Matthew 4.12-17 – Repent

For many Christianity is about reserving a place in some future heaven. However, as we return to the book of Matthew we see Jesus announce His ministry on Earth by saying, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Jesus is so much more than an insurance ticket and this weekend we continue our exploration of what it means to see God’s Kingdom come to Bedhampton in the here and now, as well as in our future.


Matthew 4:12-17

Isaiah 9:1-7


Speaking Notes – Caveat

These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.

Now onto the content…

Matthew A Refresh

But for now a brief recap. Because this week we are back to the Gospel of Matthew. If you remember Matthew is the background text that we return to when we are not looking at something else specifically.  And just as in all good TV programs who remind you what happened in the last episode, I wanted to briefly remind us of where we are in the book of Matthew.

So in our last episode of The Gospel according to Matthew…..

We were told that Matthew is like a loaf of bread divided into slices.

There is the slice that is the introduction, chapters, 1-3 where Matthew introduces Jesus. His core aim is to show us how Jesus is the continuation and fulfilment of God’s plan for His people Israel. We see Matthew link Jesus to Abraham and David, and to the prophecies of a Messiah. We are reminded that Jesus is the new Moses.

Then we see Father God announce the arrival of His Son when Jesus is baptised by John the Baptiser.

‘This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased’ Matthew 3:17.

The next slice we have just had a nibble from. They are Chapters 4-7 is where Matthew announces God’s Kingdom has come and we see Jesus start His teaching.

Jesus has been taking into the desert and tested by the Devil. He has triumphed He has not been found wanting.

Over the next few weeks we enter into the core of Jesus’ teaching. If you have a Bible like me which highlights the words of Jesus in red, you will see that we move from mostly black text to almost completely red text for the next few weeks. We move from the story of Jesus, narrative, towards His teachings, dialogue. The meat of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and walk towards him.

Next week Jesus calls some of the apostles, then we take a brief break for Palm Sunday and then Easter Sunday. But we quickly return to the red words with The Beatitudes, then what it means to be Salt & Light in the world.


But I am getting ahead of myself and today Jesus is setting up his introduction to that teaching. Matthew does that by reminding His readers of a promise, a prophecy.

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 fulfil 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.’

Had we not had our Old Testament reading today we might have wondered what that little preamble was about. But of course, we are looking into this history with twenty-first century western eyes.

Yes, the Bible is as alive today as it was two thousand years ago. But having an understanding of context is to enhance our view. We have a better understanding when we enter into the narrative with the eyes and ears of a first-century Jewish woman, a first-century Jewish man.

The Jewish men and women of this region have had years of being under oppression. Their land is surrounded by those who would invade and make them slaves. Babylon the exile where they were taken away from their homes is still very much part of their narrative. In the same way that two world wars echo into our narrative today the echoes of oppression echo in their narrative then.

And into that Matthew says ‘hey don’t you see it?’

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 –

Matthew says hello!

Jesus isn’t just taking a nice 40-mile trip up to the Lake District. Not Jesus is fulfilling a prophecy. A prophecy from when the Jewish people were at their most oppressed.

Matthew says hello? Remember Isaiah?

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne  and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it  with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

That is why we see Matthew point back to Isaiah. It’s not just a nice passage to be trotted out at Christmas. It’s relevant to the oppressed. Once again those Jewish men and women are under oppression. This time from the Romans. Every penny they earn is overtaxed by the Romans. Every hope they have is kicked away by the Romans. If a Romans says carry my bag, they have to stop doing what they are doing and carry their bag. There is no light at the end of their tunnel.

They are looking for a mighty warrior King to come and take them out of the darkness of the oppression of the Roman rule and Matthew says.

Don’t you see? Jesus is the light, he did this…

14 to fulfil 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.’

Jesus is the answer!

God’s Kingdom

Jesus is the answer, and so you might expect Jesus to charge in on a white horse, brandishing a broad sword, like some dodgy extra from Highlander.

But no. Jesus Says

‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

It’s not that inspiring, is it? Stop being sinful because at some point in the future you might go to heaven. Jesus, we did hope for a bit more than that. But we are back to those western eyes again.

What Matthew calls the Kingdom of Heaven, Mark and Luke call the Kingdom of God. Some suggest Matthew uses heaven because he’s Jewish readers would have been offended by use saying God’s name out loud. So he calls it the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Jews were not worried about the future Kingdom of heaven, they wanted it, they needed it, in the here and now. And don’t we? Isn’t that what we pray for every week?

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.

And Jesus is saying it’s here.

‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’


Repent. It’s an odd word, isn’t it? And old fashioned word. Repent. It most certainly is not fashionable now is it to repent. We tend to think it means to say sorry, and of course, there is an element of that in it. But what it really means in a Biblical context is to turn away from. To turn away from what we believe is best and to turn towards what God says is best. To turn towards His Kingdom, not ours. Away from darkness towards the light.

Now I may be along in this but in my twenties and in truth probably in my thirties, I had my own Kingdom. I knew what was best. The truth is everything I thought was best did not turn to gold. Some might say much of what I thought was best turned to rubbish. My kingdom was a bit messy at times.

I think it can take a little age and a little wisdom to realise that perhaps the creator of the universe has a better idea of what it is for His kingdom to come than we do. Or maybe I am the only one who had to learn that lesson.

The Big Idea


‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

The big idea is that we turn from our ways to the ways of Jesus is just about to teach us in Matthew’s Gospel. We turn from the darkness to the light. That is what happens when we truly give up all that we have and turn towards Jesus. But the good news is we don’t have to wait until next week or the week after to find ut what that is. Because through God’s spirit I believe we know what is dark in our lives we know what we need to turn from.


So how do we actually starting turning to the light? How do we apply that in our lives today?

Well, it’s Mothering Sunday and I have not once mentioned mothers in my talk. But that is because I wanted to save the best to last.

You see it was Mother’s Day on Sunday, 9 March 1997 that I repented. That was the day I started following Jesus. That was the day I turned from my own Kingdom to seeing God’s Kingdom come. And on that very day after the service, we were meeting Mum & Dad to take Mum out for lunch.

I was held up with the small issue of becoming an apprentice to Jesus and so got outside late. I jumped into the car hyped up, full of the Holy Spirit and ready to tell Mum & Dad what had happened, how Jesus was the best thing ever. But as soon as I was in the car Dad in his worry of being late for the restaurant asked me where the heck I had been. Even in my late twenties, he was the boss.

My little bubble was nearly burst. But Mum looked at me and she knew something was different. Later she was going to say to my Dad. You know I think Max is serious about this Jesus thing. How right she was.

Mum could always see straight through me from when I was a child through to an adult she could tell when I was hiding something when I was upset when I was excited, or when something was different. She just knew. Mum’s can be like that. There have only been two other people who could do that with me other than Mum. Suzy my wife, and Jesus himself.

When you and I need to turn away from the darkness towards the light of God’s Kingdom, Jesus already knows what that is. But he more like an encouraging like a mother saying to us. Come on now is the time, you can do it. That is who He is. He is less like the picture we have sometimes of a judgmental God. Of course, ultimately he is the judge of all, but Jesus way of operating is about drawing us into his Kingdom in the here and now, encouraging us that we do not have to wait.

That we can.

‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’


Recent Sermons