A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this afternoon and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 4:23-25
When we come to Scripture we are often so quick to begin asking and wondering, “What does this say to me?” “What am I supposed to do in response?” These are good questions, but they are not the right place to start. These questions are only appropriately asked after we first grasp how our given text reveals God to us. So, we must begin with “What does this say about God?” “How does this text reveal who he is?” These are the questions that should shape and inform our lives as Christians.
It is critical for us to continue to keep this in mind as we read Matthew. The centrality of Jesus Christ is the vital fact of Matthew’s Gospel, and it is the central focus once again of our passage this afternoon. The text that we come to today describes the nature of Jesus’s ministry and the response of the people who witnessed it.
[Read Matthew 4:23-25]
In this text, Matthew presents a summary of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee, but it’s not a summary of what has happened; rather, it is a summary of the nature and context of everything that is about to happen. So, as we make our way through the next several chapters of Matthew’s gospel, this text should be in the background of our minds.
Matthew begins by telling us the nature of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee. Matthew tells us that Jesus went throughout all Galilee conducting his ministry. Galilee was an area that was about half the size of the Washington Metropolitan area and contained around 200 different cities and villages, most with thousands of people. It’s a fairly substantial area with as many as 3 million people in it.
And Matthew tells us that Jesus went throughout all of Galilee ministering to the people. If he went to two villages per day, it would take him around 3 months to go throughout this region. The ministry of Jesus was widespread and wandering. He was an itinerant preacher and teacher, going from town to town.
And then, Matthew details for us what Jesus would do in these towns. He gives us three aspects of this ministry: teaching, proclaiming, and healing.
He first says that Jesus went throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues. The synagogue was the central place of Jewish life in each of these towns. It is the place where Jews would assemble, and they would come to study and learn the law of God. And, importantly, it was the place of teaching for Jews. It would not have been unusual for a rabbi to come into a town and teach at the synagogue. And this was the first aspect of Jesus’s ministry. He went throughout Galilee teaching about the law of God in the synagogues.
Second, Matthew tells us that Jesus was proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. The word here for proclaiming is also translated “preach.” It refers to the act f declaring a particular message, it is a setting out of truth. And Matthew tells us what he proclaimed: the gospel of the kingdom. The “gospel” should be understood as “good news” and what made this news good was that it was the breaking in of the rule and reign of God into this world.
When we hear “kingdom” it can be easy to think of a thing, but this word is more about rule and reign and less about a place. “Kingdom” here describes God ruling. Jesus comes to declare and express the gracious and sovereign will of God in the world.
The third thing Matthew tells us about Jesus’s ministry demonstrates the good news of this kingdom. He tells us that Jesus went throughout Galilee healing every disease and every affliction among the people. Jesus didn’t only care about telling people about God and the coming of his kingdom. He demonstrated the difference this all makes in peoples lives. He cared about and brought wholeness to people. The ministry of Jesus prioritized spiritual need but it had physical expression as it showed that he had power over all sickness and all disease.
Teaching. Proclaiming. Healing. This is what Jesus gave of himself to do. This is what it looked like for the kingdom of God to break into this fallen world.
But think about this for Jesus. As he goes from town to town his message doesn’t change, neither do the needs of the people who come to him. So, he repeats the same truth over and over again, faces the same problems and sicknesses over and over again. Yet it was his joy to patiently teach and preach and heal again and again. He didn’t extend his hand of mercy begrudgingly but willingly, generously, patiently. The same is still true today.
Jesus is a willing Savior. He does not withhold the free gift of salvation from those who seek him. He invites all to come to him for he is willing and able to give true rest.
Jesus is a generous Savior. He doesn’t do the minimum but his mercy and grace, the sufficiency of his work, far exceeds our need. John tells us that “from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” It’s like Psalm 103:11-12 tells us, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” We can’t measure this distance—so great is his love.
Jesus is a patient Savior. He does not only proclaim the good news of salvation once, but again and again. He does not grow weary or tired of showing forth the abounding love and mercy and grace in himself. Jesus does not need to be provoked to show this love and mercy. One author says, “His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, ready to gush forth. We tend to think: divine anger is pent up, spring-loaded; divine mercy is slow to build. It’s just the opposite. Divine mercy is ready to burst forth at the slightest prick” (Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly, 148). And just as Jesus made his way from town to town showing his great love and mercy, so he is available to us today, patiently and readily available to show forth the goodness and glory of God to us.
This is who we see in Matthew’s description of the nature of Christ’s ministry—one who is overflowing with grace and truth. Then, Matthew describes for us the response of the people to Jesus’s ministry.
He first tells us about the fame of Jesus. People from far beyond Galilee heard about this Jesus Christ and what he was saying and doing. So much so that he tells us in Matthew 4:25 that people came to follow him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
While this list of cities and regions may not mean much to us, Matthew’s readers would have picked up on the sense that people came from the north and the south, from the east and the west. There was no limit to the spread of his fame as people responded to his work and word.
As his fame spread, the second thing Matthew tells us is that those who heard of Jesus brought him all the sick and needy. Matthew describes the broad scope of who was brought to him saying those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics.
And what did Jesus do as these people were brought to him? He healed them. Matthew’s point is that there was not an ailment or trouble that was too big for the power of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom in this world through Jesus Christ. The Bible makes clear that sickness of all kinds stems both directly and indirectly from the Fall. As a result of sin entering into this world, sickness and all manners of disorder and evil came with it. But the coming of Jesus points us to the end of all this sin and all this grief.
Matthew’s readers probably would have read these words with Isaiah 35:5-6 ringing in their ears. Isaiah prophecies that God will come to his people bringing salvation. He writes:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
Right here—all throughout Galilee—this is exactly what is taking place. The kingdom of God has broken into the world. God’s rule and his reign is seen wherever Jesus goes. The teaching of the world falls short of his wisdom. No news is better than the message that he proclaims. All sickness and disease are no match, to the matchless glory and power of Jesus Christ.
These are the signs of the gospel of the kingdom. The signs of his kingdom are not of judgment and wrath, but mercy and kindness. Where God through Moses turned water into blood, Jesus turns water into wine. Where God through Moses sent boils and sores, Jesus heals every sickness. This is our Savior and there is no one like him in mercy, in grace, in truth.
Now that we have considered who Jesus is, we have the right perspective to then turn to reflect on how we are to respond to his revelation. And we should see our response in the response of the crowds that followed Jesus.
Look again at the first phrase of Matthew 4:24. “So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and the brought him all the sick . . . and he healed them.” As his fame spread, what happened? They brought him all the sick.
The people of God are those who know the truth that is found in Jesus. They have experienced his love and mercy. They have received his gift of salvation. They have been sustained and strengthened by his Spirit. They know who he is because his fame has spread to them.
And here is where we must respond, by bringing him the sick. Bring him all those who are dead in their sin, walking in darkness. Bring them to Jesus. We can bring those who are dead in their transgressions and sin to Jesus. We must bring them to Jesus for he is the only one who can bring salvation to their souls.
Who must we bring? Think about your unsaved children. Think about your neighbors or coworkers. Think about your lost relative. Have these people in mind as we consider how to bring the sick to Jesus.
We bring the sick to Jesus by praying for them in faith. Choose one person and pray for them. Pray for them every day that God would save them. In prayer we have a power greater than any we can imagine.
Charles Spurgeon writes, “Have you any sick in your house? Bring them out on the bed of prayer to Christ. Mother, bring out your sick son and your sick daughter! Wife, bring out your demoniacal husband who seems as if he were possessed of the devil. I say to one and another among you, bring out that friend of yours who acts as I he were made with sin, like a very lunatic. Bring them all out as they did of old, and plead this day with Christ for their salvation.”
As we bring out the sick to Jesus through prayer, let us pray expectantly at what God will do through the power of his gospel. Here we read that as people were brought, they were healed. The same is true today. As sinners are brought to Jesus, they will be saved.
Our God is a God who delights in rescuing the wayward, redeeming the rebellious, saving the sickest, so, brothers and sisters, pray. Pray in faith that the Great physician would heal the souls of the sick around you. He has done it for you and he is eager to do it for others. Jesus is not a specialist when it comes to healing diseases. He can heal every one. His blood is enough to cover every sin.
Our celebration of Christmas is all about the in-breaking of the kingdom of God into our world. The coming of this baby represents the hope of the nations. He has come to reverse the curse of Adam’s fall. He has come to be our Savior, so brothers and sisters, turn to him, hope in him, find life in his name. Love the lost around you by praying for them in faith. Bring them to Jesus, the Savior of the world.
Song of Response
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