Matthew 4:12 – Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.
There is a gap of time between verses 11 and 12 of about a year. What happened during that time? The book of John gives us some of the details. Jesus was very busy ministering to people. He preached in the synagogues, attended Passover in Jerusalem (John 2), had a discussion with Nicodemus (John 3), spoke to the woman at the well (John 4), performed a miracle at the wedding at Cana and much more.
So we see that for a time, the ministries of Jesus and John overlapped. Both of them were both calling people to repent in light of the coming Kingdom of Heaven. God was allowing time for John to fully complete his ministry of preparing the way for Christ. Once that was done, John’s ministry needed to decrease while Jesus’ ministry increased. Otherwise, people would be divided with some following John and some following Jesus.
Matthew 4:13-16 – And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’
‘By the sea’ refers to the sea of Tiberias also called the lake of Gennesaret. This place was in the ancient territory of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. Isaiah prophesied about this land back in chapter 9 of his book. He declared that a great light would dawn on this region, which had been dwelling in the shadow of death.
Back in the era of 2 Kings 15 this was literally the case because that region was the first to be attacked by the Assyrians. There can be no doubt that those people were indeed living in the shadow of death.
However, there was more than one kind of death going on. There was physical death from the Assyrians, but there was also spiritual death for those Jews who had rejected the covenant with God. In other words, dwelling in the shadow of death was the same as living in sin, because the final outcome of sin is always death.
To those who are living in sin (spiritual death), the preaching of Jesus were a great light, which led them to salvation and eternal life.
So it is for us. We were in the darkness of sin and under the influence of spiritual death. We could not rid ourselves of the stain and bondage of sin. What we can do is embrace the light of the gospel when it is shined on our lives. In so doing, Christ cleanses us and sets us free from death, through his blood sacrifice.
What a blessing it is to read that Christ’s message reached far and wide, extending even to Galilee of the Gentiles. Thus, we see yet another hint of God’s great plan to offer salvation to the Gentiles.
Matthew 4:17 – From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
After John’s imprisonment, Jesus continued to preach the message of repentance. Repentance is always the starting point of spiritual life. We must first repent before we can obtain salvation. We must obtain salvation before we can reach great heights of faith and spiritual maturity.
Matthew 4:18 – While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
The time had come for Jesus to gather his disciples to himself. These men would be witnesses – witnesses of miracles, witnesses of healing, witnesses of the power of God over the enemy and witnesses of the gospel message. In fact, after the death and resurrection of Jesus they would be preaching of the gospel after being baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. God would then work similar miracles through these men, just as he had through Jesus.
Matthew 4:19-20 – And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
We can’t help but notice that Jesus did not go to Jerusalem to find his disciples. He did not choose anyone from among the chief priests, the elders, the Pharisees, Saducees or Essenes. He did not choose men who were refined or noble. Rather, he choose the humble of this world. Galilee was a remote part of the nation and its inhabitants were not cultivated or refined as those of Jerusalem. In fact, they were considered ‘coarse’. Yet, these were the people God chose.
1 Corinthians 1:27 – But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…
This shows that you can be used by God no matter what your station in life. You can be rich or poor, smart or simple, educated or uneducated; God can (and will) work through any person who yields themselves to his will. Get into alignment with what God is doing, and watch him work through you!
Matthew 4:21-22 –And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
The men that Jesus chose were uniquely qualified to fulfill their purpose. They were laborers. They were used to hard work and long hours. They were content without luxurious clothing and food. They were used to being wet, cold and uncomfortable. They were no strangers to peril.
Similarly, we remember that David and Moses were both shepherds before rising to positions of prominence in God’s kingdom. Their early training helped prepare them for future ministry.
Just like David, Moses and the disciples, you are uniquely qualified to serve God. Your talents and experiences make you different from everyone around you. So let me ask you this – are you actively seeking the good works that God has prepared for you to do? Are you advancing the kingdom here on earth?
If not, look around you and find a place to begin ministering. Once you have begun, other doors of opportunity will open for you. Just like the disciples, you may be surprised where God takes you!
Matthew 4:23 –And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
Here we have a great example of how to spread the gospel. People came to Jesus with physical needs; he met those needs then introduced spiritual healing as well. People know when they have physical needs, but they don’t always understand that they are spiritually sick as well. Therefore, the physical need opens the door to preaching of the gospel, which heals the soul.
This example still works today. The church should not be a closed community of righteous people. Rather, sinners should feel welcome there. This does not mean that we embrace and love their sin; it means we love them as they repent.
This also means that all of us need to support our local churches financially so that the church can reach out to the needs of the community around them, bringing both physical and spiritual hope and healing.
Jesus also gives us hope for the future. By atoning for sin, he has broken the curse of sickness and death. One day, these will be totally destroyed!
Matthew 4:24-25 – So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Wherever Jesus went he confirmed his divine mission with miracles performed by the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. No sickness, disease or torment was powerful enough to stand against him. He healed them all. But he also brought an even greater miracle – healing of the soul by becoming a sacrifice for our sin.
Let me give you some encouragement, relief and strength: There is no one on planet earth like you! Don’t try to imitate others; be yourself. You can do things for God that no one else can – step out in faith and begin to minister for Jesus. There’s no telling where you might end up!