he taught in synagogues also. Psalm 27:4-6, after identifying the LORD as our light, like Christmas and Epiphany, directs us to “seek God’s face in his house, in the temple.” Disciples of Jesus listen for God’s Word to them everywhere, but especially in worship.

When we become disciples, when we become those who learn, hear, and do, what can we expect? If we become wise builders who repent because the kingdom has come near, what will result?

This leads us to the third point of Jesus’ ministry as summarized by Matthew. After proclaiming and teaching, Jesus healed. Healing is the sign and the evidence of the kingdom. Following the Sermon on the Mount, in chapters 8-9, Matthew provides many dramatic examples of the healing that comes with Jesus. He heals a Roman centurion’s servant and Peter’s mother-in-law. He heals demoniacs and a paralytic and a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. He raises a dead girl to life, gives voice to a mute man, and sight to two blind men.

By these dramatic healing stories, Matthew makes his point that repentance towards the kingdom brings healing. The healing we expect today may be less dramatic but is no less transformative. Imagine the results if we were to live according to the kingdom of heaven! Let me suggest three. We would experience healing through forgiveness, both given and received. So much of our spiritual, psychological, and even physical health is compromised by our inability to forgive (see 1 Corinthians 11:30 and Matthew 5:23-24).

Another result of living according to the kingdom of heaven is social justice. Look over the characteristics of the kingdom again. If society organized itself around these principles, there would be less poverty, more industry, and greater societal stability.

And finally, if we practiced forgiveness and social justice, peace would naturally result. Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of heaven and his lived example inspires and equips us for forgiveness, social justice, and peace.

This is the kingdom we hope for and which Jesus proclaimed. But how are we to begin? We may study and learn the teachings of Jesus on the kingdom. We may repent of the ways we don’t live according to the kingdom. But where does the power come from for the transformation of our lives and our world?

For Paul in 1 Corinthians, the answer is the Cross of Christ. Paul was often challenged in his ministry by people who preached with greater eloquence than he. In this passage from the lectionary, Paul asserts the authority of his message derives not from eloquence or personality (cf. his comments on baptism), but on the content which was exclusively the power of the Cross to transform lives. For Paul, we can live according to the kingdom by remembering Christ’s own self-sacrifice for the kingdom. For there, on the Cross of Christ, we die with him. And the same Spirit that raised him from the dead raises us to new life now.

So let us dedicate ourselves anew to kingdom living. May our lives show the learning and repentance that characterize faithful discipleship. And may Christ’s light shine ever brighter through us as we die to self and live for God.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • As the days are beginning to lengthen and the light increases (at least in the northern hemisphere), how is the Christ-light of Christmas and Epiphany increasing in your life? Or where are there dark places in your own life where that light can bring hope?
  • How familiar are you with Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of heaven? There’s no better place to start than the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As you read these chapters, what is God calling you to do?
  • So often we think about repentance in moralistic and negative terms. I have suggested a more positive and constructive understanding of aligning with God’s kingdom. What do you think about that?
  • In what ways does your life exemplify the kingdom fruits of forgiveness, social justice, and peace? Where in your life can you begin to live in such a way to bear these fruits?
  • When we remember our baptism and Christ’s sacrifice at the Lord’s Table, we remember that God vindicated Jesus’ faithfulness to the kingdom vision. How does our celebration of the sacraments inspire and strengthen your own faithfulness to God’s vision for the world?



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