Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Devotional: The Beginning of Kingdom Ministry, Matthew 4:12-25

Outline of Matthew 4.12-25

Chapter 4 of the Gospel of Matthew ends with the beginning organization of Jesus' ministry and a brief summary of what kingdom ministry looks like. Matthew makes it clear that kingdom ministry is intimate and relational and ministers holistically to the physical and spiritual needs of all the people it encounters. Jesus’ gospel message is condensed to two short sayings, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (4:17) and “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (4:19). .As Paul reduced the gospel message to “Jesus is LORD” (Romans 10:9), so Jesus reduces it to “repent” and “follow me.” The rest of the Gospel will recount the events that show that Jesus is the promised king who has defeated death and sin (the gospel events) and, thus, we need to repent of our own ways of living and trust, submit to and follow Jesus (the gospel response). The kingdom of God has come in the person of the king and Jesus now begins to gather his disciples and minister to them.

He defends Jesus' choice of despised Galilee as his base of operations and emphasizes the prophesied outreach to the Gentiles.(4:12-17) Right up front Matthew lets us know that King Jesus is going to be a very unusual king. He does not go to the capitol to begin his ministry but, instead, goes to “Galilee of the Gentiles,” the least likely place in the nation for God to show up. Jesus would be a king who goes where the needy people are. He would also minister in unusual, unexpected ways. Isaiah 9 compares his victory to that of Gideon who did not win his victory by superior strength but in a weakness that displayed the power of God. This king would gain his throne by stooping down to help to help those in “the shadow of death”  and bring the light of life and victory over death by giving his life, rather than taking lives.

.Jesus would also gather an unusual group of people for his inner circle of attendants. (4:18-22) Just as God called Israel, when he was a “wandering Aramean” and “few in number” (Deuteronomy 26:5), to be in covenant relationship with him and to reveal YHWH to the world, so Jesus would choose very flawed men and women to be part of his inner circle through whom he’d reveal himself to the nation and to the world. That began with the calling of four Galilean fishermen to “follow me.” That is “give your lives to me,” “live with me,” “learn from me” and “become like me” so that “you can reveal me to the world.” Peter, Andrew, James and John, exemplified what “repent” means as they left their old lives behind and followed Jesus. These would become the people who “turned the world upside down.” This should be how we do ministry today. We follow Jesus and take others with us.

Matthew records a summary of Jesus’ ministry in 4:23-25. First, Jesus proclaimed the “gospel of the kingdom.” That is he announced the good news that God was there in his person and what that meant for them. For us, this would be the applicational preaching of the whole apostolic revelation of the New Testament message. Second, he taught them “in their synagogues.” Jesus went where the people were and clearly taught how the scriptures related to him and what God wanted from people in their present situation. A good teacher is in relationship with the students and is able to take eternal truths and apply them to new situations. Finally, Jesus ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of all the people he came in contact with.  For the church to be what Jesus has called us to be we must be reaching out to people in all three of these areas.

Jesus calls us into relationship. Proclaiming the gospel is basically introducing people to a Jesus that we know and love. Discipleship is basically being in relationships with people that invite them to  “walk with me as I walk toward Jesus.”

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