Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Matthew 4:12–17

Matthew 4:12–17: Jesus Begins His Ministry


In the last passage, Jesus had been tempted by Satan. (And, obviously, resisted the temptation.) In this passage, he hears that John the Baptist has been arrested, and then goes into the region of Galilee, and begins preaching that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand” (verse 17 (ESV) ), and people need to repent. Verses 14–16 (ESV) cite some Old Testament passages, that illustrate that this was prophesied.


Verse 12 (ESV) tells us that Jesus begins his ministry when he hears that John the Baptist has been arrested. I’m not sure if that just happens to be the time that he begins, or if the arrest of John the Baptist causes Jesus to begin his ministry—was he waiting for this?

Finding a good map will help you understand where Jesus went; BibleMap.org wasn’t much help in this case, but the ESV Study Bible had a pretty good map. The passage says this:
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali… (verses 12–13 (ESV) , bold formatting added)
Basically, Galilee is the overall region, and Capernaum and Nazareth are cities in that region. From the context, and the map in the ESV Study Bible, I assume that “the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali” are sub-regions within Galilee, which must have encompassed the cities mentioned. (In other words, the areas where the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali lived.)


Sweep said...

Now I'm no Bibliologist but looking at the wording in verse 12,

"Now when He heard that John had been arrested,"

it sounds like John being arrested is the reason He set out for Capernaum and began preaching.

I was looking for more references to this but I couldn't find any, despite the vast help of BibleGateway.com.(I'm also short on time as I'm at work and not supposed to be surfing the web.)

When I have more time I think I'll look into this to see if Jesus did start His ministry because of John's arrest or if it's just poor wording in the translation.

David Hunter said...

I’m no bibliologist either, but I don’t think a bibliography is going to help us anyway…

The way that it’s worded—in a bunch of versions—it just indicates the timeline; this happened, and then that happened, but not necessarily causality. It does seem to indicate that Jesus began his ministry because of John the Baptist’s arrest, but it’s not for sure. It doesn’t say, “because Jesus heard that John the Baptist was arrested…” but, then again, if it’s purely timeline, I’d expect it to be worded something more like, “And Jesus heard that John the Baptist was arrested around the time that he began his ministry” or something.

I did look in the ESV Study Bible, and it didn’t offer any insight into this point either. All it says is, “Jesus returns to Galilee amid a gathering storm over the imprisonment of John the Baptist by Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great.”

My assumption is that yes, Jesus had been waiting for this event to start his ministry, but I still don’t know why.

David Hunter said...

I also discussed this with my pastor—whom Sweep happens to know as well—and he’s also of the opinion that Jesus began his ministry not just when John the Baptist was arrested, but because he was arrested. John was sent here to prepare the way for Jesus, once the preparation was out of the way, it was time to step aside and let Jesus take the stage. (So to speak.) Although the passage doesn’t specifically say it, the larger context of what’s going on seems to indicate that.

And this reason—which is what I was looking for in the first place—makes sense to me.

It’s also interesting to note that the same story, when told in Mark, is worded almost exactly the same way: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God…” (Mark 1:14).

Sweep said...

Heh heh heh... Yeah, I kinda know your pastor.