“Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry”
Let’s look at the Gospel of Matthew 4:17
In context, we will look at Matthew 4:12-17:
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned 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 to the sea, along 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 is near.” (emphasis added)
We should also look at this parallel story told by the apostle Peter’s disciple Mark in his Gospel, Mark 1: 14-15:
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
This is the beginning of Jesus Galilean preaching ministry as it is relayed by the apostle Matthew. Capernum, which is considered Jesus’ “home base” for His ministry in Galilee, is in the land of Naphtali, the northern part of which was inhabited by a mixed race of Jews and pagans. Note: Israel was divided into the land of the 12 tribes after the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. Zebulen and Naphtali were two of the original tribal areas of Israel. This region was also known as the “Galilee of the nations” and it’s people were called Gentiles.
I want to point out hear that many might have expected the Messiah to teach and minister in Jerusalem. However, The prophecy from Isaiah 9:1-2, pointed to the reality of Jesus’ mission: He came to preach salvation by grace even to those in the deepest spiritual darkness, and he brought that message to the entire world, Jews and Gentiles.
A key point I would make is that John the Baptist basically ended His ministry with those very same words that Jesus starts His ministry with: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. Jesus came not for just the Jews, but for all mankind, as a bright light to us, living in darkness. If we turn toward the light, if we turn away from wrong (this is repenting) and follow Jesus………we will be a part of the kingdom of heaven.
What does this passage tell me about the kingdom of heaven? It tells me that if I continue on and listen to what Jesus has to say, that I will learn more because “the kingdom of heaven is near”. This also is the first indication that I found showing that the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God are synomonous.