Reflective Bible Study.
Listen to this episode and/or subscribe on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com...Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 5: When Jesus returns from being tempted, Matthew includes an interesting transition, prophecy, and message about where Jesus started His ministry, how Jesus began His ministry, and why Jesus started that way. Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here. Read the transcript: On returning from being tempted, Matthew’s gospel references a gap and transition before describing Jesus beginning His ministry, and I find what Matthew tells us fascinating, especially in light of the prophecy Matthew references, and the starting topic for Jesus’ preaching. This passage is found immediately after the passage we looked at in our last episode, which was found in Matthew chapter 4. For this episode, we will read from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 12, Matthew tells us that: 12 John had been put in prison. When Jesus heard about this, he returned to Galilee. 13 Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in the city of Capernaum. It was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 In that way, what the prophet Isaiah had said came true. He had said, 15 “Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali! Galilee, where Gentiles live! Land along the Mediterranean Sea! Territory east of the Jordan River! 16 The people who are now living in darkness have seen a great light. They are now living in a very dark land. But a light has shined on them.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach. “Turn away from your sins!” he said. “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” In this short passage, I am fascinated by a number of things. First, I am curious about how much time passed between Jesus being tempted and John the Baptist being arrested. I would imagine it was no more than a few weeks. From the way Matthew frames this transition in his gospel, we could conclude that John was arrested while Jesus was being tempted, but this isn’t likely because John’s gospel, which doesn’t include Jesus’ baptism or temptation, has Jesus passing John while John is preaching, and in my mind, this likely was on Jesus’ return from the desert being tempted. However, around that time was when John spoke out against Herod, and this message John shared led to his arrest. But Matthew pays little attention to John. The only reason he includes this detail is to use it as a transition for Jesus returning to Galilee and ultimately Capernaum. Matthew includes this detail because he sees this decision as being a direct fulfillment of prophecy. Before looking at the prophecy, I want to point out an interesting, and somewhat ironic, thought related to Matthew as a person, as a disciple, and as the author of this gospel. Matthew was previously a tax collector. Tax collectors were among the most hated and looked down on people in that society. Tax collectors were likely also the most secular. It is interesting in my mind to think of Matthew, the tax collector, writing in his gospel narrative about all the ways Jesus fulfilled prophecies. Matthew and John are the disciples who focus in on the prophecies more than the other gospels, and I believe Matthew’s gospel draws our attention onto more prophecies than John. The ironic part of this thought in my mind is that through his gospel, Matthew, the former hated and despised tax collector is teaching and challenging the Jews regarding who Jesus is, using the prophecies that they all may have known better than he should have known. However knowing and understanding are two different things, and Matthew rightly interprets the correct understanding of the prophecies even if he had been an outsider because of his occupation. In the prophecy Matthew quotes here, we find an interesting focus. In this prophecy, we see allusion to God turning His attention onto the part of the country that was perhaps the least Jewish. Verses 15 and 16 tell us this prophecy: “Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali! Galilee, where Gentiles live! Land along the Mediterranean Sea! Territory east of the Jordan River! The people who are now living in darkness have seen a great light. They are now living in a very dark land. But a light has shined on them.” (v. 15-16) I don’t know whether the Jewish leaders knew, understood, ignored, or simply rejected this prophecy from Isaiah’s writings, but this short prophecy gave Jesus direction for where He would live at the beginning of His ministry. In an interesting way, Jesus starts His ministry focusing on the exact opposite people than we might expect Him to focus on. While the Jews would have had all the right knowledge regarding the Messiah, Jesus likely knows that they are blinded by their tradition and their closed-minded, single-track understanding of the Old Testament prophecies. Perhaps for this reason, or maybe simply because God likes to work in ways that we might not expect, Jesus begins His ministry among the least Jewish and most looked down on people in the country. One could say that Jesus started at the bottom of society’s ladder of status, and He kept a solid focus on the bottom rung of this ladder throughout His entire ministry. When Jesus began speaking, preaching, and teaching, I am fascinated to learn Jesus’ beginning message. Verse 17 tells us that Jesus’ first preaching message was for people to “Turn away from your sins!” because “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” This message is exactly where John the Baptist’s message and ministry ended. John’s whole message was focused on getting people to repent, which is another way of saying to turn away from their sins, because the kingdom of heaven is coming. In a subtle, but not that subtle, way, Jesus starts where John leaves off signaling that He is picking up the torch that John began with His ministry. When John was arrested, Jesus continues the message that John began. However, unlike John, Jesus could take the message of God’s kingdom further than John could because Jesus was the Messiah John was preparing the people for, and because Jesus had arrived, the kingdom of heaven had come near. Overall, in this passage leading up to Jesus’ ministry in Matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus intentionally choosing to focus first on the most secular, least Jewish, and most looked down on people in society. In this way, we get a picture of God who loves and desires a relationship with anyone and everyone, not just those who are spiritual and close to Him. As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with: As always, be sure to intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to let Him show you what you should focus on and pay attention to. God has called us to be His representatives and part of this calling is focusing on loving those He has brought into our lives. Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to keep your connection with God strong. While Jesus came to those who were the least connected to God, He didn’t want them to stay disconnected. Jesus kept His connection with God strong and He wanted to help those who God loves – which is everyone at every place of society – to have a strong connection with God like He did. And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him! Listen to this episode and/or subscribe on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com...Read this article on the web on it's official page: Flashback Episode — A Light to the Gentiles: Matthew 4:12-17