Jesus Starts His Ministry

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Land of Zebulun, land of the Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-
the people who have sat in darnkess
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” ”

Matthew 4:12-17

I never thought much about this passage before. Nothing particularly exciting or miraculous happens. No great wisdom is imparted. But we recently talked about it in church, and I think there’s some important parts of the story here.

First, why does Jesus go to Galilee? Because John the Baptist was arrested, presumably for his Messianic teachings. Remember how Herod feared the King of the Jews? Jesus went to Galilee in order not to be arrested as well. Possibly Jesus has been teaching already, but certainly He knew His teachings would not be popular with the Roman rulers.

Second, notice in Matthew’s quote of Isaiah he refers to it as “Galilee of the Gentiles.” To me that indicates that there were probably more Gentiles than Jews in Galilee. So Jesus began His ministry in a place where the listeners were often Gentiles. And He told all to repent! Jesus sets the precedent right at the beginning of His ministry that the Kingdom of God is for everyone, not just the Jews.

Finally, I want to mention the significance of Jesus’s message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Repent does not simply mean to feel repentant. Repent literally means to change direction. It means to change your actions. The part about Heaven is less clear to me. I think it means that the time of the Messiah is here, followed by the time in which people can establish a close relationship with God.

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