Jesus’ Ministry Begins – Matthew 4:12-25
John the Baptist’s imprisonment precipitated Jesus’ “withdrawal” from Nazareth to Capernaum in the Galilee. The regional’s was known as “The Galilee of the Gentiles”, looks down upon by the citizens of Judea, but critical to international trade as it was on the trade route between Egypt and Damascus (called “the Way of the Sea”). As such it was cosmopolitan and alive with the bustle of camel caravans and the colourful languages and fashions of the outside world. For Jesus this was a critical move — he left his provincial home town Nazareth and established “worldly” Capernaum as his ministry base — as it was often said, “the world comes through Galilee”. Jesus placed his hand on the pulse of the world’s heartbeat, and brought Good News to people.
Jesus had a succinct message, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” This was the novel message for the Gentiles, but had familiar ring for any Jewish person. Whenever a Jew recited the “Great Shema” (“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One”) he took upon himself the “yoke of the kingdom” (De. 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Nu. 15:37-41). This confession of faith, recited every Sabbath in the synagogues of Judah, was pregnant with hope, a hope of a time when Israel’s messiah would rule the world from Jerusalem. Even though they were under the yoke of Rome they dreamed of a day when another yoke, the yoke of freedom, would see them working with Messiah to bring righteousness and justice to the world.