Matthew 4:12-17

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.

13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali,

14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

16 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.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

About a year passed between verses 11 and 12. during this time, Jesus had begun to gather His disciples.

The disciples and Jesus went to Cana of Galilee. Jesus went as a guest. It was a purely social function. He tarried for two or three days down in Capernaum, and then went on to Jerusalem; presented Himself in the Temple; and cleansed it. This was His official presentation to the rulers of His people. Then we have an account of His conversation with Nicodemus, after which He left the metropolis and came into Judea. John was still pursuing his ministry, and “baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there.” Jesus preached in Judea, and baptized (though He did not baptize personally, but His disciples for Him). Thus He did not commence to exercise His definitely official ministry as King until John’s ministry ended, through his arrest. 

In this Gospel of Matthew all these matters are omitted. Matthew, writing the Gospel of the Kingdom, after having presented the person of the King, takes up the story at the point where, the message of the herald having been silenced by his arrest and imprisonment, Jesus began His official work as King, proclaiming His Kingdom prior to enunciating its laws and exhibiting its benefits. — Morgan, page 34.

John had been put in prison (v.12) — details in chapter 14

leaving Nazareth (v.13) — after an attempt on His life (Luke 4:16-31)

Capernaum (v.13) = “village of comfort” — the center of Roman government in the north of Israel, with a large population of Gentiles, near the Sea of Galilee

spoken by Isaiah (v.14) — Isaiah 9:1-2 from the Septuagint

When God visits His people for redemption, He comes where the darkness is greatest; where the peoples sit in the shadow of death. Geographically, and according to principle, He did that very thing. Capernaum was in the despised region of the country of the chosen people known as “Galilee of the Gentiles.” — Morgan, page 35

Ruins of Capernaum are visible today, a testimony to the scathing judgment of Christ on this city for not recognizing its day of opportunity. In Matthew 11:23-24, Jesus pronounced a solemn judgment on Capernaum, declaring that it would “be brought down to hell.” — Walvoord, page 37.

Galilee of the Gentiles (v.15) — so called because the Jews in that region had mixed with Gentiles. The region was despised by other Jews.

Read Genesis 49:13, “Zebulon shall dwell at the haven of the sea, and he shall be for an haven of ships and his border shall be upon Zidon.” Jacob’s prophecy outlines the history of the sons of Jacob, that is, the whole nation, and Zebulon signifies the time of their rejection, when they become merchantmen. Here in Matthew we see Zebulon dwelling by the sea. So that we have the fulfillment of two prophecies before us — the prophecy in the 49th chapter in Genesis and the one in Isaiah. The same is true of Nephtali. This means struggler. “Nephtali is a hind let loose” (Genesis 49:21). In Jacob’s prophecy Nephtali stands for the coming struggling and victorious Jewish remnant. Here, then, in the land of Zebulon and Nephtali the great light shines first. — Gaebelein, page 99

kingdom of heaven (v.17) — the Lord’s rule on earth

He announces that the Kingdom has drawn nigh in that He, the King, is standing in their midst to establish that Kingdom. He never said nor taught of a Kingdom within them. All spiritualizing on these lines of a Kingdom within, which our Lord is made to teach here in Matthew, is wrong. It is the Kingdom John had announced which He now preaches. He prolongs the message of the forerunner for a short time and soon His lips were closed, too. We preach not the Gospel of the Kingdom, but the Glad Tidings of Grace. A day is coming when heralds will announce once more the Kingdom to be at hand, and when it will come in the person of the Son of Man coming from heaven with angels of His power in flaming fire (2 Thessalonians 1). — Gaebelein, pages 100-101.

It is interesting that Christ did not come primarily as a miracle-worker. He came to reveal the Father. And He did so by opening up the Scriptures so that people might understand what had been written. The miracles substantiated the truth of His word. Matthew and Mark recorded the fact that Jesus Christ not only served as a teacher, but as a preacher (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14). As a preacher, He was a proclaimer. The preacher was a prophet, publicly proclaiming God’s message. But Christ not only served as a teacher, or a rabbi, in the synagogue but also as a prophet who proclaimed God’s message. The message that Jesus proclaimed was identical in content to the message of John, His forerunner. Both said, “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17; cf. 3:2).

Mark referred to Jesus’ message as “good news” (Mark 1:15). Israel long had waited for the fulfillment of the covenant of promise. Now the good news being given to them was that the kingdom for which they had waited was near. Christ, like John, called on the people to repent. Repentance involved an acknowledgment of sin and resulted in a restoration to fellowship with God from their state of alienation. It involved offering God the acceptable sacrifice that He demanded. The announcement that the kingdom “is near” added an imperative to the message. Mark noted that the hearers were asked to “believe the good news.” The truth of the message that was being preached had to be accepted by faith. We note that Mark referred to “the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:15) and Matthew to “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 4:17). The difference in terms does not imply that Jesus was referring to two different kingdoms. This was keeping with the Jewish fear of taking the name of the Lord their God in vain; Matthew substituted God’s dwelling place for the name of God. — Pentecost, page 137.

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