Sermon: Jesus Begins His Mission Matthew 4:12-17

Jesus Begins His Mission

Matthew 4:12-17

Truth Taught- Jesus came from Galilee preaching the Kingdom of God and repentance

Introduction

From the very beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, God has been moving Jesus from place to place to fulfill biblical prophecy.. He was taken to Bethlehem (the City of David) to be born which fulfilled Micah 5:2

Micah 5:2 (ESV)

   But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

       from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be ruler in Israel,

       whose coming forth is from of old,

from ancient days.

Because Herod went on his killing spree God moves Jesus out of Bethlehem to Egypt, a place of safety. Matthew then tells us that this fulfills…

Hosea 11:1 (ESV)

11 When Israel was a child, I loved him,

and out of Egypt I called my son.

Jesus and His parents are then called out of Egypt to go back to the land of Israel and they discover that Herod’s son who was ruling in Herod’s place was just as evil so Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to Nazareth then Matthew tells us that this is alluded to by the prophets that Jesus would be called a Nazarene.

Now Jesus has made His way to Galilee to begin His public ministry. This strategic move after He hears that John the Baptist has been apprehended by Herod Antipas (Herod the Great’s son) takes Him to Galilee.

We will see the amazing significance of this OT fulfillment…

Prayer

Matthew 4:12–17 (ESV)

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15    “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

16    the people dwelling in darkness

have seen a great light,

       and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

on them a light has dawned.”

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

  1. The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry

Matthew records the start of our Lord’s public ministry by telling us He started when He heard the news that John the Baptist had been arrested. He also tells us the place where Jesus began and the significance of this place.

  1. The Timing

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.

When John the Baptist was arrested by Herod it was a very big deal. John had become a nationally known figure. He was a famous Israelite with a very large following.

John was not a modern day preacher who focused on social issues and sought to be inclusive. He was a powerful thunderous preacher who spoke God’s Word and God’s truth to everyone. This proved to be the reason he was arrested.
Herod had John imprisoned on account of John having rebuked him over his sin, particularly over Herod’s taking his brother’s wife. Luke’s account is the briefest, simply stating:

Luke 3:19–20 (ESV)

19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

John’s mission of Jesus’ forerunner is over. This marks a transition from John the Baptist to Jesus.

John’s preaching and his boldness was the cause of his arrest. This marks the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry.

  1. The Location

13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,

Notice verse 13 says the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. This territory or region is west of the Sea of Galilee. This territory is not where you would expect Jesus to launch His ministry. You might thing a good place would have been Jerusalem or another large metropolis with thousands of people. However, that’s not where Jesus begins. This area was made up of countryside and small towns. Not where you would think.

The Apostle Paul had the practice of going to large cities and preaching and planting churches but that’s not at all what Jesus does.

We can speculate that this region was a safe place in light of John’s arrest and turmoil likely in Jerusalem. It could also have something to do with the fact that this region was equally populated with Jews and Gentiles. The significance however is more straightforward. Jesus began His ministry in the area west of the Sea of Galilee because God said He would.

  1. The Significance
    14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15    “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

16    the people dwelling in darkness

have seen a great light,

       and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

on them a light has dawned.”

 

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali being made up of many Gentiles was, in fact, a land in darkness. The people there did not have the religious advantages of the Temple and the City of Jerusalem. This was a land shadowed in pagan darkness. This was a place of deep darkness and the shadow of death. It is here that Jesus’ preaching is seen as the sunrise from a deep and long night.

Here, Matthew quotes from Isaiah 9, which is a section speaking of the Messiah’s coming and what He will do. When Matthew quotes this verse he’s telling his readers that Jesus is the Messiah-King who brings light into the world.

Isaiah 9:1–2 (ESV)

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

   The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

       those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shone.

The imagery is something like this…When Jesus goes from town to town preaching the Gospel the light follows Him. Each town one by one is lit as Jesus preaches the Gospel of peace. The people who for hundreds of years in darkness now have the sun rise and warmth of the good news on their face. Those who were in the shadow of death now have life preached to them.

It’s as if God picked the darkest place their was and shinned His light bold and bright on those people. Why not Jerusalem? Well, those people were already very religious they had reduced God’s message to a message of works where the people in the region of Galilee were so dead in sin and darkness that if any were to be saved it would have to be by grace alone.

Matthew 9:13 (ESV)

13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew has been teaching us and will continue to teach us that the best way to look at and understand Jesus is through the lens of the OT.

For example turn back a few pages to Matthew 1:23

Matthew 1:22–23 (ESV)

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

Matthew explains the meaning and purpose of all the events surrounding Jesus’ birth by quoting from Isaiah 7.

He will be God with us. When we read about Jesus, then in the NT we are to understand that He is God with us.

Matthew 3:17 this is my beloved Son- Psalm 2

In whom I am well pleased- Is. 42

Last week we saw that when tested Jesus answered Satan from the OT Book of Deut chapters 6-8 which is the section that shows specifically that the Israelites were tested and failed and when Matthew records these words of Jesus, he’s telling us that Jesus was tested and succeeded.

Matthew basically is saying that if we are going to understand Jesus accurately we must know our OT.

Matthew tells us if we really want to see what is happening we need to look at Isaiah 9:1-2. If we really want to see what’s going on here lets look also at Isaiah 8 at the end.

God is judging Israel and Judah because of their sin and unrepentant hearts. God will send the Assyrians, the greatest world power of the day to attack and destroy many in the Land of Israel. We know when this happened, it happened in 722BC.

Notice some of the language in Isaiah 8…

Isaiah 8:19–22 (ESV)

19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

The Assyrians attacked from the north and the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali were the first to be destroyed and thrust into deep darkness.

Then there seems to be a break or a length of time that passes. We know that length of time to be about 750 years or so. God will not leave His people forever…

Isaiah 9:1–2 (ESV)

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

   The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

       those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shone.

Isaiah tells us that the way of darkness will become the way of light. The same road that brought the Assyrian Army down into Galilee will also bring light to God’s people as well.

There is a strange phrase that Isaiah includes in Chapter 9… Galilee of the nations.

When Isaiah wrote his prophecy the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali were not Gentile territories but Jewish territories. When the Assyrians came and destroyed the people living there and took others off to exile, many of the Gentile Asyrians stayed in the area. Now some 800 years later there is a massive Gentile population in this region, families who originated from the Assyrian attackers are now going to be partakers of the Gospel of our Lord. Isn’t God amazing? He is sending Jesus down the same way the Assyrians came into Israel to destroy it, God is sending Jesus down through the same route to save it!

Praise God for His free grace that also saves to the uttermost even His enemies descendants.

Jesus is very intentional here. The latter times are over and the new age begins. The age of the Messiah has dawned and Jesus begins preaching down through those hopeless and dark places and as He does the Light has dawned.

  1. The Summary of Jesus’ Preaching

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

If we remember, this is also the summary of John the Baptist’s preaching and it landed him in prison. Jesus is taking over John’s work and continuing what John started. He is also preaching the same message the OT prophets preached. Isaiah preached repentance and the people did not listed and the Assyrian army was God’s answer to a people who will not repent. Now we see Jesus preaching the same message.

Now repentance is not forgiveness. I say this often because it is so misunderstood. Repentance happens when God opens our eyes to see that we are going in the wrong direction and we must turn and go the other way. This message has never been very popular and it’s the same way today. This is why preachers of the Gospel are usually not the sinner’s favorite people. No one likes to be told they’re wrong and that they need to change. However, this is Jesus’ message. All people everywhere must repent.

He not only tells us what we must do but tells us why we must do it. Jesus preaches because the Kingdom of Heaven, Mark’s Gospel calls it the Kingdom of God, same thing is at hand. It’s because of the close proximity of God’s Kingdom.

The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule and reign of God as King. It’s the fact that the King requires things that we cannot deliver.

An interesting note about God’s Kingdom is that it means salvation for some but for those who refuse to repent it means judgment. You see, judgment and salvation go together and happen at the same time. What do I mean? Well, let’s take Noah’s ark as an example. The flood came and all who were on the Ark were saved everyone else experienced judgment. The Cross of Christ while it meant salvation for some it was judgment for Jesus as He hung there. So, it’s the same here. The Kingdom of Heaven means salvation for all those who have repented but for all those who do not, it means certain judgment.

If Jesus were here today, preaching He would preach a message that calls people everywhere to turn from their sin and embrace Him.

We must repent because we are not good and goodness is a requirement. We must repent because we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and God’s glory is a requirement. We must repent because we are God’s enemies and God only saves His own.

No one here is good and all have fallen short of what God requires. If you have not repented and turned from your sins perhaps God’s Holy Spirit is drawing you. Perhaps He is opening your eyes for the first time to truly see that you are going down the wrong path and you must turn.

People often speak about how good they are and that God would never judge them because they are basically good.

I recently heard an account of a really hardworking a conscientious sailor from many years ago. This sailor was loved by his crewmen and always helped them any way he could. He was always very punctual when it was time to leave port he was there ready to go. He often took over some of the tasks when his fellow sailors were sick or tired. He was loved by all on board the Pirate Ship. You see he was a pirate and sailed under the skull and crossbones.

Everything he did that was helpful and “good” was to benefit his fellow pirates. You see it doesn’t matter how good you are, it matters whose banner you live under, Satan’s banner or Jesus’ banner. Goodness has nothing to do with it because if you’re under Satan’s banner your goodness helps him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Blue Letter Bible

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