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A Great Light (Sermon 1-22-2023)

By now, most of you have heard me state that love is the central theme of the Bible. This love is what draws me to love God and follow Him throughout my life. However, there is another theme that runs through the pages of the Bible that is parallel with love. It does not replace love but it helps to focus on love by shining that Great Light on the love of God.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone seeking reassurance about God’s love and salvation. As we talked, this person had one of those “aha” moments when the connection between various things remembered and read found a common thread running through the Bible. At that moment, the need to spend more time in the Bible became apparent. Devotion books are great for appetizers but they are not a substitute for the main course-the Bible. This morning, we will just look at one thread that shows how intricately the Bible is connected. There are literally thousands of interconnecting threads that run throughout the pages of the Bible. As we read it, we see new depth and meaning each time. Even when we reread familiar passages, God opens up new insights.

Some may have seen something I shared on Facebook. It asked the question which is more important, praying or reading the Bible. The answer was a question, which is more important, breathing in or breathing out. Reading the Bible is crucial to understanding and appreciating what God has done and continues to do for us.

The first scripture we will read this morning is to help us see the thread of prophecy concerning Jesus. We will read this from Isaiah and then turn over to a passage in Matthew. First, we read from Isaiah 9, beginning in verse one.

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:1-2 NASB)

From this passage, hold on to the words, Galilee and great light.

We now turn to the 4th chapter of Matthew. In the first section of this chapter, Jesus is tempted by Satan. We may remember that this occurred just after His baptism by John. From last week, we were talking about Jesus beginning to start His ministry. Andrew, one of John’s disciples started to follow Jesus. After His temptation, Jesus learns of the arrest of John and He travels north toward the region of Galilee. Let’s begin reading in verse 12.

Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:12-17 NASB)

Did you hear anything that was familiar? Isaiah wrote more than 700 years before Jesus went to Galilee that the people in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali would see a great light. What is the great light they saw?

We could also pick up on the theme of the kingdom of heaven, but that is for another time. It would be a great study to look at the throne of David and the lineage of Jesus and follow that Jesus is king of kings. Right now, we are looking at the Great Light.

Isaiah said the people would see a great light. Matthew said that Jesus returning to the region of Galilee fulfilled that prophecy. Does this mean that Jesus is that light? For some, the answer is so apparent but for others, we need to give a more direct connection that Jesus is the Great Light.

We have read through the first few verses of the first chapter of John on many occasions. We may be able to recite them from memory. Let’s once more read from them and this time let’s look for the theme of light.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5 NASB)

This Word that was with God and was God was actively involved in the creation. The creation does not just include material objects: land, sea, sun, moon, and such things; but includes the living things as well. The implicit understanding that I see here is that life came from Him (Jesus). Isn’t that what we just read? In Him was life…

This life, which is in Him, is the light of the human race. It is a light which shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The darkness did not comprehend that Great Light. When we read the word comprehend, we think in terms of understanding. We read a book or an article and we comprehend the information we read. We understand the things we read or hear. If we don’t, then we dig deeper so we may understand or comprehend. This Great Light has come into the darkness and the darkness does not understand.

The word used has so much more depth of meaning than just understanding. The Greek word used here is καταλαμβάνω or katalambanō (kat-al-am-ban'-o). According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the meanings are to take eagerly, to seize, posses, etc. to apprehend, attain, come upon, comprehend, find, obtain, perceive, take, overtake.

From these meanings, we can certainly see that the darker elements of this world did not eagerly seize or take possession of Jesus. Many did not and still do not comprehend just who this Christ is or what His presence in the world was meant to accomplish. It is no wonder that John continues his comments with: There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. (John 1:9-10 NASB)

Jesus, who was an active participant in the creation of this world, came into this world and no one knew Him as the creator. He was the carpenter’s son. He was considered as “nothing good from Nazareth.” Yet, He came to bring that Great Light for all to see.

Sadly, Jesus went to the Jews and demonstrated that He was the Messiah. They refused to accept Him. He gathered a ragged band of what we would call “red-necks” and shared with them His message of God with us.

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13 NASB)

Just imagine, rather than stiff, cold repetitious ceremonies and traditions, Jesus speaks of a close relationship with God. God as our Father. We become His children. This is radical. It flies in the face of many in those days. It is even a radical idea today. Why? Because we become accustomed to what we are doing. “We have done it this way for years.” “This is the way our parents did it so it must be right.” Jesus came proclaiming that “God-the unapproachable is really God our Father.”

How did we get so far off track? It started in the garden. First there was doubt. “Did God really say that?” Then the appeal to pride when Satan whispered to Eve, “you’ll be as wise as God.” The influence of the of Darkness enters the world and Satan has drawn people to worship themselves before God. Please your desires in any way you choose. Do it under cover of darkness and it is nobodies’ business.

One of the religious leaders came to Jesus. He knew that Jesus was from God (John 3:2). During their conversation, Jesus declares that the Great Light has come: 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. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. (John 3:19-21 NASB)

It is a stinging rebuke against the human race when we choose darkness to hide our evil rather than coming to that Great Light. We could go on finding and reading more passages about the Great Light. However, it come down to a simple choice. Do we want to walk in that Great Light or stumble in the darkness?

We will consider one final passage. Many of you know that this is my favorite passage in the Bible. I love it because it addresses me and my weakness and desire to follow Jesus. Jesus will cover our sins as long as we walk in His light.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7 NASB)

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