Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry

Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” ~ Matthew 4:12-17.

In fulfilment of the prophesy of Isaiah, the great Light of the world shines through Jesus’ presence and through His preaching of repentance in Capernaum.

“John had been put in prison” (v.12) — The specific reasons for John’s arrest are given in Matthew 14:3-5.

“And leaving Nazareth” (v.13) — Jesus changed His place of residence because of the city’s unbelief (Luke 4:16-31).

“and dwelt in Capernaum” — This was the hometown of Peter and John. “Capernaum” meant “village of Nahum.” Therefore, it may have been the traditional hometown of the OT prophet. It was located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

“in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali…Light has dawned” (vv.13c-16) — Because of the concluding phrase of Matthew 4:13, this was fulfilled prophecy (see Isaiah 9:1-2). Everyone expected the Messiah to minister primarily to Judea and Jerusalem, but the ancient prophecy of Isaiah was uniquely fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus (John. 7:41). The land of Zebulun and Naphtali were the first to fall to the Assyrian invaders and the first to hear the good news.

“beyond the Jordan” (v.15) — This idiom usually referred to the east side of the Jordan (the trans-Jordan) but here it referred to the west (the promised land). It all depends on where the person speaking was standing (or thinking).

“Galilee of the Gentiles” — Galilee was a mixture of both Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1), the majority being Gentiles. This Gentile area was looked down on by the Jews of Judea. God’s heart has always been for the salvation of the entire world (Genesis 3:15; 12:3; Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 2:24; 25:6-9; John. 3:16; Ephesians 2:11-3:13).

“The people who sat in darkness” (v.16) — This was either (1) a reference to their sin, (2) a reference to their ignorance, or (3) an idiom of derision because of their differences from the Jewish customs in Judea.

“in the region and shadow of death” — This was a metaphor for great danger (Job 38:17; Psalm 23:4; Jeremiah 2:6).

“From that time” (v.17) — This phrase is used three times in Matthew (Matthew 4:17; 16:21; 26:16) and seems to be a purposeful literary marker of the main divisions of Matthew’s presentation of Jesus.

“Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'” — This is similar to John the Baptist’s message (Matthew 3:2). In the mouth of Jesus it takes on new significance. The kingdom is both present and future. This is the “already” but “not yet” tension of the new age (see Robert Stein, The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings, pp. 75-79).

“repent” — Repentance is crucial for a faith relationship with God (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 20:21). The term in Hebrew meant a change of actions, while in Greek it meant a change of mind. Repentance is a willingness to change from one’s self-centered existence to a life informed and directed by God. It calls for a turning from the priority and bondage of the self (Genesis 3). Basically it is a new attitude, a new worldview, a new master. Repentance is God’s will for every human being, made in His image (Ezekiel 18:21,23,32 and 2 Peter 3:9).

True repentance is linked to —

1. Jesus’ preaching of the conditions of the New Covenant (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3,5);
2. the apostolic sermons in Acts (Acts 2:38; 3:16,19; 20:21);
3. God’s sovereign gift (Acts 5:31; 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25)
4. perishing (2 Peter 3:9)

Repentance is not optional!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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