Monday, September 7, 2015

Land of the Shadow of Death

From the series: Matthew: Back to the Beginning

Matthew 4:12-17

            John the Baptist was thrown in prison. He foisted his morals on the wrong person, and spoke out against the sins of a very powerful man. The powerful man retaliated and locked John away1. Just like that, the “voice calling out in the desert” was silenced. It was no surprise to the locals. They were accustomed to evil’s triumph and knew to keep their heads down, and mouths shut, to avoid the ruthless leaders of the land. John was just one more person, one of thousands, silenced.

            It was a land of shadows. Hopelessness. Fear. Emptiness. A people forsaken by compassion, love, and mercy. Joy had long faded, and something else settled in and took residency: pain and suffering. It was a barren place, with remnants everywhere of what had been taken away. Monuments of loss. Yet the people survived. Existed. Not quite dead, but barely living. Scuttling and scurrying in death’s shadow, hoping to remain unnoticed by the cruel leaders in their kingdom of bleak tones and ever darkening greys.
            And then, just as their eyes once again grew acclimated to the darkness, they heard a new voice calling out. “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali” (vv. 12-13). A prediction uttered several hundred years earlier began to rise. Words from an ancient prophet—God’s words for them and for their land—were fulfilled.
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:1-2).
            The light dawned. And it called out: “Listen, listen to me! This is not life. There is a way out of this land of shadows. You can escape the lies and horrors, sins, false gods, seductive whispers and misleading voices. Turn and see the light. The beautiful light. There is a new kingdom and a new king. Death’s defeat is coming. It will one day disappear and its shadow will be swallowed up by light2. Listen and turn, turn toward the truth…”
            And “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (v. 17).

 “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

1 Luke 3:19-20
2 1 Corinthians 15:54, 2 Corinthians 5:4
Photo from Microsoft Word Clip Art

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