As I have stated in previous posts, I am attempting to study the first book of the New Testament of the Bible, which is called “Matthew”. In studying this book, I am utilizing the Inductive Study Method to glean as much as I can from the Scriptures for as long as my coffee holds out.
Here in this portion of Matthew chapter 4, we see that Jesus leaves for Galilee, leaving Nazareth, and he went to Capernaum. Capernaum is on the north side of the sea of Galilee. He had heard that John (the baptist) was in prison, which I will write about in a later post. The details are explained in chapter 11 and chapter 14. So I will pass on by this verse without diving into it until later.
Moving on to verse 13 and forward on to verse 17, I note that He gets to Galilee, which is recorded here as “Galilee of the Gentiles”. This was a place of a mixed population. It had its own distinctive manner of speech, meaning it had its own accent, and one could tell they were from Galilee by that accent. Capernaum became the headquarters – so to speak – for Jesus’ Galilean ministry. He called most of His disciples from this region. Most of the Jews of the Judean region despised the Jews of the Galilean region. Although Jesus’ ministry was directed primarily to Jews (Matt. 15:24), all four Gospels record instances where He ministered to Gentiles. In this region, Jews and Gentiles lived together. The immediate reason for Jesus’ excursion into Gentile territory was the opposition of the Jewish leaders, but His ministry there also served to anticipate the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles after Pentecost.
In verses 14 through 16, it speaks of an Old Testament prophecy fulfilled. This prophecy is found in Isaiah 9:1-2: “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexations, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” The people who look to evil spirits will be so confused and in such darkness that they will be beset with many troubles and suffer many hardships. Continuing in these verse, Isaiah pictures the spiritual darkness of the land when Messiah comes as less than when the land was first permitted of God to be judged by Syria under Benhadad in the reign of Baasha (1 Kings 15:20), and the more grievous invasion by Hazael in Israel (2 Kings 10:32-33). When Messiah comes the people who walk in darkness shall see great light (Dake). So in this region, Matthew is showing how people were living in such darkness until Jesus came as a great light to shine on these dark lives. He is exposing sin and dark hearts, rooting out selfish mentalities and sickness and disease, and he is cleaning up so to speak. The Greek word used here of light is phos, and means underived and absolute light; the opposite of all darkness. Therefore used especially of God (1 Tim. 6:16; 1 John 1:5) and of Christ (Jn. 1:4-10). He is the light in the darkness.
In verse 17, Jesus begins to preach of repentance and of the Kingdom of Heaven. The sentence that is recorded here is, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance is one of the main themes of the Bible, as I mentioned in a previous post. In the post titled “Matthew 3:1-12”, I noted the different Greek words that have been translated “repent”. Grudem defines the word repentance as “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” The “kingdom of heaven” is literally “the kingdom from the heavens” headed by Jesus Christ for the purpose of re-establishing the kingdom of God over this rebellious part of God’s realm. It’s only found in Matthew because it is the gospel of Jehovah’s King. It is a dispensational term and refers to Messiah’s kingdom on earth. This is offered by both John and Jesus noted in Matthew 3:2; 4:17; and 10:7. It was rejected so was postponed until Christ comes to set up the kingdom (Mt 11:12, 20-24; 27:22-25; Lk 19:11-27; Acts 1:6-7; 3:19-26). It is now the realm of profession (Mt 13:11-17, 30, 38-43, 47-50). The parables of the kingdom apply to this age. At the end, Christ will come and set up a literal earthly kingdom forever (Mt. 25:31-46; Rev 11:15; 19:11-20:10; Zech 14; Isa 9:6-7; Dan 2:44-45; 7:13-27; Lk 1:32-33). During the first 1,000 years of His eternal reign, He will put down all rebellion and rid the earth of all rebels. Then God will become “all in all” as before the rebellion (Rev 20: 1-10; 21:1-22:5; 1 Cor 15:24-28; Eph 1:10). Anything said of the kingdom of heaven can also be said of the kingdom of God, because the former is only the earthly dispensational aspect of the latter. There are many things said of the kingdom of God, however, which cannot be said of the kingdom of heaven. That is a topic for another day. All of these scriptural references are for if you want to study them and go down some rabbit holes for yourself. I find it fun and glorious to wonder down one of them to see where it leads and what I can learn from it that day. I believe the Holy Spirit guides me down these paths for a bigger purpose than just knowing something.
So for this portion of scripture, I have learned information about the region that Jesus spent much of His ministry in. I did not know that Galilee was a melting pot of sorts and that the Jews that were in Judea did not like the Jews of Galilee. What better way for Jesus to come and flip that whole system on its head than to come from somewhere that was despised. That’s not to say He wouldn’t come from Jerusalem and that Galilee is better by any means. It just shows that His way is not our way. His plans are not our plans. He came to expose not hide. I also learned Jesus Himself – not just John the Baptist – said to repent. And learning that to repent, that includes turning away from that sin and following Jesus whole-heartedly. I do this to please Him and honor Him, not to gain anything, because Jesus already gave me everything. But the “fruit of my repentance” is my changed way of thinking and living.
I know that this one was a doozy, but I hope you have gained some insight into the scene that sets up for Jesus calling His first set of disciples recorded here and discussed in my next post. Have a good day.
Gotta go fill up my cup…