January 30 – Matthew 4:12-17

Here at the start of the year is a great time to do a check in conversation with your group, just to see how things are going and assess any helpful changes you might make. If you haven’t already made use of it, here’s a discussion out of Acts 2 that can guide that conversation.

We’re three weeks into our Citizens series, and since we’ve already been introduced to the king, this week we’ll start learning a bit more about his kingdom. We’ll read Matthew 4:12-17, and there Matthew quotes from Isaiah, so we’ll also look at Isaiah 9. We’ll get a sense of the nature of Jesus’ kingdom and we’ll explore what the coming near of his kingdom means for us.

For context, last week we read 4:1-11, where Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. In verse 12 Matthew skips ahead a bit (see John 1-4 for what he skipped), to a time when things were heating up after Herod Antipas arrested John the Baptist. Jesus quietly excused himself to an out-of-the-way city called Capernaum, which was about a four days journey from Jerusalem.

But Jesus’ relocation wasn’t a retreat—as Matthew points out, he went to fulfill a 600-year-old prophecy from Isaiah. We’ll turn to Isaiah 9 to see more about that. Usually when we find Old Testament quotes in the New Testament the author is referencing both the specific verses quoted and the surrounding verses, since their audiences were so familiar with the whole material. You’ll see what I mean when you turn there; Matthew only quotes 9:1b-2, but 9:1-7 has a lot to say about Jesus.

So, what can we say about this kingdom? Isaiah 9 will provide some description; this is a kingdom of light (9:2), joy (9:3), freedom (9:4), peace (9:6), justice, and righteousness (9:7). This kingdom is cause for celebration and is defined by the character of God, who is perfectly good, just, and upright, meaning no kingdom of his will play host to violence, falsehood, or immorality.

But also note Isaiah inclusion of the nations, or Gentiles (9:1; Matt. 4:15). All people, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, etc., are invited into and found in the kingdom of heaven, which will also never play host to racism, classism, sexism, or any other form of exclusion.

The message of this kingdom is also a unifying message, it greets all with the same word, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” All are on equal footing and in need of salvation, all are invited to enter on the same basis, all are welcome not by their contributions but by their reception of mercy.

Now, we might chafe at repentance language, but for sinners in the face of a perfectly good and just God, the opportunity to repent is a merciful gift. And not just once, when we first become Christians, but daily, as we tend to waffle between earnestly following Jesus and abandoning our savior for paltry substitutes. The opportunity to repent and turn to him again and again, to find in him the kind of welcome that restores the soul, is a precious gift of his loving kindness towards us.

Questions for Discussion
• Could someone read Matthew 4:12-17 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• Turn to Isaiah 9. Could someone read Isaiah 9:1-7 for us?

• Why do you think Matthew wanted to bring this passage to mind?

• What words are used here to describe Jesus’ kingdom?

• Turn back to our passage in Matt. 4. How does Jesus’ kingdom bring “light”?

• Look at verse 17. Why do you think the nearness of the kingdom requires our repentance?

• What role does repentance have in your daily life?

• How would you like to grow in trusting Jesus with the way you practice repentance?