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3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Matthew 4:12-23

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,

The human eye is an amazing creation of God, isn’t it? Do you know how the human eye works? It’s all about light. Light is reflected from some object, the light enters the eye, it gets focused, and is then converted into electrochemical signals which are then passed through nerves to the brain, the brain then interprets the signals and an image is seen. The human eye can distinguish about 10 million colors or shades, if the human eye were a camera lens it would take pictures at 576 megapixels, it takes .2 of a second for your brain to understand the light that reaches your eye.[i] As incredible as the human eye is, the eye needs light in order to work. Without light, in the darkness your can’t see. So, what do you immediately do when you walk into a dark room? You immediately begin searching for the light switch. Why? So you can see. So you know where you’re going. So you don’t run into some object or step on something and get hurt. Why do many people (especially as they get older) not like to drive at night? Well, perhaps your eyes aren’t working as well as they used to and without a lot of light it’s hard to see where you’re going- you might miss a turn, you might get into an accident. In fact, the fatal crash rate for nighttime driving is 3-4 times that of driving during the daylight.[ii] We need light. We need light to see where we’re going. We need light for safety and security. We need light.

We also need light in a different sense for living in this world. The fact is, we live in a very morally, spiritually, and sinfully dark world. A world full of hate, murder, crime, disease, and disaster. It’s a dark world we live in. It’s a dark world full of injustice, poverty, and death. It’s a dark world we live in. But perhaps the darkest part of the life we live is right inside the human heart. It’s dark in there. What is it like to wander around in the dark? Everyone of us here at some point has walked into a dark room where we can’t see in front of us. What’s it like? There’s a little bit of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of not knowing what’s in front of you.

The darkest part of the world is the dark human heart. The human heart that doesn’t know where it is, doesn’t know where it’s going, doesn’t know what lies ahead.  That’s the worst kind of darkness there is. Not knowing the answers to the big questions of life. What are they? Questions like: Why am I here? Where am I going? What’s the meaning of life? What’s the purpose for life? What’s going to happen when I die? And without an answer to those questions you’re condemned to a lifetime of wandering around in the dark.

And everybody feels it. There’s a certain discontent. A certain dissatisfaction with life. If only I had this or that, my life would be better. If only I had this job, my life would be better. If only I had a different spouse, my life would be better. If only I had this much income, my life would be better. If only my health were good, my life would be better. There’s a discontent in the heart. People who liked President Obama are discontent that he didn’t do everything they had hoped. Those who like President Trump are going to be disappointed that he won’t be able to do everything they want. There’s a certain discontent, a longing in the heart, a wandering round in the dark that every person feels. We live in a dark world. We need light.

And into this dark world, a light has dawned. To the people living in darkness, to the people in the land of Galilee, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, they have seen a great light, on those living in the fearful shadow of death a light has dawned. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali was the land of Galilee. Galilee was the region in the north around the Sea of Galilee. It was a land that had been ravaged again and again by war, it was formerly part of the northern kingdom of Israel, which had been conquered and repopulated by the Assyrians. There were many Gentiles living there among the Jews. The Jewish people there were considered not nearly as important as the Jews who lived in Judea around Jerusalem. Everyone figured that the Messiah would do his work around the capital city of Jerusalem. But about a year after Jesus began his public ministry, where does he go? Galilee. He brings light to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. It’s almost like Governor Dayton deciding to move the center of his operations from St. Paul to Bemidji or President Trump deciding to move his center of operations from Washington to Bemidji, unheard of!

And what is the light Jesus has come to bring? “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” There it is! The kingdom of heaven he has brought near, follow him, he’s proclaiming good news of the kingdom.

To a world of darkness a light has dawned! You see, all the dissatisfaction in life, the discontentment in life, the disappointment with life finally comes down to a longing for something outside of this life. You know what it’s like. You long for something, you hope for something, you perhaps save for something, you finally get that something that you really wanted and it still doesn’t satisfy, there’s something else that you want even more. That’s the way that most people go through life. It’s just they don’t often take the time to think about it. There’s a dissatisfaction with life, but we busy ourselves and occupy ourselves and distract ourselves so we don’t dwell on it. We work and work and work so we don’t have to deal with the darkness inside. We consume ourselves with TV, internet, gadgets, entertainment so we don’t have to think about it. But that accomplishes about as much as closing your eyes in a dark room because you can’t see. There’s an intense longing in every human heart for something more than this world.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “God has set eternity in the hearts of man.” C.S. Lewis once said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Jesus alone brings light to a dark world. He has come to bring the kingdom of heaven near to us. He has come to offer his perfect life in place imperfect life, offer his innocent life on a cross in the place of our sinful life, he has come so that by his resurrection he can turn the darkness and hopelessness of death into the light of eternal life! This is good news! And…just like Peter, Andrew, James and John, Jesus has called you by the gospel, called you to faith in Him, called you to follow His light in this dark world.

Jesus has freed you and me from having to grope around in this dark world trying to find meaning and significance here. Live as a child of the light.  You know the big questions of life: You know where you are from, you know you are a special creation of God, a human being first made in God’s image and the crown of God’s creation. You know where you’re going when you die: to live in eternal life and eternal glory with your Savior in heaven. You know why you’re here on earth: to know and serve your Savior in all that you do and to make His light known to more and more people.

Our eyes are incredible creations of God. They’re all about light. They stream and filter and process light. Far greater however is your eyes of faith. Through which you “see” your Savior, the light of world. In Him you have the light of life and all you need for life here and hereafter. Amen.