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The Gospel According to Jesus Matt. 4:12-17

July 6, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew

Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 4:12–4:17

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Did Jesus preach the gospel?

And if He did, would the evangelical church in the USA recognize it as the gospel, if they heard it?

Was Paul's gospel significantly different than Jesus' gospel?

I've heard some bizarre stuff over the 43 years I've been a christian. You have too, I'm sure.

Like Jesus gospel was for the jews and the gospel to the gentiles after the Jews rejected their messiah is fundamentally different than what Jesus was offering to His own nation.

Like Paul had to sort of re-systematize things and straighten out the gospel for the church age.

And my favorite nightmare, like everything Jesus said and was trying to do with the jews is a different dispensation, so you can pretty much dismiss all of it and just try to figure out Pauls teaching to the gentiles. That's our dispensation.

Matt. 4:12-17 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Everything in Matthew's gospel is about Jesus as King. His baptism was the annointing of the King. Last week was the temptation and triumph of the King. This week we could call the Method of the King. The Gospel of the King! The Sermon on the Mount is the Manifesto of the King.

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;

A year has passed since the baptism of John. John the apostle covers some of the events in that time period that Matthew skips over.

There is a period at the Jordan where Jesus is baptising as well as John. There is the pronouncement by John that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There is John, diminishing and sending some of his followers to follow Jesus instead.

Peter and Andrew, Philip and Nathaniel, and one un-named who is obviously John, the author. Maybe James is in this group as well. I don't think him and John were seperable, much.

There is the wedding in Cana, where the first of the miracles was done. Jesus will go up to the temple and do His first cleansing, thereby putting the rulers of Israel on notice. The King is here! Then Nicodemus will come to Him by night and there is the wonderful explanation of transformation from Satan's kingdom into the King's. You were born in Satans kingdom. You must be reborn into God's kingdom.

Then Jesus travels north through Samaria on His way to Galilee and causes a small revival at Sychar. The woman at the well.

That's a year, more or less, but for Matthew's purposes, the story of the King, the next event is after the announcer of the King is arrested. John is put in prison.

And you'll notice it says, He withdrew into Galilee..

That word withdrew is used over and over and it always carries with it the idea of safety. Joseph withdrew into Egypt when he was warned.

What's happened here is this. John is arrested, by Herod the tetrach and put into prison at Machaerus.

He gets no help from the jews, the rulers at Jerusalem. They hate him. And there's this little clue for us in John's gospel; 4:1 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2(although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 4And He had to pass through Samaria.

The jews considered John a threat to their spiritual authority over the people. They were thrilled when Herod locked him up. Since they understood Jesus was doing even more baptisms than John, they would consider him an even greater threat.

Jesus isn't afraid of the Pharisees and rulers. Obviously. But the timing to go headlong into a scenario that leads to arrest and death is all wrong. It isn't time for that. So Jesus avoids that scene and comes to Galilee.

13and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Leaving Nazareth is a reference to Jesus visit to the synagogue in Nazareth recorded by Luke. It fits well with the prophecy we'll be looking at here.

Luke 4:16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,


20And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.

You're saying to yourselves, how did this go south so quickly? I thought all were speaking well of Him and wondering at the gracious words?

I'm going to read between the lines and guess that some of the folks from Jerusalem that hate him have followed Him here and agitated with those words "Is this not Joseph's son." "He did miracles in Capernaum, why hasn't he done miracles here?" Seeds of the same dis-belief that made it dangerous to stay in Jerusalem or even the Jordan Valley.

The reason I think that is because of His answer. He basically tells them God is going to set Israel aside for it's un-belief , and the promises are going to the gentiles.

Then He quotes the two examples, the widow at Zaraphath and Naaman the Syrian, both blessings that were given to the gentiles because of the disobedience of the sons of Israel.

25“But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27“And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.

They knew the passage was messianic. They knew He was claiming to be the fulfillment of that messianic prophecy. Then they start in with the "hey, isn't this just Joseph's son. The carpenters son. Who do you think you are boy?

It gets ugly and quickly they are trying to throw Him down the cliff. So He leaves for Capernaum. The blessings are offered to Israel, and Israel will have none of it.

How strange it would seem to the jews that the King of the Jews would set up His homebase at Capernaum in Galilee. Beyond strange, impossible. Galilee of the gentiles.

All of the prophets envisage the throne of David at . . Jerusalem. Jerusalem and Capernaum were polor opposites. Jerusalem was a stuffy religious city, not unlike how we think of Salt Lake City today. It has the temple and everybody's busy with the daily mechanics of the religion.

Capernaum was a breezy metropolitan fishing village where gentiles and jews live together. I was at the ruins of Capernaum in 1971. Memory is vague but I recall a long hot bus ride and at Capernaum it was beautiful and there was shade. I remember the green hills in a gentle slope going down to the sea of galilee. Sort of like an amphitheater. Perfect for the King to deliver his manifesto. The sermon on the mount.

Nobody goes to Jerusalem except on purpose. It's out of the way. But Galilee is a crossroads on the highways of commerce.

Originally Galilee was the inheritance of Zebulon and Naphtali. But they didn't obey God when they took the land, and they didn't remove the canaanites. So intermarriage and idolatry followed quickly at the northern end of the promised land.

They were carried away by the Assyrians in the 800's B.C. The conquering people populated the area with gentiles and what was left is a mix of half breeds and gentiles.

The jews in Jerusalem had nothing but loathing for people who come from there. In John 7 we get a taste of how the rulers of Israel viewed Galilee. The people are divided over who Jesus is;

41Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, 51“Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” 52They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.”

Well, in fact, Galilee is mentioned in the grandaddy of messianic prophecy. This is willful ignorance on their part. They know good and well what this prophecy says. Shame on them.

14This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Can there be a more beautiful and valid metaphor to describe Satan's kingdom, and God's Kingdom than darkness and light.

Zebulon and Naphtali had wandered into dismal thick darkness. Molech worship. Throwing their babies into the fires of Molech. Mediums and witchcraft.

The chapter just before this quote in Isaiah 8:19, "And when they shall say unto you, seek unto those who are mediums and unto wizards who peep and mutter, should not a people seek unto their God? Should they seek on behalf of the living to the dead?"

This is the very picture of darkness. Blinded. Bumping around in the dark. Fear your constant tormentor. No value to life. No hope. That's what Israel had sunk into in their depths of darkness.

Not just Zebulon and Naphtali either, the whole northern kingdom was mixed up in this. In the southern kingdom under Ahaz, it was just as bad. Ahaz had made the temple like a ghost town. Boarded up. Left to decay.

In the 8th century BC Tiglath Pileser the king of Assyria came down and took the entire northern kingdom captive. He marched them out of their country and dispersed them everywhere.

The area was repopulated with gentiles. As far as the promised land, given to the sons of Israel, what remained is perfectly described by Isaiah.

The fact that God in His mercy and wisdom unveiled that light in the region of Galilee is telling. God's plan has always been to reach out to the gentiles.

So what does Isaiahs prophecy mean. The picture is apt.

Living in the region of Naphtali and Zebulon was like living in a grave yard, spiritually. Surrounded by the shadows. Shadows of death. The previous darkness is now just death. Spiritually it's dead place. Forgotten. Only shadows remain - and they speak of death. That is Satan's kingdom.

Upon them, a light dawned.

The night has been long. Full of darkness and terror. Full of nightmares and horrors. Full of lostness and hopelessness.

Suddenly the night is over. The day dawns! Beams of light begin to spill over the land. The kingdom of Light has arrived!

What happens!? Obviously everyone is thrilled that the day has dawned, right?

John 3:19"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20"For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.…

This sets the stage perfectly for what Jesus is about to proclaim.

Let's review. There are 2 kings and 2 kingdoms. 2 opposing rulers who have authority to reign over men.

God has annointed His Son and King and heir. The other king is put on notice. He is deposed. The 2 kings meet in the wilderness for a great spiritual battle over the souls of men. One King is the victor. The other king is bound.

One king is the Kingdom of darkness - evil - slavery - death. The other King is the kingdom of brilliant light - righteousness - forgiveness - freedom - LIFE.

And that brings us to what Jesus is going to say next.

17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

I have a quote from C. S. Lewis. If you hang around for the duration, whatever that may be in God's providence, of my preaching, you may hear this more than once, because it is SO rich. Here it is'

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. Clive Staples Lewis

That just rings with truth. Don't bother me with a weekend at the sea, I'm making mud pies in the sewage.

17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As always, I'll start with the word Kingdom. As we've said before, (and will say over and over) it has a slightly different meaning in the world of it's hearers in the 1st century than what comes into our minds.

We think of real estate. Borders. Boundaries. The United Kingdom. etc. But to these hearers it means authority to reign.

In their world, the rulers, the Herod's and the Governors like Pilate, were given the 'authority to reign' by a higher power, like Rome.

Thus someone like Herod the Great would go to Rome and by petition and money and politics he would get from the Romans, the kingdom of Judea. He has the authority to reign, over Judea.

So the kingdom of heaven, is the authority to reign, of heaven.

And in this case, it is the authority to reign over an opposing kingdom. Remember, 2 kings. 2 authority's. One is supreme.

But the true ruling King doesn't force men to cross over into His kingdom. He will, someday, every knee will bow in worship to this King, but not now. Right now He comes with this message. Repent.

The authority to reign of Heaven is here. The great spiritual battle is finished. The other king is bound. He has no further authority over you. Repent!

In this context, the word repent means clearly, the willingness to leave the kingdom of darkness and sin, the kingdom of rebellion against God, the kingdom of this cosmos, the world that still in some sense is ruled by the deposed ruler, Satan, and to come into the Kingdom of Light.

We asked at the beginning, is Paul's gospel different than Jesus gospel? Listen to Paul talk about this transaction I've just described.

Ppns 3:2Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

This is Paul in the kingdom of darkness. He was at the pinnacle, of the kingdom of Satan.

7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish (dung) so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

All of that in that little word, repentence.

All of a sudden the lights in your brain come on and you see the sewage for what it is. SEWAGE! And you see the weekend at the Sea and you say YES! I'll give up anything, ANYTHING! I have to gain THAT!

Jesus is offering light in the darkness. Jesus is offering forgiveness of sin. Jesus is offering real LIFE, together with Him, first with the downpayment of His own Holy Spirit to dwell with you and in you, in this life, and in the next, we'll be face to face with Him and His Father.

The devil is beaten. He is bound. The authority to reign of God, in your heart, is possible. You've got to be willing to leave the mudpies in the sewage behind though. The 2 Kingdom's are like water and oil. You can't mix them up together and have both. Jesus said, Repent. Cross over into His kingdom! Give all of your life to Him!


How did we do with our 3 questions we started with?

1.) Did Jesus preach the gospel? YES, and with an economy of words that only the mind of God could have made meaningful!

2.) Was Paul's gospel significantly different than Jesus' gospel? NO! Paul responded to Jesus gospel. Paul gave up everything, in order to HAVE Jesus. Paul's conversion is forever, for us, a picture of true repentance.

3.) And if He did, would the evangelical church in the USA recognize it as the gospel, if they heard it?

You'll notice I re-arranged the order of the questions. This last one is far more difficult to answer.

Sadly, I think the answer is mostly no. I've been a christian for 44 years. Almost. I asked Jesus into my heart on August 26th 1970.

I remember arguing this with a fellow that used to be in Tonopah. Craig Knolls. He argued that not less than Lewis Sperry Chafer, the great theologion at Dallas Theological Seminary was saying, adding repentence to salvation is adding works.

I am dumbfounded. If that's true, either Jesus wasn't preaching the gospel, or, the gospel of the evangelical church is significantly different than what Jesus was clearly preaching!

I will say, sadly, I don't hear the gospel like I presented it, just as Jesus presented it 2000 years ago to the people in Capernaum and the regions around the Sea of Galilee, very often in the modern churches I visit today.

Repentance is taboo. Telling people they have to come out of Satan's kingdom in order to be in Jesus kingdom is not often heard.

What I'm hearing, mostly, is you can play mudpies in the sewage and sign a card and mumble a prayer, and you're good to go. You're in, man, and don't ever let anyone tell you any different.

That's frightening. I'm really looking forward to getting into the Sermon on the Mount. What Jesus outlines is like a foreign language in the church today.

At risk of sounding like I'm bragging, I'll say that I am humbly praying that it won't be a foreign language to a little group of christians in Tonopah Nevada.