Commentaries
English
Matthew
  
C - CHRIST BEGINS HIS GALILEAN MINISTRY
(MATTHEW 4:12-25)

1. Christ Chooses Capernaum as a Residence
(Matthew 4:12-17)
12And when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he departed to Galilee.13And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali,14that 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:16The 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." 17From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Isaiah9:1-2; Matthew3:2; Mark1:14-20; Luke4:14-15; John8:12)


After the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and the victory of the light over the darkness in the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, the ministry of John the Baptist was nearing completion. During that time, Christ had ministries of another kind that Matthew did not mention.

Then John was put in prison where God would allow his servant to be perfected by suffering at the hands of Satan, just as he allowed the sufferings of Job and others who were faithful to him. After the end of the preaching of the Baptist while in prison, Christ began to preach the kingdom in Galilee.
Christ did not enter into Galilee until the moment was right. Time had to be given to prepare the way of the Lord. Providence wisely ordered that John should decrease before Christ shone forth. Otherwise, people would have been distracted between the two—one group saying, "I am of John," and another saying, "I am of Jesus." Christ went into Galilee as soon as he heard of John’s imprisonment, not only to provide for his own safety, knowing that the Pharisees in Judea were as much enemies to him as Herod was to John, but to supply encouragement to John and to build upon the good foundation he had laid.
God will not leave himself without witness, nor his church without guides. When he removes one useful instrument, he can raise up another by the power of the Holy Spirit whom was given to the church. And he will do it if he has work to do.
It became clear to Christ that his Father did not lead him into Judea where the Temple was, but into the countryside and Galilee. Jesus left Nazareth where he had been brought up and went down to Capernaum, the center of transportation. He called it his city and took it as a center of his ministry and miracles. Matthew made clear, with great importance, that every step of Christ was already designed in the prophecies of the Scripture. He proved in the previous chapters that Bethlehem was the place of Jesus’ birth, and that Nazareth was his residence in his youth, according to the ancient prophecies. He also observed in the prophecies of Isaiah (9:1-2) that Galilee was the center of the acts of Jesus according to the eternal will of God.
Christ is the light of the world and the light of his earthly ministry shone first in Galilee. This beautiful area is far from Jerusalem and its Temple and the inhabitants were not so well versed in the Scripture and the Law of Moses as were the scholars in the capital. On the contrary, they were rough countrymen, some of whom practiced smuggling and highway robbery. This was a dark area that Jesus desired to enlighten.
Zebulun and Naphtali were tribal areas that encompassed the region of Galilee. The word "Zebulun" is derived from "Zabhal" (to exalt). Christ went to the lower classes of his people to satisfy those who hunger for righteousness and to exalt them spiritually.
The very first word of Christ's very first sermon was the very first word of John's very first sermon: "Repent". The substance of the gospel is the same for every era. The commands are the same and the reasons to enforce them are the same, and men nor angels dare not preach any other gospel (Galatians 1:8). Repent, is a call from the "everlasting gospel" and is being proclaimed to you today.
Christ had great respect for John’s ministry and preached the same message of holiness that John had preached before him. This is evidence that John was his messenger and ambassador—Jesus confirmed the word of his messenger. In part, the Son came with the same task that the prophets came for, to "seek fruit"—fruits worthy of repentance. Christ could have preached sublime notions of divine and heavenly things that would have amused the learned world, but he proclaimed this simple message, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
God supported the ministry of his faithful messengers and confirmed that the Holy Spirit wants us, first of all, to change our thoughts and leave our sin. Sin is the reason for our troubles; the wages of sin is death. Jesus does not simply release us from our troubles but releases us from the cause of our troubles, that is sin. He asks us to prepare our hearts and mind and to determine with all of our being to completely separate ourselves from our iniquities, to hate sin, and to trust God to lead us into holiness.
Sin separates us from the Creator, therefore Jesus’ order to repent offers hope that brings us back from solitude to our Father’s house and kingdom. This invitation is the first divine order in the Christian law. Man does not go back to God on his own accord; he needs an invitation, an order, and a decision. This coming back to the kingdom of heaven became the characteristic of the Gospel of Matthew. It is interesting that Matthew generally does not use the "kingdom of God" or the "kingdom of Christ" but he often uses the "kingdom of heaven." This is because, with few exceptions, Jews did not use the name of God for fear of breaking the commandment that forbids them to take his name in vain.
The kingdom of heaven and the joy of heaven dwells in the hearts of those who have the Spirit of the Lord dwelling in them. Those of old thought that the heavens were over their heads and that hell was under their feet but we know that Christ is always with us, even to the end of the age. In spite of the world’s problems and troubles, we can abide in his vast expanses, as Jesus told us, "In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali having become "Galilee of the Gentiles", indicates the lowly and contemptible position the Jewish tribes were brought to. "Zebulun" signifies "exalted dwelling" (Genesis 30:20). Jacob's blessing for Zebulun was that they "shall dwell by the haven of the sea" (Genesis 49:13). It was an image of the Lord’s people who were dwelling alone "and shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Numbers 23:9), but they were mingled among other nations and indulged in their abominations (Psalm 106:35; Hosea 7:8).
"Naphtali" signifies "my wrestling" (Genesis 30:8). It was an image of the Lord’s people in enjoyment of his freedom because of trusting God in their wrestling (Genesis 49:21). When they gave up wrestling, the enemy began to oppress them.
Those without Christ are in darkness. Worst of all, they are "sitting" in this condition. Sitting in a prolonged posture—where we sit, we plan to stay. Many are in the dark and are comfortable staying there, not desiring to find the way out. "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).
The condition of the tribes of Israel was sad. Many great and mighty nations are in the same condition today and should be pitied and prayed for. It is even sadder today because nations sit in darkness with the light of the gospel all around them. He that is in the dark because it is night may be sure that the sun will shortly arise, but he that is in the dark because he is blind will not so soon have his eyes opened. We have the light of day but what will that avail us if we be not have the light of the Lord?
The word "kingdom" calls for a king who carries wisdom, authority and glory. Christ said after his death and resurrection, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth." By these words, he proclaimed himself as the king of the kingdom of heaven. We rejoice at the fact that God is a king. He reigns through his Son who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from sin and purify for himself a people of his own, born of his Spirit. This kingdom belongs to our King and we are his.
The coming of the kingdom of Christ took place gradually. First came the forerunner, John the Baptist; next came the King, Jesus, who brings light to his followers and purifies his people, that they might be worthy to live in communion with God. Then the Spirit of Jesus came upon his believers, ensuring our coming into the kingdom of God. At last, Jesus will come in his glory and his kingdom will prevail on earth. The history of the kingdom of God indicates development, movement and growth towards a majestic goal. It has begun, it is now present in us and it will manifest its glory and power openly for all to see. This is why we listen to Jesus saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Are you inside or outside the kingdom? Do not forget that the kingdom does not concern your personal salvation only. It also concerns those waiting to hear the gospel message so that they might repent and become a newborn believer in the family of their heavenly Father.

Prayer
I glorify you, Holy Lord, because you reiterated the word of repentance and the proclamation of your kingdom that I might not live indifferently but will leave my sins by the power of your name—experiencing your mercy and expecting your imminent return. I ask you to create in me perseverance, purity and holiness that I may honor my royal King through my behavior. Please guide whomever longs to come into the kingdom of your love and send me to invite them and draw them into your presence.
Question
Why did Jesus reiterate the Baptist’s good news: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?"