Isa. 9:1-4 • Ps. 27:1, 5-13 • 1 Cor. 1:10-18 • Matt. 4:12-23
Abraham is the elect father of a great nation promised as a blessing to all people. Grace radiates from a providential center. In the Christian story, Jesus is tagged in ridicule as the King of the Jews, an office he fulfills in the narrow but important sense of a vocation to a particular people called by God for a special vocation that includes a universal benediction. So, while Jesus’ work among his people is an essential part of the story never to be forgotten, so too is his vocation in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matt. 4:15). A people who walk in darkness — even sit in it, as if a place of comfort, though it is the region and shadow of death (Isa. 9:2; Matt. 4:16) — have seen a great light.
Death is a “shadow” opposed utterly to the icon or image or reality of life to which God’s people are called. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Ps. 23:4). The Psalmist’s secret Thou is “the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:10). Christ is the great light and the great announcer and embodiment of salvation, which he calls “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 4:17).
As the appointed messenger of the kingdom, Jesus is granted the authority to call leaders with what appears an irresistible power. While this need not subvert the exercise of will and decision, it suggests that disciples do not first weigh varied options, or otherwise deliberate about the relative merits of the call or the one calling. Instead, they test the call after responding to it. Jesus is both the grace of the call and the grace-forming faith of the one responding. The summons to come after him is Jesus’ sole command. Jesus promises to form them into disciples who share the gospel (Matt. 4:19).
Disciples are formed through both example and the power to imitate the example. “Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matt. 4:23). In a sense, his teaching, proclamation, and healing are a unitary event, a trinity of attack against sin, the flesh, and the devil. Jesus reaches to every disease, sickness, infirmity, disability, and bodily weakness, and brings the power of healing, restoration, and resurrection. Christ’s teaching, preaching, and healing are precisely the works that make a “fisher of people.” Just as evil is an “infectious sweetness” that leads people to “their own punishment (Augustine, Confessions I, chs. iv, viii; X, VIII), so the grace of Christ brings about a new humanity. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22, KJV). Those who are new in Christ become teacher, preacher, and healer, each in their own order, according to their circumstance, the context of their commitments, and the reach of their influence.
Following Christ brings illumination and strength, a home to abide in, beauty to behold, and questions to contemplate (Ps. 27:4), all in the protection of a shelter and covering amid joy and melody (Ps. 27:5-6). To those who are being saved, Christ, and the cross of Christ, is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). Being saved does not remove the many small crosses and agonizing deaths that suggest that God has forsaken his children. So, we pray: “Do not hide your face, cast me off, or forsake me” (Ps. 27:9), to which Christ assuringly replies: “O God of my salvation!”
Look It Up
Read Matt. 4:19.
Think About It
Christ is in and above sacramental ministry and eloquent preaching.