Matthew 4:23-25; Jesus Proclaims the Kingdom

Here we have an account of the beginning phase os Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. We have been told that his message was the same as that of John. Let’s look at the similarities and contrasts of message and method:

  • John went to the Jordan and people came to him. Jesus went to the synagogues of Galilee (the community and educational centers), to the people.
  • Jesus healed people. We have no record of John doing that.
  • John’s crowds came from Judea. People came from a wider area to see Jesus. Probably because of the healing ministry, I guess.
  • People even came from Judaea and Jerusalem to see Jesus. I guess word will probably get back to the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

This little section sets up the Sermon on the Mount. We’ll spend some time on that.

Matthew 4:18-22; Immediately

Along the Lake of Galilee Jesus began to call what Craig Keener calls a nucleus of followers. We don’t have the complete story, I’m sure of that. We don’t know whether Peter, Andrew, James, and John had any prior contact with Jesus. We don’t know if they had previously heard him proclaiming the kingdom of heaven. We don’t know the extent of the conversation on this particular day.

But here is what we do know:

  • It was highly unusual for rabbis to call followers rather than the followers to seek a rabbi to follow.
  • Jesus didn’t ask them to follow him. He issued an imperative to “come after” him.
  • “Come after” is a technical term for attaching oneself to a rabbi for an apprenticeship.
  • At the end of the discussion, all four of these men followed Jesus. Immediately.
  • They left their businesses and their families.

So forms the nucleus. When we follow Jesus today we are accreted to the outer edge of a huge, worldwide, historical family of those who come after Jesus. We are also to be disciples. That is not a casual undertaking. It involves leaving other things that are important and following Jesus, the most important. It means an apprenticeship.

We have made it into a club. Shame on us.

It is becoming apprentices in the kingdom of heaven. That’s a big deal.

Matthew 4:13-17; Back to Galilee

Jesus left the more dangerous south and headed home to Nazareth. Subsequently he moved from Nazareth to Capernaum.

  • Capernaum was a much bigger town, probably three times as big, at least.
  • The bigger town offered more opportunities for Jesus to get his message out.
  • History gives us the impression that Capernaum became a problematic town for the Jews, probably because the Jesus movement made great progress there.
  • Matthew notes that the ministry in Galilee fulfills scripture.
  • “Galilee of the Gentiles” foreshadows the future move of the Jesus movement from Jews to Gentiles. Galilee was much more mixed than Judaea and Jerusalem.

So, Jesus begins his preaching in Capernaum. His message is exactly the same as John’s. Or, should we say that John’s was the same as that of Jesus? God’s kingdom is near.

Matthew 4:1-12; Testing

I see lots of echoes and shadows of the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites after the Exodus. Typical Matthew.

I guess if you are writing a commentary, you have to discuss all the fine points of each temptation and each answer Jesus gives. But I see it as a pretty simple situation.

Jesus is tempted to take another way than the Father’s way. Just as I am tempted to take an easier or different way. This constitutes for Jesus a test. He passes the test. He will go the Father’s way. This temptation, this test, may recur, but for now he has set himself on the difficult road.

The answers Jesus gives don’t strike one as particularly clever. He simply says “no” to the temptations. He passes the test.

When I have been in group discussions about this passage and its parallels, the question always comes up: “Could Jesus have really given in to temptation?” I say yes. If it is impossible to fail the test, it isn’t really a test.

When the time of testing was over, Jesus enjoyed the hospitality of angels. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

John was arrested. Jesus went back to the relative safety of Galilee. We can breathe a bit.

Urbody stuck at home. Flickr blog offers a story about a guy who takes aerial photos of SFran. Pretty pictures, I guess, but the feature I’d release at this time. Maybe tell us about a gal who takes macros on her kitchen table or a guy who shoots action figures in his basement.