12 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.”
Certain passages in the Bible are transitional passages, meaning they transition us from one thought or theme to another or from one place to another. This is what is taking place in this particular passage. Christ, who has been tempted and triumphed over Satan, is now launching His ministry in the area near Galilee.
Strangely the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke make no mention of Jesus’s early ministry in Judea. His early ministry covers the span of time from His temptation to the start of the ministry in Galilee. This period would have covered two Passover celebrations in the spring of A.D 27 and 28. To find details of his early ministry we would need to look in the Gospel of John and study the first 5 chapters. I had thought of doing just that with our little study, but this is a journey through Matthew, not Matthew and John.
It becomes apparent that Jesus leaves the region of Judea just after healing the man by the pool of Bethesda. (See John 5 – 6:1) It was at this time that the religious leaders rejected Christ and convinced the Roman authorities to have John thrown in prison. They rejected Christ because he healed a man on the Sabbath and his teachings threatened their authority as sole interpreters of the Bible and the Jewish traditions.
As we noted earlier, Jesus spent a little over a year in Judea, with the exception of the trip to the wedding at Cana. (See John 2:1-12) During this time in Judea, both Jesus and John had gathered great crowds together, causing anxiety among Jewish officials. They feared that the Romans would become concerned and remove their religious and political power if they did not reject Jesus. Seeking to maintain their own status and remove any threats to it, the Jewsish leaders did in fact reject Jesus and had John put in prison.
Verse 14 makes the clear point “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet.” Matthew is stating that it isn’t just enough to call yourself the Messiah. Many have made this claim and will continue to claim they are the Messiah, the promised one of God. However, if you truly are the Messiah, then your life must fulfill all the prophecies concerning his life. Isaiah has prophesied that Jesus would teach and preach in the land that had been given to Zebulun and Naphtali. It was a land that was now filled with 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.”
This passage pulled from Isaiah 42:7 and echoes the words written by John in John 1:1-5. 1 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.
From Genesis 1:3 the Light of Christ has shown upon the world. But since the fall of mankind in Genesis chapter 3 humanity has sat in the shadow of death. We are all captives of sin and thus sit in the darkness of that shadow. Christ, therefore, came into this world to dispel the darkness. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the light of the world (see John 8:12; 9:5), whose bright beams destroy the darkness of sin and death.
In this land surrounding Galilee were sinners who sat in darkness, until Christ began to preach the message of repentance. Bright beams of light shown from the Saviour of this world upon fallen man. “Repent!” Christ preached. Why? Because the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The “kingdom of heaven,” or “kingdom of God,” constituted the theme of Jesus’ teaching (see Luke 4:43; 8:1). He introduced many of His parables with the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like [or likened]” (see Matthew 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47). He taught His disciples to pray for the coming of the kingdom (See Matthew 6:10), and His gospel was the good news of the kingdom (See Matthew 4:23). His disciples were the “children of the kingdom” (See Matthew 13:38)
Today for those that have accepted Christ as our Saviour we are also children of the kingdom. As such, our message to a world that is still living in the shadow of death should also be, “Behold the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Why should this be our message?
Because on a hill just outside of Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon, Christ hung upon the cross. He hung on the cross weighted down with the burden of sin, separated from His Father. It was at the time of the evening sacrifice, Jesus raised up his head and in a loud voice said, “It is finished.” (See John 19:30) When those words were spoken, The Lamb of God had sacrificed His life so that we, who did not deserve it, should have everlasting life. He paid the price so that you and I might become children of the kingdom once more.
Matthew ends his gospel with these compelling words. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20
As children of the Kingdom we are to carry forward the same message that Christ did on earth. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” So I must ask; has this been our message?