Friday, May 16, 2014

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Matthew 4:12-25

“Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” (Matthew 4:12-16)

After John’s arrest, as described in Luke 3:19-21, which focused attention on John’s message because of Herod Antipas’ unpopularity, Jesus began his public ministry in Capernaum , on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee in Herod’s dominion.   The Assyrians had removed the people of Galilee and replaced them with other groups, but after Judah returned from Babylon in 535 BC, many of them had returned as well. But they were largely isolated from Jerusalem by Samaria. 

In beginning his ministry there, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2.  “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, 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.” 

Matthew and others who were familiar with the passage would recognize that it clearly identified Jesus as the Messiah. Isaiah 9:6-7 declares, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.   Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”  

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

This was the same message John had preached according to Matthew 3:1-2.  “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…”  Herod’s arrest and subsequent execution of John, making him a martyr created greater interest in Jesus’ message.

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.  And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.  And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-22)

Capernaum is right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and Andrew was one of those who had been present when John announced that Jesus was the Messiah in John 1:40.  Andrew had then introduced Jesus to Peter.  When Jesus asked peter and Andrew to let him use their ship as a platform in Luke 5, they didn’t hesitate.   After finishing his message, he told them to get into deeper water and deploy their nets and they caught so many fish they had to call James and John to help them.   When Jesus asked them to follow him, all four readily agreed.   
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.   And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.  And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.” (Matthew 4:23-25)

Jesus went through Galilee Teaching and preaching and healing the sick.  His fame quickly spread From Syria to the north to the ancient Edomite land the Romans called Idumea to the south, as well as eastward into the old lands of Gad, Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh known to the Romans as Decapolis.  Many of these people were of mixed blood as a result of the occupation by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Greeks and Romans. 

Because the regulations relating to health were no longer followed various diseases were rampant, and because they had adopted many of the gods of the people around them, creating moral and psychological confusion, demon possession was common.  Desperate for relief, the people flocked to Jesus for healing and instruction in how to cure the problems. 

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