Big Idea: The start of Jesus’ public ministry shows that he came on purpose for a purpose.
Our eldest son Seamus has been sending us photos of Rio de Janeiro. In the background of many of his pictures, on purpose, is this statue, Christ the Redeemer. 30 metres in height, it sits on an 8-metre pedestal on the top of the 700m-high Corcovado mountain. Christ the Redeemer can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the city.
This got me thinking. What would it take for Christ the Redeemer (the Saviour not the statue) to be seen everywhere in Mitchelton? North Brisbane? The world?
In our passage, Matthew recounts the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, where he was visible in Israel. And as we take a look at this passage we’ll be reminded of the nature of gospel ministry and we’ll get an answer to our question …
How will Christ the Redeemer be visible in Mitchelton?
People will see Christ the Redeemer when they hear
The message that Jesus proclaimed right from the start of his ministry. Read v17
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Listen to my message, my proclamation. Hear my claims, see my works, and understand what I offer. Believe, repent and be saved into the kingdom of God. Now that is not explicit in v17, but that will unfold as we work our way through this passage and this gospel.
What is explicit is the claim that God’s promised reign is beginning, God is now taking control.
Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.
When John gets arrested Jesus withdraws to Galilee. Some have suggested that Jesus is retreating, fleeing from Judea to Galilee and escaping Herod.
But this is not a retreat but an ADVANCE. This is a gospel advance.
John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, had come to prepare the way, to prepare people for the imminent arrival of Jesus. But his time had come. His job was done. He is arrested and ultimately beheaded.
My Bible college principal noted that God often buries his messengers but never his message.
And so it is here. John’s time is finished, he must become less so that the focus moves to the very one he came to announce.
The MC moves from the microphone so the bridegroom can give his speech.
And Jesus does move to the microphone. Read v13-14
And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
Jesus is following the script, moving out of home, leaving Nazareth and basing himself in Capernaum, a town with a population of 10000, by the sea. Just as the prophet Isaiah had foretold 750 years earlier.
Not a panicked retreat but a planned offensive. Isaiah saw a day when the good news would step into enemy-occupied territory.
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles- 16 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.”
Zebulun and Naphtali did not have a great track record. Not an area or people deserving of favour or honour. Because of stubborn disobedience these tribes of Israel were the first to suffer exile in 722BC So this area of the Israelite inheritance became heavily populated with Gentiles. A patchy past, an embarrassing present, not one of your nicer neighbourhoods.
But here is a planned offensive. Stepping into the darkness. Rubbing shoulders with the despised. Holding out an invitation to all, Jew and Gentile, those who are near and those far away. With an offer of restoration. Light in the darkness. Hope amid brokenness. A beacon for the lost and wayward.
Certainly, that is the gospel in pictures. Read v17
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
When we read the opening words of Jesus’ public ministry we see that Matthew has already put these words in the mouth of John the Baptist. That was what he preached.
Matthew wants us to see that Jesus is not something new but he is the fulfilment of the old.
In 2014 I had the opportunity to visit Israel. I landed in Jordan and caught a bus to Israel. It took 3 hours to get through the border checkpoint. Lots of questions about who I was and why I was trying to enter Israel. Even asked me what my grandmother’s maiden name was!!! How did they know what my grandmother’s maiden name was? Felt like they were looking for excuses to keep me out.
Understand that God is making every effort to invite you in. His eternal plan of salvation is revealed in His Son, the Lord Jesus who stepped out of the glory of heaven into our dark and broken world with the invitation to enter His Kingdom. Light in darkness. Hope in brokenness. A beacon to the lost.
Don’t run away in fear. God is not looking for reasons to condemn. He goes to where the lost are. He is declaring the good news. He is issuing an invitation.
What would it look like for Christ the Redeemer to be seen in Mitchelton? It would take those who know the message of hope to … Go to where the lost are. Declaring the good news. People being invited to follow Jesus.
That leads us to the …
What is the method of Christ the Redeemer being seen in all of Mitchelton?
Tiny little seeds. Read v18-22.
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
In these verses, Jesus is building his church. In the next section, Matthew records a huge variety of miracles and displays of power by Jesus.
But notice how he builds his church. He calls four backwater fishermen to follow him. Hardly an impressive breaking-in of the kingdom. More of a soft launch.
But here are the foundations of Jesus’ church growth methodology, His method. And on close inspection, the method is more radical than you may expect.
Jesus the authoritative Son of God calls his people. He is gathering his people for his purposes. v19 follow me … v20 Immediately they … followed. v21-22 he called them. Immediately they … followed.
Here is an exercise in great authority. Different to other teachers of the time where disciples would choose which teacher they followed, I guess the uni they enrolled in.
Jesus does the calling.
Two observations about the call of Jesus to his people: Purpose. Fishers of men. Catch people with the saving message of Jesus. Priority. Work and family are two aspects of life held in high esteem throughout the Bible. Two pre-fall aspects of life, work and family. Yet His call Jesus’ call takes priority over both.
I’ve noted this before but quite often I am struck by just how many people are out and about in Mitchie and I wonder how many know anything about the good news of Jesus. The crowds at Blackwood Cafe, and the Woods Bar, gathered out the front of Mary’s Seafood Cafe, Hobby Lane Cafe. The new cafe Mitch and Antler is really popular. People everywhere.
How are they going to see Christ the Redeemer?
Those 4 fishermen became 12 disciples, then 120 at the start of Acts, then 3000 on the day of Pentecost and later more than 5000.
Today there are 2.6 billion Christians in the world and it is projected that there will be 3 billion by 2050.
Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. Something small growing slowly, steadily into something large.
Paul Kelly sings a song called, “From little things big things grow.” It’s not a gospel song, but it speaks to the gospel method.
Jesus’ method doesn’t immediately have a big impact on the world but it immediately has an impact on the life of his followers. Die to self, like a seed and watch what Jesus makes grow, that’s the method of the gospel. That’s how Christ the Redeemer will be seen in all of Mitchelton.
From this section the definition of gospel ministry would be wading into the mess of life in this broken world.
23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Glimpses of the kingdom (v23). Proclaiming the gospel (good news) of the kingdom. Showing what restoration looks like. And the people love it. They are flocking to him (v24, 25). Enoggera, Alderly, Stafford, McDowell, Everton Park, Arana Hills, Ferny Grove, The Gap, Ashgrove … Because here is a glimpse of Heaven, an appetiser for the kingdom which has come near. And this is what the kingdom offers v24. Doesn’t sound like a very orderly church gathering does it? Parents are not worried about their kids making noise…
Demonic shrieks. Groans of agony. People having convulsions. And in the midst of this chaos, Jesus brings calm, wholeness, healing, restoration, and peace. The kingdom has come near and it’s a pretty good kingdom … disease, disability, demons, death and disasters dealt with. Through Jesus, in his kingdom comes Restoration. The hospital wards, the emergency rooms, the medical centres, the psychiatric centres, doctor’s surgeries – all emptied out. The beggars on the streets, the people banished to live among the tombstones, the ones with no hope and no comfort are brought to Jesus.
Notice those who flock to Jesus. It’s not the ‘well to do.’ It’s not those with their life in order. It’s not those making a name for themselves It’s not those who are getting by alright. They’re not the ones who are flocking to Jesus It’s those who know their need. They come to him. And Jesus heals them. No rigmarole, no fuss. Jesus heals. Restores.
I wonder if we would let them in our church? I feel uncomfortable. A bit threatening? A bit concerning? Might touch our morning tea. Might chew with their mouths open. They’d probably want to smoke during the sermon. Smell bad. Make us feel uncomfortable. Maybe I forget to trust Jesus. Maybe I fall into thinking that they are beyond his reach, beyond his power, beyond his love. That restoration is not really for them, it’s for people who are tidy and sorted. It’s a challenge…
Or maybe you present well on the outside but inside you are a shrieking, agonised mess. Wondering if church is for you. If I just get through with a smile maybe I can stay. Yes, this is the place for the broken. If it’s not messy it’s not church. That’s the good news of heaven. Heaven is not sterilized clouds and angels and harps for people who held it all together. For people who earned their place – sounds more like hell actually. The promise of the coming kingdom of heaven is that all the bad things of this broken, fallen world will come untrue. Restoration. Like waking from your very worst nightmare to find that it was not true; the horror has passed; relief floods in, joy, delight, thankfulness.
The people see that in the ministry of Jesus. All the broken people are flocking to him. v24 All the lost people are flocking to him. They all see that he is someone worth following. They know their need and they see his answer, his provision, his promise; a glimpse of his kingdom which has rubbed up against them. This could be the biggest challenge for us. Not the challenge to do miracles and offer healing. I’ve been in churches where people truly believe that we need more of that if the church is to grow.
That’s not the message to take from these verses.
But that we as a church, living as followers of Jesus would be a portal or a window for our world to get a glimpse of the kingdom.
That as we live out our lives together and in the world people would see that there is something different, attractive, something very Kingdom about our lives. And that they would say to themselves and to us that’s what I long for.
The motivation behind the building of Christ the Redeemer statue was godlessness in the world.
I don’t think that it’s really working. But Christ in the world through purposeful, proclaiming followers will. That’s how Christ the Redeemer – the Saviour not the statue – will be seen in Mitchelton.