LIGHT SHINING IN DARKNESS
Loving Lord, You are my God and You are greatly to be praised. There is none beside You. Glory to Your Name.
Read MATTHEW 4:12–17
Jesus Begins to Preach
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”[a]
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
- Matthew 4:16 Isaiah 9:1,2
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Try to imagine the context of occupied Galilee in which Jesus lived and preached.
The return of Jesus to Galilee on hearing the news of the imprisonment of John the Baptist was not a retreat to an area of safety.1 Isaiah refers to this region as ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ and describes its people as ‘living in darkness’ and in ‘the shadow of death’ (vs 15,16). This is consistent with this Gospel’s concern with mission among the nations, a theme reflected both in the account of the Magi from the east in 2:1–12 and at its conclusion in the risen Jesus sending His disciples to ‘all nations’.2 However, the association of the Gentile infiltration of Galilee with ‘darkness’ and ‘death’ must also refer to the impact of Roman colonization of the area and the disturbing social and economic changes which this had brought about. As a boy, Jesus would have witnessed the rebuilding of the city of Sepphoris within sight of His native Nazareth and His family must have experienced the impact of this new urban culture. Roman building projects throughout Galilee ‘put extra pressure on the traditional way of life of peasant landowners in the villages’, undermining the traditions based on the values of God’s covenant with Israel and driving many villagers into servitude and poverty.3
Jesus now moves to Capernaum and begins a ministry with the same theme as that of the imprisoned John the Baptist (compare verse 17 with 3:2). His teaching is accompanied by signs that the kingdom of heaven has broken into the present in the form of healing, deliverance, and hope for the poor and oppressed.4 Matthew describes the advent of Jesus as the appearance of ‘a great light’ dispelling the darkness of the ‘shadow of death’ (v 16).5
How do you think Jesus was affected by hearing the news that ‘John had been put in prison’ (v 12)?
Holy One, You have brought me into Your light in Jesus Christ. Help me to live and speak so to help others to see and follow the light too.
1 See Mark 6:14–29 2 Matt 28:16–20 3 S Freyne, Jesus, A Jewish Galilean, T&T Clark, 2004, p45–46 4 See Matt 11:4–6 5 See John 1:5