Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What About Jesus?

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.”[f]

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Moving to a Bigger Town - From IVP New Testament Commentary
John's imprisonment-which foreshadows Jesus' own suffering-becomes the signal for Jesus to begin public ministry (4:12; compare Jn 3:23-30). The forerunner has completed his mission of preparing the way (3:3).

Matthew may address three issues in Jesus' move to Capernaum. First, the move may indicate a concerted missions strategy. Capernaum was a town with more people, with greater notoriety and from which news would spread quickly around the perimeters of the lake of Galilee and perhaps also via the nearby trade route. (Capernaum probably held at least fifteen hundred people-E. Sanders 1993:103.) Capernaum would also prove more responsive than Nazareth (compare 9:1-2; 11:23; 13:54-57). That Capernaum appears in later rabbinic accounts solely in connection with "schismatics," presumably Jesus' followers (Theissen 1991:50), suggests that Jesus' missionary strategy was ultimately successful.

Although God may intend for many of us to serve in places like Nazareth for years, he is undoubtedly calling many of us to larger challenges at some point in our lives. I say "undoubtedly" because the vast majority of full-time Christian workers serve among peoples where the gospel is widely available, while fewer than thirty thousand serve the half of the world's population that has never received an adequate witness of the gospel.
(Inserting my own opinion here - there is hardly anywhere now on Earth that hasn't received an "adequate witness of the gospel" since we now have the technology of the internet. Even the 10/40 window has been penetrated. Even more relevant, especially to American Christians, immigrants still flock here. My mission field is very near to me geographically).
Given both Jesus' mission for us (28:19) and the love we should have for our fellow human beings, should we not be seeking God as to whether he wants us to serve him by staying or going?

(My opinion again - we are so spread out across the world now, that Christians just need to start by reaching out to those nearby. As we do, our spheres of influence will begin to intersect, spreading the kingdom more rapidly and fractally. This is not to say that the Lord won't, hasn't already lead some to relocate.)

But besides Jesus' own mission strategy, Matthew stresses Jesus' Galilean ministry base for two other reasons more directly relevant to his audience. The second issue is that Matthew's opponents undoubtedly criticized the Jesus movement's Galilean origins. The Pharisees and their successors, centered in Judea, retained considerable prejudice against Galilee, which they also used against Jesus' followers. Matthew thus cites Scripture about a messianic role in Galilee to counter regional prejudice against the gospel.

Third, and probably most important, what Isaiah says about Galilee foreshadows the Gentile mission that Matthew keeps urging on his readers (4:14). Jesus again acts in obedience to Scripture (4:14-15), and this passage (Is 9:1-2; compare Lk 1:79)-which in context addresses the work of the Davidic Messiah (Is 9:6-7)-indicates that he will work in Galilee of the Gentiles. This is not to say that Jesus directed much of his own ministry to Gentiles; but the text allows Matthew to foreshadow Jesus' command to proclaim the kingdom to the nations (Mt 24:14; 28:19). Capernaum was actually in Naphtali's territory, not directly Zebulon's (Meier 1980:32); yet Zebulon, sometimes associated with the fishing industry (Gen 49:13; Test. Zeb. 5:5), was not far away. At any rate, this Isaiah text would refute the claims of scribes who insisted that a Messiah must hail directly only from Bethlehem (Mt 2:5-6; Jn 7:42). End of commentary.

When we see that Jesus left after hearing of John's imprisonment, it's easy to think that he was avoiding the same fate. When we understand the significance of Galilee "of the Gentiles", we realize that He had a proactive plan. The ways of the Pharisees, Sadducees and others were a dead-end for them; but He had come to show and to BE the HIGH-way.

OMdearGOD! How many "friends" do some of us have in cyberspace?! Capernaum had about 1,500. After seeing this math, I hope you're getting as excited as I am about the possibilities!

Isaiah 8:3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.!!!

If you want to see more connections and get even MORE excited, read all of Isaiah 8 and 9. You'll probably recognize some of it, and I pray that you see LOTS more!

No comments: