(Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27:1, 4-9, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18)
12Now when Jesus* heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’*
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus Ministers to Crowds of People
23Jesus* went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news* of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
One day at a busy airport, the passengers on a commercial airliner are seated waiting for the pilot to show up so they could get underway. The pilot and copilot finally appear in the rear of the plane and begin walking up to the cockpit through the center aisle. Both appear to be blind; the pilot is using a white cane, bumping into passengers right and left as he stumbles down the aisle. The copilot is using a guide dog. Both have their eyes covered with sunglasses. At first, the passengers do not react thinking that it must be some sort of practical joke. After a few minutes though, the engines start revving, and the airplane begins moving down the runway. The passengers look at each other with some uneasiness. They start whispering among themselves and look desperately to the stewardesses for reassurance. Yet, the plane starts accelerating rapidly, and people begin panicking. Some passengers are praying, and as the plane gets closer and closer to the end of the runway, the voices are becoming more and more hysterical. When the plane has less than twenty feet of runway left, there is a sudden change in the pitch of the shouts as everyone screams at once. At the very last moment, the plane lifts off and is airborne. Up in the cockpit, the copilot breathes a sigh of relief and tells the pilot: “You know, one of these days the passengers aren’t going to scream, and we aren’t going to know when to take off!”
What a strange and anxious ride that must have been for everyone on board that plane! And not just the passengers either. Even the pilot and co-pilot seemed to be getting a little nervous about whether they’d get off the ground in time. But with a little help from their panicked passengers, they were able to get the plane in the air in just the right time. All was well and the pilot and co-pilot were able to joke about yet another near-death experience. But imagine being on that plane, knowing full well who was piloting it. Pretty scary thought, eh? I don’t think you or I would be particularly comfortable with a couple blind men flying a plane we were on. No matter how well-qualified they and/or the airline would have us believe they were, common sense would kick in and tell us it’s not a reasonable idea. Perhaps this is why we don’t allow blind people to fly airplanes. We want people able to see so that they can avoid obstacles and maneuver our planes safely through the skies and during takeoffs and landings. Sight is important for fulfilling the job of flying a plane. So when we see someone without sight trying to do the job, we understandably become anxious and panicky.
In our day to day living, we are not unlike those scared passengers. Each of us is stumbling through the darkness of our lives, trying to make sense of the world and those around us. None of us really knows what’s going on. Sure, we each have our own areas of expertise in which we become lulled into a sense of comfort and understanding. But take us out of those areas and we become woefully inept and doubtful. None of us is an expert in ALL areas of life. Only God is an expert in all areas of life. And none of us can know exactly how our lives will unfold from day to day. None of us can know exactly when and how our lives will end nor what waits for us after death. No, each of us is stumbling and fumbling our way through the darkness of our lives.
And yet we are never alone. We are never without our Lord going before us as a light onto the path. Jesus is the light of the world, ever shining and ever bright. Jesus understands the darkness of this world. Jesus understands how each of us must stumble our way through the darkness, each on our own unique path. We each are born into this world with a burden. We each are born into sin. The race is set out before us, one by one, step by step. We struggle to find our way home, a home in God. And like those scared passengers from earlier, we must place our trust in someone or something that will guide us to where we need to be going. And unlike that blind pilot and co-pilot, Jesus knows the way home. Jesus knows the way so well that he might as well be blind! Indeed, Jesus IS the way as we hear in verses throughout Scripture. Jesus is the sure and true way to everlasting glory. And Jesus doesn’t rely on our screams to get us there either! Jesus knows exactly how to get us where we need to be without anyone’s help.
We are heading into the 3rd week of Epiphany and all throughout the season we are celebrating Jesus being the light of the world. Just as the star guided the three wise men to where the baby Jesus lay, so, too, does our Lord shine on the way to our heavenly Father. The prophet Isaiah spoke in our first passage of how “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” WE are the people that the prophet speaks of! WE are the ones who have heard of all that Jesus did and said! WE are the ones who must carry a burden of sin through the darkness of this world. Jesus has come to US, the people that Isaiah spoke of later in the passage: “For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.” Jesus has come to break our collective yoke!
We ought to rejoice and sing as David sang in today’s psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” We ought not be afraid in the darkness of our lives. Jesus walks with us, lighting our paths and giving us the strength we need to venture forth. There is nothing to be afraid of in this world. Our God leads us through the wickedness of this world. We sing as David sung, “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.” This is the God we know and serve! This is the God we love and are loved by! This…is…our…God!
It is no wonder that Jesus’ first disciples were so eager to leave their nets and follow Jesus as we heard in our gospel text. Jesus was their light too. Jesus led them through the darkness of their own lives. Jesus gave them a glimpse of the heavenly kingdom here in their world. Jesus shone a light on the path to eternal glory. Of course they would eagerly drop their nets and immediately follow Jesus! Some have wondered whether those early disciples really did leave so quickly with Jesus, with so little convincing. Of course they did! We are all looking for a way home to our heavenly Father. They were no different than you and I. And they eventually found their way home through Jesus. So, too, will we find our own way home.
So as we celebrate Jesus being the light of the world, let us eagerly respond to his calling to follow him through the year ahead. Jesus will light our path. Jesus will guide us through the trials and tribulations of the upcoming year. Jesus will give us the strength we need to persevere. As we set on the journey of a new year, let us each boldly proclaim, “I have seen the light!”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.