Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Logical Start - Matthew 4:12-25

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

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

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






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

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was 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 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.

23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them.

25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

Two “Layers”

Usually, since our entire focus is personal spiritual application, we progress through a passage chronologically.  However, in today’s verses, I see two “layers” – a practical sequence of ministry-establishing steps, as well as personal spiritual components.  For smoothness of study, we will examine each layer individually: first the spiritual lesson affecting community (i.e., setting up a ministry) and then the spiritual lesson affecting the individual.

Jesus’s How-to Guide for Starting (and Running) a Ministry

Jesus had the most successful ministry ever, so it goes without saying that He knew what He was doing.  Now, obviously there are going to be differences between now and then, and between different types of ministry (e.g. a Bible camp for youth, feeding the homeless, aiding missionaries), but the steps we see here are pretty much universally applicable.  Let’s examine what Jesus did.

1 He saw need and acted (verse 12).  With John out of the picture, there was no Prophet left in the land – we should also be on the lookout for needs that no one is filling.

2 He set up a base of operations (verse 13).  You’ll see Him return to Capernaum, his home base, frequently, especially in the Gospel of Mark.  He also established among the people who needed His help most – more on this under “Coming back Through.”

3 He planned ahead (verses 14-16).  As God, He knew way in advance what He was going to do, but we can do the same on a smaller scale – we’ll look into the prophecy deeper in a few minutes.

4 He sought God’s will and direction (verses 14-16).  Now, this step should always come first – and indeed, Jesus obviously sought the Father’s will first.  Not only did God know way in advance what He would do, but Jesus-as-man had just spent forty days fasting in preparation for this.  I only number it as item four because we are progressing chronologically through the text, not chronologically through time.

5 He established one central message and goal that He emphasized above all else (verse 17).  I hate to use the business term “mission statement,” but it does indeed make sense that it’s useful for people to know what your ministry is about, and that it’s beneficial to communicate your most important message to people in a concise manner in case that’s all they hear.

6 He got others to help Him in this ministry, specifically by getting them excited about the work they would do together (verses 18-22).  Some ministries can operate with one person, but others are more large-scale.  In the latter case, extra people can prevent burnout, be more efficient, reach a larger area, and provide a community – a support network.

7 He was willing to start small (verse 23).  We need to trust God – even when we think we’re not accomplishing much, if it’s what He has asked us to do, then it is hugely important.  And notice what happened in verse 24 – starting small led to word of mouth, and soon, He had a gigantic following (verse 25).

8 He helped people as their needs arose, even if it was outside of His main focus (verse 24).  Remember, healing people’s physical needs was His secondary goal; healing their souls was his primary goal.  We should always be open to where God wants us to work, even if it’s different from what we expect.

Combing back Through

I want to return to the text to dig out the nuggets that are applicable to the individual that we passed by.

First, let’s look at the prophecy in verses 15-16.  It’s an Old Testament reference to Isaiah 9:1-2 (and you can find a similar message in Isaiah 60:1-3).  The point is that Jesus specifically established His home base among the Gentiles, among those of darkness.  He doesn’t shy away from us, no matter how evil (verse 16), despised and stigmatized (verse 15), or sick (both contagious and scary) (verse 24) we are.  What a beautiful example of how to treat others, and a testament to how much He loves us.

Next, let’s take a brief peek at the disciples’ response to His calling.  It’s impressive enough that they left their entire lives to follow Him, risking life and family relationships, immediately (verses 20 and 22).  But take a step back and notice something – He’s not famous yet…that comes later.  They had no tangible reason to trust Him, yet they did.  I can think of two reasons for this, and I imagine both were at play: (1) the Holy Spirit directed them to do it, and they acted on faith (another fantastic example – listen to the Holy Spirit’s direction!); (2) Jesus had a certain spiritual presence that drew people to Him (this seems to happen a lot in the Gospels, and it makes since that God-as-man would stand out).

Discussion Starters

What else do you think is important is establishing a ministry – either something else you see in today’s passage, or elsewhere in Scripture, or from your own experience?  Feel perfectly free to ask or comment on anything else. :-)

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