Matthew 4, 12-17
Something to read
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.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
King James Version
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles - the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
New Revised Standard Version
Something to think about
From the very opening of Matthew’s gospel up until these verses we have been steeped in Hebrew scriptures. This passage today marks the ninth time Matthew draws upon the Hebrew texts to tell the opening events of the life of Jesus. Prophecy, law and psalmody are used to shine a light upon the character of Jesus and the events surrounding his origins.
It is as if Matthew wants to ensure that the new portrait of Jesus being painted is added not to a blank canvas, but to one already richly coloured with the shapes and shades of Israel’s experience of the living God. This life of Jesus is not an innovation but the continuation of a story that reaches back into the depths of history and the mists of time.
Jesus, Mathew is telling us, should not be isolated from all that we already know of God and God’s ways with humanity and creation. Jesus is certainly a new chapter, but there is already a book filled with chapters.
So we are taken to a place which already has rich history; Capernaum by the lake in the area of Zebulon and Naphtali. And Matthew offers us guidance from Isaiah into the significance of this place. God’s fingerprints are here long before Jesus arrives. For this is a place that the prophet sees as blessed; a place escaping from the shadow of death into the light of God’s purposes.
People living here are people who know salvation, says Isaiah. So Jesus goes to just this place as a starting point. In an ancient place of salvation the good news breaks forth afresh from his lips.
Something to do
Repentance is all about turning around; changing direction so that the flow of our lives is ever more towards God and the will of God rather than towards the world’s enticements and our own self-centredness.
Look long and hard at your life today. What do you see? What does God see? Remember; God’s gaze penetrates to the core of our being, seeing all that we are, all that motivates us, all that we would celebrate and all that we might hide.
Of what might God be calling you to repent today? What might be blocking your fuller embrace of the kingdom of heaven in your own living? What does such looking make you want to share with God in prayer now?
Jesus comes not to condemn us, but to transform us. But the transformation begins as we discover our need of God’s forgiveness and the possibility of repentance.
Something to pray
Jesus, have mercy upon me.
I am a child made in the image of God.
I am God’s delight and a blessing to others.
But I am also other than delight and blessing.
Search me and know me.
Look upon the bits of me I would rather ignore and pretend do not exist.
Be merciful in your looking.
And then take my hand and help me look with your eyes upon my life.
Help me to acknowledge, along with all I want to sing about, all that leaves me silent.
And, in your love and faithfulness,
receive my burdens from me,
that I might truly live forgiven.
Today's contributor is the Rev Neil Thorogood, Director of Pastoral Studies at Westminster College, Cambridge, and author of the Surefish.co.uk monthly prayers