There’s been a shift. And Jesus knows that it’s time for Him to take over where John left off. That was the plan all along. John’s role was always temporary. He was never to be the main attraction.
None of us are the main attraction. As bad as we want to be some days. At our very best, we’re an entertaining warm-up act that gets people’s attention and whets their appetite for the real STAR.
That’s what John did. And now his job is quickly winding down.
How well are you doing your job? Are you getting people’s attention? Or are you shrinking back because you’re fearful or you doubt you’ll know what to say?
When Jesus first learned John was in prison, He went back home to Nazareth. We’re not told why He went there or why He was just there temporarily.
I wonder if He went there to silently say good-bye to the quiet life He had led. To his workshop and the tools He had learned to use instead of just speaking things into existence. To His humble earthly home that had housed the humans He loved so much, filled with memories of family triumphs and tragedies, of laughter and tears.
To his childhood neighborhood. The local temple. The trees He used to climb. The homes of His friends.
To His Mother. Knowing the agony she must eventually endure as His earthly mission comes to an end in a few years. To just enjoy a few more days as mother and son . . . before He is catapulted into the life of a celebrity. A status not much unlike that enjoyed by those in the spotlight today: loved and adored one moment; hated and reviled the next. A life that can so easily derail the best of men. But not Him. Jesus’s perspective is too eternal to allow a few moments–or years–of fame to distract Him.
I love the understatement of all understatements in verse 16. “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
The Light of the World has left His cocoon and moved into the neighborhood, uncovering His true identity for those who recognize and admit their desperate need of Him.
Today’s world isn’t much different, is it. People are walking around, living their lives, being “successful” . . . not having a clue they’re living totally in darkness.
You and I are not The Light of the World. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But we “house” Him. And when we’re connected to Him properly, and living out that connection, people in the dark can’t help but notice His Light in us. I mean it would be kind of impossible NOT to notice a flashlight walking around in a pitch-black cave a mile below ground.
One of our main jobs is to carry His light into dark places. And in today’s world, we don’t have to look very far to find some very dark darkness. Instead of being afraid we’re not a good enough light, remember that the darker it is, the brighter the light in you is going to shine. And if you’re connected to Jesus, you won’t be able to stop yourself from shining.
When has your light attracted attention lately? Where was the darkness? How did you feel about shining there? What was the outcome?
As soon as Jesus moved into His new neighborhood, He hung out His new shingle. He was no longer Jesus, Carpenter of Nazareth. He is now Jesus, Itinerate Preacher. And He carries the same message John did: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The message of the gospel has always been simple. Not easy. But simple. Not cheap. But simple.
By the time Jesus was on earth, the Jewish religious leaders had added hundreds of laws and rules to the original ones God gave the Israelites. Jesus came and basically reduced all of them down to two: Love God; love people (my very simplistic paraphrase).
The “Christian” religion hasn’t done much better. It’s amazing the number of rules different denominations have . . . a lot of them not even written down — but expected to be observed nonetheless. For some reason, humans aren’t satisfied with simple. But God is. In fact, I think that’s something He really loves: a person living a life simply focused on knowing God and pleasing Him.
How many rules do you follow to try to please God? Do they help you know Him better? What exactly do you need to do to please God? What does He want you to do now that you’ve surrendered your life to Him? Do you think the answer is the same for everyone? For everyone in your denomination? For everyone in your family? For you in every season of life?
Jesus Begins to Preach / Matthew 4:12-17 (NIV)
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”[f]
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”