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Matthew 4:12-25

We have in these verses the beginning of our Lord’s ministry among men. He enters on his labours among a dark and ignorant people; he chooses men to be his companions and disciples. He confirms his ministry by miracles which rouse the attention of “all Syria”, and draw multitudes to hear him.

Let us notice the way in which our Lord commenced his mighty work. He “began to preach.”

There is no office so honourable as that of the preacher. There is no work so important to the souls of men. It is an office which the Son of God was not ashamed to take up. It is an office to which he appointed his twelve apostles. It is an office to which St. Paul in his old age specially directs Timothy’s attention—he charges him with almost his last breath to “preach the Word.” (2 Timothy 4:2) It is the principal means which God has always been pleased to use for the conversion and edification of souls. The brightest days of the church have been those when preaching has been honoured; the darkest days of the church have been those when it has been lightly esteemed. Let us honour the sacraments and public prayers of the church, and reverently use them; but let us beware that we do not place them above preaching.

Let us notice the first doctrine which the Lord Jesus proclaimed to the world. He “began to say, Repent.”

The necessity of repentance is one of the great foundation stones which lie at the very bottom of Christianity. It is a truth which needs to be pressed on all mankind without exception. High or low, rich or poor, all have sinned, and are guilty before God; and all must repent and be converted if they would be saved. It is a truth which does not receive the attention it deserves. True repentance is no light matter: it is a thorough change of heart about sin, a change showing itself in godly sorrow for sin—in heart-felt confession of sin—in a complete breaking off from sinful habits, and an abiding hatred of all sin. Such repentance is the inseparable companion of saving faith in Christ. Let us prize the doctrine highly. No Christian teaching can be called sound which does not constantly bring forward “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21)

Let us notice the class of men whom the Lord Jesus chose to be his disciples. They were of the poorest and humblest rank in life. Peter and Andrew, and James and John were all “fishermen.”

The religion of our Lord Jesus Christ was not intended for the rich and learned alone. It was intended for all the world, and the majority of all the world will always be the poor. Poverty and ignorance of books excluded thousands from the notice of the boastful philosophers of the heathen world; they exclude no one from the highest place in the service of Christ. Is a man humble? Does he feel his sins? Is he willing to hear Christ’s voice and follow him? If this be so, he may be the poorest of the poor, but he shall be found as high as any in the kingdom of heaven. Intellect and money and rank are worth nothing without grace.

The religion of Christ must have been from heaven, or it never could have prospered and overspread the earth as it has done. It is vain for infidels to attempt to answer this argument; it cannot be answered. A religion which did not flatter the rich, the great, and the learned—a religion which offered no license to the carnal inclinations of man’s heart—a religion whose first teachers were poor fishermen, without wealth, rank or power—such a religion could never have turned the world upside down, if it had not been of God. Look at the Roman emperors and the heathen priests with their splendid temples on the one side! Look at a few unlearned working men with the Gospel on the other! Were there ever two parties so unequally matched? Yet the weak proved strong, and the strong proved weak. Heathenism fell, and Christianity took its place. Christianity must have been of God.

Let us notice in the last place, the general character of the miracles by which our Lord confirmed his mission. Here we are told of them in the mass; hereafter we shall find many of them described particularly: and what is their character? They were miracles of mercy and kindness. Our Lord “went about doing good.”

These miracles are meant to teach us our Lord’s power. He that could heal sick people with a touch, and cast out devils with a word, is “able to save all them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” He is almighty.

These miracles are meant to be types and emblems of our Lord’s skill as a spiritual physician. He, before whom no bodily disease proved incurable, is might to cure every ailment of our souls. There is no broken heart that he cannot heal; there is no wound of conscience that he cannot cure. Fallen, crushed, bruised, plague-stricken as we all are by sin, Jesus by his blood and Spirit can make us whole. Only let us apply to him.

These miracles, not least, are intended to show us Christ’s heart. He is a most compassionate Saviour: He rejected no one who came to him; he refused no one, however loathsome and diseased: He had an ear to hear all, and a hand to help all, and a heart to feel for all. There is no kindness like his. His compassions fail not.

May we all remember that the Lord Jesus is “the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) High in heaven at God’s right hand, he is not in the least altered. He is just as able to save, just as willing to receive, just as ready to help, as he was 1800 years ago. Should we have spread out our wants before him then? Let us do the same now. He can “heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.”

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