Just after Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the wilderness, we see that our Gospel turns immediately to his first moments in ministry. It’s not long before we’ll find Matthew doing what he’s done so many times already: quoting scripture. Mt. 4:15-16 quotes Isaiah 9:1-2, the prophet whose people are sitting in the ‘shadow of death.’ Given everything we’ve seen already in Matthew, these words seem uncomfortably close.
Already in Matthew’s Gospel we’ve felt the shadow of death cast over Mary as an unwed woman, Jesus as a helpless infant deemed a threat to Herod, Joseph as a refugee, and the countless children of Bethlehem (and the loved ones who tried to protect them) who were slaughtered at Herod’s command. We also know that Matthew’s audience would have felt the ‘shadow of death’ in the failed rebellion only 10 years earlier. These are important, extremely weighty words. That’s where the ministry of Jesus begins and ends: in the shadow of death.
This week we talked through what is meant by “the satan” or “the devil” (the accuser: see Job chapters 1-3), as we witnessed Jesus driven into the desert by the Spirit of God. If you’d like to see another great Lutheran theologian talk about the accuser, check out Nadia Bolz-Weber’s video called “The Devil = Your Inner Critic.” I've embedded it here.
I’m struck that even as she’s talking about the accuser she also notes the connections we see in Matthew’s Gospel to God’s true voice, speaking the reality of who we are over us at the waters of Baptism: my beloved, my beloved, my beloved. Pr. Nadia is one of the great Lutheran theologians of our time, and I recommend reading anything you can get your hands on written by her! She’s accessible, vulnerable, and powerful.
As you're preparing for our time next week, consider reading Isaiah 9, and get a taste for what Matthew's quoting here. We'll try to work through the rest of Chapter 4 (through verse 25) but as usual we're not in any hurry. Also, consider familiarizing yourself with the geography of the areas through which Jesus is moving, both historically and in his own time. Most bibles have a set of maps in the back pages, so take a look at these and try to get a feel for these geographical locations.
In verses 20 and 22, we find the word "immediately," which gives the text a sense of movement and even hurry. Upon hearing Jesus call to them, the would-be disciples just drop everything and follow him. Here's where we'll start next week (it's a serious question, not a joke): What's the hurry?
Come prepared with a story that helps you think more deeply about that. Think of a story of a time you were in a hurry. What was the hurry? Why did it matter? Why couldn't it wait?
Think about that, wrestle with it. Come prepared to share a story as we re-engage scripture together.