Freedom from Death
John the Baptist has been arrested, which appears to set two things in motion. First, upon learning of John’s arrest, Jesus relocates to Galilee. This move signals a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy to the people of Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus is the light Isaiah referenced, the one who would deliver the people from darkness. And that light is now in Galilee, as promised.
Second, Matthew tells us that once Jesus arrives in Galilee, he immediately begins preaching. In other words, we are witnessing the genesis of Jesus’ ministry. Indeed, immediately following this passage, Jesus starts to call the first of his disciples.
What interests me most about this passage is the relationship between John and Jesus. John’s ministry had always been about pointing toward Jesus, foretelling his coming, calling people to repentance as a way of preparing for the Messiah. Now Jesus is here, ready to live into his calling as the Anointed One. He has been baptized, God has called him God’s beloved Son, and he has spent forty days in the desert being tempted and gaining clarity about his purpose. The time has come. There is nothing more for John to do. He is arrested and eventually killed.
It seems that Jesus waits for John to finish his ministry before beginning his own. With John gone, the people are free to shift their focus to Jesus. With John gone, Jesus can fulfill his calling. This means John’s arrest and death are not in vain. They open the way for Jesus, who is the Light. He is the Light who will brighten the darkness, the Light who will overcome the shadow of death. John was not the Light; he could only point to this Light that will free us from death. Now the Light is with us. Thanks be to God.
Lord, free me from the darkness of death so that I can point others toward your light. Amen.
Sometimes we struggle with the challenges we face. If God is good and God is for us, then why do we experience pain and loss? Isaiah feels the sting of darkness and despair, and the psalmist has experienced days of distress. Yet both encourage themselves with the promise that God has not forgotten them. The light will come, as will the shouts of joy. The New Testament readings warn against following human leaders to the extent that we take our eyes off Christ. The Corinthian church has divided into factions that identify primarily with Paul or Peter, not Christ! The Gospel reading shows that Peter, like all other human leaders, is merely a disciple himself. Jesus is the one we should seek to follow.
Read Isaiah 9:1-4. How has God’s love freed you to find your calling?
Read Psalm 27:1, 4-9. When have you called out to God? How has God helped you turn your cries to praise?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. How have you experienced division within the body of Christ? How might a focus on Christ rather than particular faith leaders or denominations help you to repair division and work through differences?
Read Matthew 4:12-23. How have significant changes in your life (like a loved one’s death or a career change) allowed your ministry to grow?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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