Jesus – The First Missionary to the Gentiles :: by Sean Gooding

Matthew chapter 4:12-17

When He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, along the sea road, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles! The people who live in darkness have seen a great light, and for those living in the shadow land of death, light has dawned. From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!”

In my previous article we looked for the third timer at the preceding 11 verses to make sure that we got all that we could out of them.Today we will move on to the next 5 verses. This is the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The beginning of all we have today as far as NT churches all began here in these few verses.What we are about to learn is very important to us as Gentiles.It reminds us that we are not an afterthought of the Gospel but rather the very initial focus.

The Death of John the Baptist, verse 12

This verse only mentioned that John the Baptist had been arrested but we know from Matthew 14 that John would be beheaded at the behest of a woman named, Herodias, his “wife.” She had been his brother’s wife and he had taken her.

On one of his birthday celebration her daughter had danced for the king and he had offered to give anything she wanted and she asked for John’s head.The king reluctantly followed through and so the era of Old Testament prophets came to an end.

Like all endings in this life there came a new beginning with it.That new beginning was the ministry of Jesus.

He picked up where John left off; as we see in Matthew 4:17 the message was, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is a significant event for us because it reminds us that the message is still the same today and has not changed since time and memoriam.We, the New Testament church, are to make the same cry to the masses we meet.

We call them to repent since the kingdom of heaven is near.Sadly there is such apathy amongst the saved today concerning the Second Coming of Jesus.No one wants to hear of it and it seems that no one wants to admit that our time here is short.Just as in Jesus’ day the religious leaders knew where He would be born, the signs of his birth were everywhere yet they lived as if God would not keep His promises.We go about our lives and let people go to hell without saying something; how can we truly believe that Hell is real if we let people go there impeded because of apathy?

The Ministry of Jesus Begins, verses 13-14

According the Jewish historian Josephus, the area that Jesus went to was a very densely populated area.There were, according the Josephus, about 200 plus villages each hosting about 15,000 people.So Jesus’ first journey was to about 3,000,000 people.

What a way to start the ministry of the gospel.It is important for us to see that Jesus went where the people were first of all and that He simply preached the truth.

What is most important in this missionary journey is that He went to an area that was heavily populated with Gentiles.Yes! Gentile; people like you and me.There were Jews mixed in with the residents of these 200 plus villages but the vast majority to whom Jesus first spoke were Gentiles.

This is comforting news to us; we were never after thoughts.Rather we were the very focus of the cry from the King of kings.He came for us as well; we were called to be a part of the great heavenly kingdom.

Ironically this region was known for its fertile soil and had extensive farming in and around the villages.We can see from the quick growth of Jesus’ popularity that the area’s fertility was not only in the soil but also in the hearts of men and women.

Today people still need the message and there are fertile hearts everywhere, we just need to be sowing the seed. All too often we are selective as to where we sow the seed. But the Scriptures encourage us to go where the people are and spread the message of the Kingdom liberally, as cited in The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13.

God always does the unexpected; here the message of the Kingdom is first preached to the Gentile by Jesus.Then He picks a handful of grubby mostly uneducated men with whom to share the mysteries of the word of God and finally He uses women to announce the resurrection.God is always thinking and acting “outside of the box” as they say.

The Life of Jesus Simply Makes the Old Testament Come to Life, verses 15-16

I think this is the coolest part of the life of Jesus, other than the obvious going to the cross for you and I. Jesus quoted from most of the Old Testament prophets and He fulfilled their prophecies making the Old Testament come to life and giving us such a grasp on these men and their lives.

By going to the area of Galilee first Jesus fulfilled a prophecy from Isaiah 9:1-2, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light.”Now when we read the prophet Isaiah we will be able to see that the Bible is ONE absolutely related book.The common thread, its central theme is: Jesus and Him glorified.

Let us not lose the significance of this prophecy in our world today.We, when we take the Word of God; it glorious message of redemption and salvation are helping to extend the reaches of this prophecy for we are helping others to see the “great light” of Jesus Christ.Come and let us be light and salt for the Lord.Come help me fulfill another of Isaiah’s prophecies found in Isaiah 52:7:

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”