Turn with me to Matthew 4:12-17. Today we are beginning a new sermon series at Cornerstone Church, so for those who are visiting today, you picked a perfect opportunity to come. It is my hope that what you hear today will draw you back next week to find out more about what God has to say to you this Christmas season.
The title of this sermon series is “The Weight of Darkness.” The purpose of this series is to help you feel the magnitude of what we are celebrating in Christmas. I worry that December, for many of us, becomes white noise, in that we have so much going on and so much familiarity when it comes to the Christmas season, that we fail to feel the eternal weight of the reality that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. The text that we will use for the next four messages is Matthew 4:12-17. So let us read out text, pray, and unpack what it says.
- Matthew 4:12-17 – “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
- Isaiah 9:1-7 – “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. 4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
Because most people do not believe this child is relevant to their life. They do not see how a man that was born 2000 years ago on the other side of the planet changes anything for them. This is why Christ is no longer in Christmas. People are rational creatures, they make decisions based on pros and cons. When looking to Christ they see no benefit, but only cost. God made us reasonable, therefore we pursue what we believe to be the highest reward. And for the world, Jesus is not the highest reward, therefore he gets tossed to the curb. The reason people do not see Jesus to have value is that they do not feel the weight of darkness.
- Matthew 4:16 - “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned."
God uses this the theme of darkness throughout scripture, from beginning to end. It is like a thread that weaves its way through each book of the Bible. If you have time, do a word study on darkness, it is very interesting.
In general we all know what darkness is, it is merely the absence of light. If there is light, then there is no darkness. The more light that shines the less darkness there is. Perhaps some of you have been in a cave before and you or your guide turns out all the lights so that you can experience the darkness. Deep in the earth with no street lights, headlights, building lights, stars or moon, you experience full darkness and it is dark. You can almost feel the weight of the darkness. It is immediately uncomfortable.
It is this contrast between darkness and light that God uses to help us understand the relationship that exists, or does not exist, between God and man. The analogy of darkness and light is easy to understand. For God is light and the absence of Him is darkness.
- 1 John 1:5 - “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light...”
The reason for this darkness is sin. Because of man's sin, God has withdrawn from the world and therefore darkness reigns. This domain of darkness began when the in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God. To continue with my cave illustration, they followed the Prince of Darkness, Satan, into the mouth of the cave. And ever sense that moment, humanity has been stuck in that cave. Every child that has been born sense that time has been born in that cave, in the darkness.
Here is the problem. You would think that we would want to come out of the cave and get out of the darkness and live in the light, but that is not the case. We love the darkness. Jesus says this plainly in John 3:19.
- John 3:19 - “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.“
Darkness Produces Futility
- Romans 1:21-23 - “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. “
One consequence of this darkness is futility. The word in the greek is mataioō, which means vanity, empty, foolish, useless, no purpose. A person who lives in darkness is all of these things.
I want you to go back and think about standing in that cave again, with absolutely no light. Then I want you to imagine me asking you to bake me a cake. Could you do it? Absolutely not. You would wander around for hours looking for flour, eggs, milk, a bowl, a spoon, the oven. Measuring when be near impossible. You could spend weeks and weeks trying to make this cake and and you would fail every time. Why? Because you are in darkness.
This is the reality of you if you live independent of Christ, the light. Jesus says that “apart from me you can do nothing.” Absolutely nothing. I don't care how much money you make, what mountains you have climbed, what degrees you hang on your wall, it is all worthless, apart from Christ. On judgment day all those things you have done independent of Christ will be burnt to ashes.
Without the light of Jesus Christ, you are wandering around aimlessly, everything in your life is meaningless. Your marriage, your job, your home, your hobbies, your existence is empty, it is void. You are wasting your life.
What is interesting is that everyone can feel it. We can all feel the longing for purpose. We want our life to have meaning. We don't want to be some random event in the cosmos. We want our lives to count for something.
This can only happen if you walk out of the darkness and to the light of Jesus Christ. For it is only in laying down your life at the foot of the cross that you will have life, and have it abundant. It is only Jesus who can give you purpose. It is only Jesus who can lay out the plans He has for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, and to give you a future and a hope.
As long as you live in the domain of darkness, as long as your foolish heart is darkened, everything you do, is eternally pointless.
- Darkness Produces Gloom and Anguish
- Proverbs 4:19 - “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. “
Not only that but this darkness is oppressive. It is like a weight pushing down on our chest, suffocating us. This darkness produces in us, anxiety, fear, depression, and anger. We try to numb the pain with drugs, alcohol, food, jobs, sex, entertainment, money, and stuff. But these things are merely treating the symptom, not curing the disease. The pursuit of earthly pleasures just intensifies the darkness.
The only thing that pushes back the darkness is the light of Jesus Christ. Darkness flees from his presence. If you are tired of carrying the weight of darkness in your life, cry out to God that he would shine the light of Jesus into your heart today.
I want you to walk down memory lane and think about the worst you have ever felt. A time when you cried yourself to sleep, maybe even a time where you desired to die. Now imagine that pain magnified by thousands and experiencing it for all eternity. Meaning in a million years, you are not any closer to that pain ending. That is Hell. That is the outer darkness, and that is waiting for each and every person who chooses to love the darkness, instead of the light of Christ.
There are two ways out of this present darkness of this world. One way leads you deeper and deeper into the cave until you reach the dungeons Satan, the lake of fire. When you arrive, you are there forever. I wish this on no man.
The second way out of the cave is through the blood of Jesus Christ. This is what his coming to this earth achieved for us. Emmanuel came to free us from the chains that imprison us to the domain of darkness, and place us instead in the Kingdom of the Beloved Son. A kingdom that is exploding with light and truth and joy and life, and this is why we celebrate Christmas. This is why the coming of this child is good news of great joy. This is why Jesus is relevant to your life.
If you believe that you are currently living in darkness, seperate from God, do not wait for tomorrow, cry out to God and beg him to shine the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ into you heart right now. Beg him to open up your eyes to the reality of the darkness that surrounds you and the beauty that is Jesus. Plead with him to open up your heart to receive the Gospel seed so that you can bear fruit to His Glory and your good. Do not wait for tomorrow, for tomorrow you may wake up in Hell, and in Hell there is no hope.