|Matthew 4:13-16||Read Online|
He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah.
When God does something you don’t expect, how can you be sure it’s God? One of the surest ways is to turn to the scriptures to see what He’s said and how He’s worked in the past. Whatever God does today will be consistent with His nature, purpose, and past ways.
Matthew wrote his Gospel to convince the Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah. So he began it with a genealogy, proving that Jesus is indeed the son of Abraham and David, according to God’s promise. And he constantly points back to the prophecies about the Messiah as Jesus’ credentials.
Today’s passage is full of those Old Testament names that sound so strange to us, but would have great meaning to the Jews. Israel had waited so long for the Messiah to come. When He didn’t immediately head for Jerusalem, the seat of religious and political power, they were confounded, disappointed, even disbelieving.
Matthew points them (and us) back to a famous prophecy about the Messiah, spoken by Isaiah. In these verses, Isaiah reveals God’s strategy.
Zebulun and Naphtali were 2 of the 12 tribes of Israel that settled in the northernmost region of the Promised Land, near the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum, the hometown of Peter, was a large fishing town along the Sea. Though it was far from Jerusalem, important trade routes passed through this area. One historian said, “Judea is on the way to nowhere; Galilee is on the way to everywhere.”
The Jews thought Jerusalem was the center of the world when it came to the things of God. But Jesus actually began His ministry in the most densely populated area He could’ve found in the Middle East.
Nowhere else could Jesus have had such a chance of gaining such a large following. It was a place where many cultures and ideas met and would be carried into the world, a place that was open to change, but a place that knew nothing about God. Isaiah called them, “people living in darkness.”
John begins his Gospel by describing Jesus using the same word picture: “The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
This wasn’t a new plan on God’s part. When He created the nation of Israel from Abraham, He said, “All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Jesus echoed this when He said, “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
In going to Galilee, Jesus wasn’t only continuing the historic strategy of God, He was showing us what God would continue to do through the church: bring the light of truth and grace, the glory of God, to every man.
His great Commission to His followers was made from this same place, Galilee, from which He instructed them to “go…and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). The Greek word translated “nations” is ethne. In Jesus’ day, it meant “Gentiles”—people who don’t know God, who are spiritually confused, who walk in darkness.
Since God works today consistently with the way He’s always worked, where can we expect to find Jesus, and where does Jesus expect to find us? Among the people who walk in darkness. Along the cultural and geographical trade routes. Along the daily pathways into schools and businesses, markets, and neighborhoods—wherever there are there opportunities for light to dawn in the darkness.
Jesus went there. And then He told us to go there. Just as God had always said He would.
- What are the “trade routes” of your daily life? Where does life take you week in and week out?
- Who are the people who walk in spiritual darkness there?
- How can you spend more time with them, creating opportunities to bring the light of Christ?
- Does the idea of doing this make you uncomfortable?
- How do you need to pray about this? How do you need to prepare for this assignment?