EPIPHANY 3, A – January 22, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Cor. 1:10-18; Matt. 4:12-25; Ps. 22

The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah 9; Matt. 4

 

The story of God – of who He is and His love for us human beings – begins this way: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.” (Gen. 1:1-3) Sadly, the third chapter of Genesis tells us how Adam and Eve, the first people God had made, the crown of His beautiful creation, turned from His light and His word and disobeyed Him. Afterward, when “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden,” they ran and hid from Him. Sin had darkened their hearts and minds to His mercy and love, and they feared Him as their enemy. From then on God had to hide Himself: in dreams and visions; in a burning bush; in cloud and fire; in the hopes and dreams of His people.

And then, He sent us His Son. Jesus’ ministry begins with the Spirit hovering over the waters of His baptism and God speaking. Matthew then tells us: “[Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “…the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Matt. 4) Jesus comes as God’s Light, shining upon those who, like Adam and Eve, are walking in the darkness of their sin. He comes walking among us, not bringing the threat of punishment but speaking forgiveness and peace.

Matthew parallels Jesus’ coming with God’s own revelation of Himself to indicate how you must see Him and receive Him: as God come to us. Jesus is not merely some great teacher, pointing out to us the path to God and His blessing. He does not come as a great moral leader, a man whose compassionate dealing with others shows us how we are to deal with one another. He comes as the voice and light of God, God’s very presence in this dark and fallen world. To see Him is to see God. To listen to Him is to listen to God. To receive Him is to receive God. God is found in Him, and nowhere else. This is how we must see Jesus and how we must speak of Him. To speak of God is to name Him as Jesus. Jesus is the true God, the Light of the world.

Seeing Him in this way is vital because it enables us to see, and name, our sin rightly. Our sins are not mere unfortunate disobediences or minor problems. They are more than simple failures. Sin is darkness. It is the denial of God and His light. As such, sin brings great sorrow: sufferings and death here in this life and then, after this life, in eternity in hell. We must admit this. We must never make up excuses for our sins, or ignore them or laugh them off. The only way to be saved from sin’s darkness and destruction is admitting to them, humbly confessing them, and then looking to Jesus. In Him there is forgiveness and the renewal of life.

Our God and Creator, our eternal Light, has come to us! He walks among us in mercy, bringing great healing and peace; and those who receive Him are made new creations! This is what His apostle Matthew tells us this day. This is why we gather together as His people. True, even here in this blessed place the darkness of our sin is great and threatens to bring darkness. Christ’s followers can give in to the darkness of personal desires and preferences and bring the darkness of division. This was seen in Christ’s Church very early on, as we hear in Paul’s reprimand of the Corinthians; it can be seen at times among us today. When we look within and follow the desires of our hearts, darkness, and not light, comes forth.

But Jesus, the Light of the world, has come! He shines upon us through the light of His holy Word, which is proclaimed through the servants He sends! Listen, and believe. Come, and rejoice, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon you! This is God’s simple message to us today. Come, for where Jesus’ voice is heard, where His presence is proclaimed in Word and Sacrament, there is the light that overcomes all darkness; there is the healing that overcomes every disease and affliction; there is the dawn of a new day, God’s eternal Day.

The kingdom of heaven has dawned, and Jesus, the Light of the world, now shines upon you! Repent. Turn from the darkness of your sin and believe His Gospel, and His light will fill you and shine through you; to God’s eternal glory and praise! Amen.