“When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been put in prison, He returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, He went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – 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.’ From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.’” – Matthew 4:12-17 (cf. Isaiah 9:1-2)
The Jews didn’t have a very high opinion of Galilee, because of the large numbers of Gentiles who lived there. Matthew desiring to communicate the universality of the Gospel, emphasizing that very reality, connects to the Isaiah text. The Gentiles were not like them. They were “in darkness.” They were “living in the land of the shadow of death.” But, quite frankly, most were perfectly content to leave them there.
However this is precisely where Jesus focuses His time. His energy. His efforts. Jesus spent most of His public ministry north and west of the Sea of Galilee. In the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. His message? “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” A message of change. That’s what repentance is. A change of heart. A change of way of life. The Kingdom as a spiritual reality. The reign and rule of God in the hearts and lives of those who will respond.
And so here’s my question for us as believers and as a church: Where do we focus our time? Our energy? Our efforts? We invest a lot in one another, and we ought to. We’re called to. But are we ministering to the Zebuluns and Naphtalis around us? Are we seeking to connect with those not like us? Are we light dawning to those “in darkness” and “living in the shadow of death”? Or are we, quite frankly, perfectly content to leave them there?
Glory to God!