Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 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.”
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:12–17
This passage marks the start of Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, and concludes the introduction and confirmation of Jesus as the Messiah through the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the following seven passages in Matthew,
1:22-23 Behold the virgin shall be with child: Emmanuel
2:5-6 But you Bethlehem in the land of Judah
2:15 Out of Egypt I called My Son
2:17-18 A voice was heard in Ramah
2:23 He shall be called a Nazarene
3:3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness
4:14-16 The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali
There was a year between the Temptation of Jesus and the start of His ministry. It was recorded in John Jesus’ earlier ministry before finally settling in Capernaum, in Galilee. Only when John The Baptist was imprisoned, then Jesus went to Capernaum from Nazareth in the fulfilment of Isaiah 9:1-2. Jesus withdrew to Galilee, not out of fear, nor a mistake. Matthew wanted his readers to know that Jesus’ move was in fulfillment of prophecy in Isaiah 7 and 8:
Syro-Ephraimite War involving Rezin (Syria), Pekah (Israel), Ahaz (Judah) and Tigleth-Pilaser III (Assyria). The coming invasion of Assyrians and threat to Israel and Judah, and ends on a very dark note in Isaiah 8:19-22.
However, In Isaiah, there is hope and God promises salvation and deliverance through the Messiah (Isaiah 9:1-7).
Note parallels, Assyrians and Babylonians will invade from the north. Salvation and deliverance will also flow in the same direction, from the region of Galilee towards Jerusalem.
Galilee is the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. In Hebrew: galil means circuit, circle or ring. It is the Way of the Sea, ancient highway system from north, Caesarea Philippi, past Capernaum, around shore of Sea of Galilee, through Arbel Pass, around Mt Tabor, and into Jezreel Valley past Megiddoi Major trade and travel route travelling to the Mediterranean and Egypt. Many foreigners settled there, bringing their influence, culture and idolatry.
The Other Side of the Jordan is known as Decapolis which is under the control of Seleucid rulers and then Romans. It had a Non-Jewish ethnic makeup.
Galilee of the Gentiles is the region alloted to Zebulun, Naphtali and Asher. It has never fully expelled the original inhabitants. Later having Greek and Roman pagan influence, thus it was considered less spiritual than Judea in the South. It was regarded with contempt (as in Nazareth), rejected and despised.
Lessons and Principles
We need to discern God’s Appointed Time. Jesus did not rush or jostle for top spot, but waited for the right time. Although He grew up in Nazareth, in Galilee, all of His life, He had to wait for God’s appointed time. Only Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2, linking it with John’s imprisonment as an event marker, signaling the right time. Look at Jesus at Wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12).
God’s promises and assignments operate on God’s timings. Abraham and Sarah: “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time (mo’ed) I will return to you, according to the time (et) of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:14). Habakkuk 2:2-3 also records that there is God’s appointed time.
There is an urgency of the times but God is not in a rush. Everything is going according to plan and His appointed times. We move according to God’s timings and not the other way around.
We may know our assignments or have a sensing of what needs to be done, but we must discern the Lord’s appointed time.
In the meantime, be faithful and obedient. There are many opportunities to serve and to learn
Be faithful and obedient in the small things, in hiddenness. Little tests and markers that help check alignment, “Do not despise the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10).
Be sensitive to major events and milestones such as turning points in life (Matthew 4:12).
Jesus makes the move to Capernaum after John was imprisoned. Be aware of what is happening around you and to you. Do not just go with the flow and get swept along (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Know your Area of Operation (AO)
“Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.” (Matthew 4:12). Jesus knew His Area of Operation, Galilee. He would finally end up in Jerusalem in Judea but not yet. Jesus went into Galilee to teach, preach and heal. There were 240 cities and villages which were a mix of Jews and Gentiles.
Area of Operation’s Main Characteristic is People In Darkness, (Matthew 4:16, Isaiah 9:2 and Psalm 1).
There are many serving another kingdom (of darkness) without knowing. Week after week. Sunday after Sunday. We who are to be children of light can be in darkness, blinded and asleep.
The other group, Galilee of the Gentiles are called Pre-kingdom Gentiles. Jesus did not bring them to the temple but met them where they were, marketplace and workplace. Ministering through relationships and friendships, through kingdom lifestyle and culture. Demonstrating the power of the kingdom.
The Timeless Message of the Kingdom Remains the Same
From that time Jesus began to preach (kerusso) and to say (lego), “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17).
Ministries or assignments may differ but the Message stays the same. Jesus preaches exactly the same message as John the Baptist, Repentance and the kingdom of heaven (God). He fully affirms John’s ministry and message, and picks up where John left off.
Consistent whether preaching and proclaiming (kerusso), saying or conversing (lego). Jesus preaches to the crowds but did not pander to the crowds. The message does not change. We do not change the message to get the crowds. Jesus declared the good news of the kingdom
He did not have to make the good news of the kingdom better or more attractive. It was inclusive and everyone was invited to be a part of His kingdom according to His grace. He openly demonstrated the power of the kingdom but Jesus never lowered the bar or standards of the kingdom. He declared the Truth without compromise, there will be people who do not make it into the kingdom. kingdom conduct and living, discipleship and devotion to the King.
BUT not everyone accepts the Message of the kingdom. People may like the benefits of the kingdom but not necessarily the rule and reign of the King.
From that time: We are entering (have entered) into times and seasons of God’s end time move. God is awakening His saints and aligning them for His purposes. When God brings a revelation, that is a moment of awakening. We begin to realize that there are many people still walking, sitting and dwelling in darkness. What happens from that time forward is contingent upon our response. God is still looking to work through Galileans but we look for qualifications and credentials. God uses the foolish and base things, looking for faithful and obedient people (1 Corinthians 1:26–31).