The Scriptorium

Light in a Dark Place

Jesus came as a Light in a dark world. Matthew 4.12-16

Matthew 4: First Steps (1)

Pray Psalm 66.1-4.
Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious.
Say to God,
“How awesome are Your works!
Through the greatness of Your power
Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.”

Sing joyously Psalm 66.1-4.
(Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
Shout for joy to God, all people, sing the glory of His Name!
Give Him glorious praise and say, “How great Your pow’r and great Your fame!
All the earth shall worship gladly as they praise Your glorious Name!”

Read Matthew 4.1-16; meditate on verses 12-16

1. What seems to have prompted Jesus to return to Galilee?

2. Which Old Testament prophecy did Jesus fulfill by doing this?

Jesus did nothing without redemptive purpose. All His movements were planned and executed with a view to fulfilling all the Word of God. We have already seen – both in the genealogy of Jesus and the visit of the Magi – that the Good News Jesus brings is for the whole world, and not just for the people of Israel. Here again, Jesus signals the broad scope of His mission, He returns to “Galilee of the Gentiles.”

Jesus remained in the wilderness, being ministered to by angels, until He heard the report that John had been imprisoned (we’ll learn more about this in two subsequent chapters). The ministry of the trailblazer had come to its end; now it was time for Jesus to begin His own work.

We might wonder, “Why didn’t He go to Jerusalem? Why did He return to a place that had a bad reputation?” (cf. Jn. 1.45, 46)

We remember, first, that He was to be regarded as a “Nazarene” – with all the implications attached to that (Matt. 2.22, 23). Second, the Old Testament had specifically prophesied that the light of God’s salvation would shine in the darkest of places – where Israel shares borders with pagan Gentile peoples. Third, by recalling verbatim this prophecy from Isaiah 9.1, 2, Matthew also signaled the greater and all-conquering mission of Jesus, referred to in Isaiah 9.3-7: “For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given…” By beginning His earthly ministry in Galilee of the Gentiles, Jesus fulfilled the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy (vv. 1, 2). The end of that same prophecy – vv. 6, 7 – would be realized in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. The middle part – vv. 3-5 – with the images of rejoicing and conquest and death, would be fulfilled during the rest of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

By including this detail – about His returning to Galilee of the Gentiles – and quoting from Isaiah’s prophecy, Matthew tells us volumes about the work Jesus came to do. It was a work of Light in the darkness, of victory in a great warfare, of exaltation to a Kingdom that would never end. And it all began in the most unlikely of places – Galilee of the Gentiles.

1. What did the fact that Jesus began His ministry in Galilee signal about His work?

2. Why is light a good way of thinking about what Jesus came to do?

3. Since Jesus could bring light to darkness in an unlikely place like Galilee of the Gentiles, how should this encourage us?

Those who are without Christ, are in the dark. They were sitting in this condition, a contented posture; they chose it rather than light; they were willingly ignorant. When the gospel comes, light comes; when it comes to any place, when it comes to any soul, it makes day there.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Matthew 4.12

Be the light on my path today, O Lord, and help me to follow You obediently as I…

Pray Psalm 66.5-20.
Praise God for the great works He does, especially those He has done in saving and sanctifying you for His Kingdom. Pray for those you will see today, that God will give you an opportunity to share with them what He has done for your soul.

Sing Psalm 66.5-20.
Psalm 66.5-20 (Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
Great and awesome is our Savior in the works which He has done.
He the sea and river dried to let His people cross as one.
Then our joy was great to worship Him our mighty, sovereign One.

He the nations watches ever – all you rebels, humbled be.
Bless our God, all men and nations, praise His Name eternally!
He preserves our souls, and He will keep His paths beneath our feet.

You have tried us, Lord, as silver, and have brought us into nets,
made us carry heavy burdens, let men trample o’er our heads.
But through all Your grace sustained us and has brought us through to rest.

To Your house we come with off’rings, what we vowed, Lord, help us do.
O, receive our praise and homage as we give ourselves to You.
Come and listen, all who fear Him: hear what this great God can do!

When we cried to You, You answered, filled our mouths with highest praise.
Let not sin abide within us, lest we languish all our days.
Bless the Lord, Who hears our pleadings and preserves His love always.

T. M. Moore

We are pleased to offer Worship Guides for use in your family or small group. Each guide includes a complete service of worship, and they are free to download and share by clicking here.

What really happened in the wilderness? What did Jesus accomplish? Our book
Satan Bound: A Theology of Evil, can help you to understand more completely the magnitude and importance of Matthew 4.1-11. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore