Kingdom: The Prophesied King Arrives (Matthew 4:12-17)
(The 3rd post in a series. Search the archives for “Kingdom)
Matthew 4:12-17 introduces us to Jesus’ first mention of the Kingdom of Heaven.
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, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Clearly, Jesus’ first mention of the Kingdom of Heaven is in the last verse of the passage shown. I’ve included more than His statement about the Kingdom for the sake of context.
Another thing you may have picked up on already (because you’re smart that way and you read the previous post in this series, right?) is that Jesus’ first proclamation of the Kingdom is word for word the same as that of His forerunner, John the Baptizer.
It makes sense given that John, and here Jesus, are the first legitimate messengers from God since Malachi last spoke, 400 years earlier. And what he said then resonates with John and Jesus’ messages in a way that feels that God didn’t miss a beat in what He was doing, in spite of the 400 year “silence”…
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” ~ Malachi 4:5-6
When John appeared on the scene the Jewish people were waiting for this prophesied Elijah character to show up. They had been for a long time. John was the man. We find this to be the case from other New Testament passages…
- Jesus says John is the expected Elijah figure (Matthew 11:13-14)
- The angel Gabriel tells John’s father, Zechariah that his son will be a “forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah.” (Luke 1:17)
THE ORDER OF EVENTS
✔️ Micah said the next thing the people should expect was Elijah/John.
✔️ 400 years passed.
✔️ John came, preaching to prepare the way for the Messiah. His message was “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
✔️ Then John was arrested by Herod (the Rome-appointed King over Israel at the time).
✔️ Jesus heard the news and “withdrew into Galilee,” to a town called Capernaum, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali (two of the 12 tribes of Israel). Matthew tells us that Jesus’s actions fulfilled another Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 9, is quoted at the beginning of the passage we’re considering in this post.
✔️ Jesus began preaching the exact same message John had been preaching.
It seems to me Jesus is picking up where John left off by reiterating the same message. The consistency not only lends legitimacy to John’s message, it also connects the two of them in a way that their fellow Jews would recognize as a possible (hoped for) fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies they knew so well.
In this study, we see...
- Jesus took up with the Kingdom message right where John left off (before he was jailed).
This is not a massively significant thing to us in our day, but for the Jews of their day it would be massive.
For those who noticed not only the consistency of their messages but also the close connection of the two in time and geographical location, anticipation would be high. They would be wondering if the long awaited Messiah had just arrived.
Looking back with our 21st-century lenses, we are able to say, “Yes. Yes, He did just arrive.”
- This “kingdom” message is not a small thing. It was talked about by the prophets for hundreds of years.
The placement of Micah’s prophecy tells us that the next thing for Israel (God’s “kingdom” people up to that time) was the one who would prepare the way for God’s righteous Messiah.
When he (John) arrived, the future hope of Israel would become reality. God’s plan would shift into high gear, so to speak.
- Micah (and John) make it clear that the inaugeration of this kingdom era would bring judgment with it.
Don’t miss the “great and awesome day of the LORD” reference in Micah. That kind of language always pointed the Jewish mind of their day to a coming judgment.
John said the same thing when he preached “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Jesus did the same.
Yes, the Messiah was near… but so was judgment. Those hearing their words would receive one or the other, depending on one thing — their repentance (or lack thereof).
We’ll discover more as we move forward.
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