What is the Meaning of Matthew 4.16

“Shining a Great Light in a Land of Deep Darkness”

Matthew 4:16

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 4.16

Matthew 4. … The world’s longest lasting lightbulb is called the Centennial light. [lightbulb invented in 1879].

ASK: What year or how long do you think the light has been burning?

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It has been burning since 1901 maintained by the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department in Livermore, California.
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This is the time of year that we start to think about lights … Christmas lights. They are symbolic of that true light that has come into the world.

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Matthew 4:12–17 12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 15The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles16The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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Whenever you enter a room after 5pm in Alberta in December, the first thing you need to do is turn on the light. To appreciate that light, you have to understand the darkness.

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And indeed, how great is the darkness in the world. No ordinary light will dispel this darkness.

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Verse 16 is our main text. It’s a quotation from Isa. 9:2

Matthew 4:16 16The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”

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John in his gospel said … John 3:19 19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”

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People today are sitting in the dark and they love the darkness of their sin and rebellion.

The Light that is Christ is the answer.

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  1. People Sitting in Darkness
    1. Meaning of Darkness – sin and death.

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      ASK: How is the world dark? [men love darkness rather than light, what is it that they love?]

      Darkness of Philosophy: God is not, or at least not active; He hasn’t spoken.

      Darkness of Religion: We must do it ourselves

      Darkness of Morals: God doesn’t see (Ps. 14)

      Darkness of Rebellion and suppression of truth.

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      TRANS: particularly here, darkness is sin and it’s ultimate penalty, death.

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      1. SIN

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      Sin, it’s sinful rebellion against the Creator and Redeemer.

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      Just like that verse we just read …

John 3:19–20 19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

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YOUNG person: your heart is dark with sin, come to the light of Christ. Don’t hide your sin from Jesus, openly confess it to him. Tell him you’ve disobeyed your parents. Talk to Jesus about that. Ask Him to forgvie you.

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ILL: When I was a boy growing up in IL, I remember the cockroaches. Cockroaches in IL are about an inch long and are quickly crawling bugs. And if you’re in a dark room and you turn on a light, what happens? They scurry off!

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We are the same way. Young person, you can easily love the darkness of your sin and rebellion. When your parents confront you about your sin, do you say “no, it was little johnie’s fault?” Come to the light of Christ…let him expose your sin! And confess it all to Him, don’t hide it, He’ll save you from your sin!

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I tell ya, we’re a bunch of cockroaches! We’re more comfortable in our sin than to have the light expose it.

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  1. DEATH

But the darkness of sin leads to the darkness of death.

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Matthew 4:16 16 And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”

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And people are constantly under its threat.

Hebrews 2:15 15 … [people] through fear of death [are] subject to slavery all their lives.

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Death is an evil tyrant, and their whole life is lived in its shadow under its constant threat.[1]

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And it’s a constant thing. People are more scared of dying than usual because of getting COVID. Our text says that we’re sitting in this shadow of death!

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Matthew 4:16 16The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”

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This land that Matthew is talking about directly was this very land that had the Assyrian army coming upon it to destroy the people in it, some 700 years earlier. Death all around! Why did the Assyrians come? Because of Israel’s great sin against the Lord. The darkness of their sin lead to the darkness of death.

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  1. Sitting in Darkness

And so people are siting in the darkness of sin that leads to eternal death.

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Not a brief moment, but habitual.

ILL If I came to your house, and sat it’d be for some time.

Abiding….constantly under the threat of the consequences of sin!

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Oh the darkness of sin that leads to the darkness of death!

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The world with its smiles and happinesses that shroud the darkness of the rebellion against God. The whole world, in their vain attempts to care for others, mask the true hideous nature of utter rejection of the One who created them. Selfish motives even in the most selfless acts that defy their Redeemer … “I can earn my way to God.”

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The arrogance of the heart has deceived the masses who happily proceed down the escalator of death into the pit of the abyss. Not to mention all the turmoil of sin in the world … the sinful pleasures, the constant worry and fear, the anxieties, anger, …

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Dark, dreary rebellion … and loving it!

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But it’s not as if people don’t recognize they have a problem. They know the world is broken, but don’t much include themselves in that broken system. It’s typically someone else’s fault.

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So, people try to fix the broken system …

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ASK: What are the different ways in which people try to fix the darkness?

  • Like sin…

-government

-meds

-pleasure that hides

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  • Or death…

    -healthcare

    -tech titans trying to live longer

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Examples of trusting in themselves, not in the Lord. People haven’t come to the end of themselves, a low point…. “they do the best they can with what they have” not knowing they have nothing.

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APP: If you know you are in the dark – having come to the end of your rope, it’s only then that you can see in all this darkness! …

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John 9:3939 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” If you think you see, you’re blind.

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TRANS: It’s when you realize….I have no light in myself…and then turning to the only Light that there is, Jesus Christ … that’s when you truly see.

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“Once I was blind but now I see” – not b/c of the light that is me, but because Jesus has come and He himself is that great light that has dawned!

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  1. The Great Light Dawned

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    So we recognize then that we cannot deliver ourselves from our own darkness or the darkness of the world. No politician, no religious leader, everyone will eventually disappoint.

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    Dark dark, everything everywhere is dark! Who shall deliver us? We need Light!

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    1. Meaning of Light

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    ASK: If the world is so dark with sin and death, the world is missing the Light. What is the Light? [Jesus!]

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    Light is that which takes away the darkness.

    Darkness is sin and death.

    Therefore, the light is that which takes away sin and death.

    Who takes away sin and death? Jesus!

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    Jesus is that great light that has dawned.

    Jesus is He who takes away sin and conquers death.

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    He gives life …

John 1:4 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

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His light takes away our sin…

1 John 1:7 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

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Live with Christ and get cleansing from all sin! Throw all your guilt on Him…He alone can take it away…

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Christmas: The world is really really dark! The depth of darkness is staggering to the mind. But God in Jesus Christ has come to illumine the world!

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TRANS: He is that light that has dawned …

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  1. That the light has dawned

Our text says …

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Matthew 4:16 16The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”

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Light dawned on them. What does it not say? From the world a light has sprung …as poetic as that is, it doesn’t say that!

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from the human heart, a light has come. No!

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The solution to man’s problems doesn’t come from within, but to truly dispel the darkness of sin and death takes a light from the outside. It takes the Great Light coming into the world!

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ASK??: When did that take place? The First Christmas…

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The light dawned just a few verses later in Isaiah 9…verses 6-7

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How Dawn? Isa. 9:6-7 “child is born, Son given.”

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Isaiah 9:6–7 6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

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God as man has come to earth! That’s the dawning. The child born, a son given….

He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace … the eternal ruler who will one day come again and rule on this earth from the throne of David his father and then and only then, will we have a perfect ruler who truly rules righteously.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 4.16

Now, let us understand this …

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All whom Jesus brings to Himself shines that very same light.

We ought to shine in our witness and in our testimonies..

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Shine in your witness even as Jesus preached …

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Matthew 4:17 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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Look, is Jesus God? You can’t ride the fence. Decide you this day whom you will serve…you’re a sinner in your deep darkness, you can’t fix anything about you…who is the babe in the manger…even secular historians believe He was the most influential person in history of world; we base our years off his birth … His miracles show He’s God….you can’t ignore Him, where do you stand?

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Testify to them to turn…God’s kingdom is near. We shine in our witness to others …

And we also shine in our actions…

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John 9:5 5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

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and what else does He say … to His disciples…

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Matthew 5:14 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;

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We need to shine.

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Now, we don’t shine our own light. Our light is a derived light.

ILL: the moon doesn’t shine of itself, but it’s light is from the sun.

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We simply shine the light that God has shined into our lives.

The more we walk with Him, the more that’ll happen. The less we walk in the Light, the less His light shines through us.

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Remove the clouds of sin from the atmosphere of your life so that the glories of the Sun of God can shine into your life. Be cleansed then and, like the Centennial bulb, shine for a lifetime!

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Go to Matthew Main Page

Go To New Testament Books

Go To BibleTrove Home Page

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  1. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 82.

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