Verse: Matthew 4:12-16
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

So first of all any verse with “Jordan” in it is automatically OK with me. What a great name!

When I was a teenager, I was quite shy and introverted, but not necessarily in a good way. I became known by others and even self-identified as “a good listener”. While being a good listener is not a bad thing (two ears and only one mouth after all), I ended up taking on this identity where I would mostly listen and wouldn’t share much about myself or what I believed, which made it difficult for others to relate to me or to have a deeper relationship with me. It wasn’t until a few friends showed me this bad—and one-sided—relationship dynamic, that I changed my behavior.

A while after this change, I realized that not only had I been squashing down my own opinions, but also my own preferences, and I had become resentful even though no one else had ever heard me say what my preference actually was. Oops.

This realization was fairly terrible, since it showed me that I’d been principled in a wrong direction or as the Bible might say, “living in darkness”.

It turns out that it’s actually really hard to realize when you are living in darkness unless you are exposed to light. You really don’t know what you’re missing unless someone else comes along with a better way, a higher standard, or a different mindset or approach. Isn’t it painful looking back and wishing you’d known what you know now? If only you’d seen the light earlier.

This illumination process is really important to understand. Jesus bringing light to the people in darkness is absolutely a game-changer, because they don’t even realize what light is or why it’s better until they experience it.

The pattern in Matthew 4 seems to repeat itself a lot in humanity. There’s a time for going to the wilderness, where there’s not a clear path forward. There’s a time for prayer, meditation, and hard thinking. There’s a time to be tested to find out who you are. Only after you’ve made it through these crucibles do you begin to see the light and recognize its fruit. After his own time of wilderness testing, Jesus begins his ministry and starts teaching his way to everyone, bringing light where there was darkness before.

Finding these areas in your life where Jesus can illuminate a new path is so important for growth and allowing Him to perfect us over time. If there’s any advice I have here, it’s that these times can hurt, but leaning into them brings you to the other side of the wilderness and the testing, into where Jesus is shining light.

Author: Jordan Ambra