As I’ve said before, it is difficult, if not impossible, to perfectly determine the chronology of events reported in the four different gospel accounts. The beginning of Jesus’ life is easy, and the end of His life is easy, but in between it gets a lot more complicated.
For the past several posts, we have focused on the events reported early in the Gospel of John. Last week those reports took us from Judea, through Samaria, and back into Galilee, the region where Jesus had been raised. This week I’m going to shift my focus over to the synoptic gospels which all focus heavily on Jesus’ ministry in and around Galilee.
I think the second half of Matthew 4 does a good job of setting the stage for this phase of Jesus’ ministry:
Now when Jesus heard that John was delivered up, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he came and lived in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying,
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
toward the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
16 the people who sat in darkness saw a great light;
to those who sat in the region and shadow of death,
to them light has dawned.”
17 From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
18 Walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers: Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers for men.”
20 They immediately left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them. 22 They immediately left the boat and their father, and followed him.
23 Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24 The report about him went out into all Syria. They brought to him all who were sick, afflicted with various diseases and torments, possessed with demons, epileptics, and paralytics; and he healed them. 25 Great multitudes from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.
We see here four important movements:
- Jesus returned to Galilee (presumable to His hometown of Nazareth).
- He moved from Nazareth to Capernaum.
- He called disciples to follow Him, specifically Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
- He went about Galilee, preaching the Gospel, and news of it spread throughout Syria and to Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and “beyond the Jordan”.
I won’t spend a lot of time on the return to Galilee. We’ve talked before about Nazareth and Galilee. Nazareth was a fairly insignificant village in the hills of Galilee. God chose it as a safe place for Jesus to grow, become strong in the spirit, be filled with wisdom, and to experience the grace of God (Luke 2:40).
But for the public phase of His ministry, Jesus fulfilled Biblical prophecy (Matthew 4:13-14) by moving to a city that was much better positioned for the light to dawn (Matthew 4:16) upon not only Jesus’ Jewish brothers, but the Gentile world as well (Matthew 4:15). We have talked before about the significance of Capernaum’s location both on the Sea of Galilee and on the Via Maris highway. And so now, Jesus has come to this place, perfectly positioned in time and space, for the gospel to go forth to the known world.
But Jesus not only wants to leave the good news as words to be written down by eyewitnesses, He is also going to establish His church. And so He begins to call the first leaders of that church to their new ministry. In this passage (and in the parallel passage in Mark 1:16-20) Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him. But wait, didn’t we already read about Andrew and Peter and others following Jesus back when Jesus was where John the Baptist was baptizing (John 1:40-42)? It would appear that they had returned to their work as fishermen, but now Jesus went looking for them and called them to leave that work and to begin building His church (becoming fishers for men).
And Jesus began to preach: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” From His base in Capernaum, He went all over Galilee teaching, preaching, and healing. And the word spread. The news spread north to Syria. It spread south to Judea. It spread west of Capernaum to all of Galilee. And it spread to the southeast to Decapolis and the region beyond the Jordan. And people came and followed Him.
Have you heard the news? The Kingdom of Heaven has come! Repent and believe and follow Jesus!
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Note: all scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the World English Bible which is in the public domain.