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 fulfil 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.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
I see two main things happening in this passage. First is a changing of the guard. John the Baptist has been announcing that the kingdom of heaven is near and that people’s response should be to repent. Now John has been jailed. Jesus preaches word for word what John said – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” – but he goes on in 4:23-25 to demonstrate this with healings and deliverances. John announced the coming of the kingdom, Jesus launches and embodies it.
The second thing happening here is the fulfilment of prophecy. Isaiah announced hundreds of years earlier that the Messiah would live in the land of “Zebulun and Naphtali”. Jesus had been in Judea, but it had become a hostile place. He would also likely have been sad at the treatment of his cousin John – both good reasons for withdrawing. But Matthew makes it clear that he wasn’t just moving to get away from what was hard, he was moving to step into God’s purpose for him as Messiah, as described in Isaiah’s prophecy.
Jesus, thank you that in the midst of your grief you stepped in to God’s full purpose for you. I want to remember afresh all that you did for me. I want to step into God’s purpose for my life too. Thank you for helping me do that.
Written by Megan Cornell