We’ve been thinking about the way Matthew depicts the Lord Jesus as the new and better Israel and how the Lord Jesus has been re-tracing Israel’s steps. So, God regarded Israel as his son and called Israel out of Egypt, where they had become slaves. And the Lord Jesus is God’s son and God called him out of Egypt, where he and Mary and Joseph lived for a time after his birth. After Israel escaped from Egypt, they passed through the waters of the Red Sea. And after the Lord Jesus left Egypt, he too passed through the waters, when he was baptised by John in the River Jordan. After Israel passed through the waters, they were in a desert for forty years. And after the Lord’s baptism, he was in a desert for forty days and nights. Israel was tested in the desert, and the Lord Jesus was tempted by the Devil. Whereas Israel was disobedient when tested, the Lord Jesus remained obedient to his Father in heaven and he resisted every one of Satan’s temptations.
And what happened next in Israel’s history? After their time in the desert, the people of Israel began to conquer the Promised Land. And what happens in today’s passage? The Lord Jesus, after his time in the desert, began to conquer the Promised Land. He is the king of God’s heavenly kingdom and he came to establish the kingdom on the earth by teaching and preaching and by healing the sick and the demon-possessed. As our great, conquering King, he strode across the land, delivering his people from their misery.
Verses 12 to 16
Today’s passage begins in verse 12 where Matthew tells us how the Lord Jesus returned to Galilee after hearing that John the Baptist had been put in prison. The imprisonment of John marked the end of his public ministry and the beginning of the Saviour’s public ministry. So, instead of remaining in the desert, the Lord would now go into populated areas. In particular, he went to Galilee, which was a region within Israel, next to the Sea of Galilee and north of Jerusalem.
Nazareth, where he grew up, was in Galilee. But instead of living there, he moved to Capernaum, which was also in Galilee. Matthew tells us Capernaum was by the lake. That’s the Sea of Galilee. And it was in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. And then, in verse 14, we have another of Matthew’s fulfilment sayings. So, according to Matthew, the Lord’s move to Capernaum in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali fulfilled what was said by God through the prophet Isaiah. And then Matthew quotes from Isaiah 9.
In its original context, Isaiah 9 refers to the return of God’s people from exile. So, there will be no more gloom for the people who were in anguish. In the past, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali was brought into contempt, but now it will be made glorious. Moreover, the people who walked in darkness will see a great light. God will multiply the nation and increase its joy, because their burden will be lifted and the rod of the oppressor will be broken. And Isaiah went on to announce the birth of a child who will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. And he will rule on David’s throne.
That’s what the passage is about in its original context. However, Matthew only quotes the beginning of the chapter where it speaks of light dawning on Zebulun and Naphtali. The Lord Jesus is the light and he has shone on the people in Zebulun and Naphtali and the the region of Galilee. And in the rest of the chapter, we’ll see how he delivered the people from darkness and despair and brought them into light and joy, because he announced the coming of the kingdom and he set the people free from their sin and misery by healing them and by delivering them from demons. Furthermore, Galilee is called ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ because many Gentiles lived in the area. Though the Lord focussed his ministry on the Jews, ultimately the good news of salvation would be proclaimed to the Gentiles as well, because he is the Saviour of the whole world.
In verse 17, Matthew summarises for us the Lord’s preaching ministry. He began to preach and his message was the same as John’s: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. The kingdom is near, because Christ the King has come. In some ways, the kingdom has come already, because Christ has come to establish his kingdom on the earth and whoever repents and believes the good news is added to his kingdom and Christ begins to rule over their lives. But in another sense, the kingdom is yet to come, because his kingdom will not come fully until Christ comes again to defeat his enemies once and for all and to bring his people into the new heavens and earth. Right now, the members of his kingdom and Satan’s kingdom live side by side. That’s the point of Christ’s parable of the wheat and weeds. In this life, we live side by side with those who do not believe and who belong to Satan’s kingdom of darkness. Christ’s kingdom is growing through the reading and preaching of his word. And it will continue to grow until he comes again. But until he comes, his kingdom has only come in part and we’re waiting for and longing for his kingdom to come in all its fullness. And so, while we go on living in this world, we must pray ‘Your kingdom come’.
Notice, as well, that the Lord called the people to repent. The Lord Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. And the way for sinners to enter his kingdom is by turning from their sin in repentance and by trusting in Christ, our Saviour and King.
Verses 18 to 22
In verses 18 to 22 Matthew tells us how the Lord Jesus called four of his disciples. Eventually he will call a total of 12 disciples and the 12 disciples recall the 12 tribes of Israel. So, once again, there’s that connection with the Old Testament and with the people of Israel in the past. However, for now, Matthew only records the calling of the first four. We’re told in verse 18 that the Lord Jesus saw two brothers when he was walking by the Sea of Galilee. These two brothers are Simon Peter and Andrew. We’re told that they were fishermen and were casting their net into the lake. The Lord commanded them to come and follow him. He added that he would make them fishers of men. And that’s what they became, because as apostles of Jesus Christ, they would catch men and women and boys and girls and bring them into his kingdom by preaching the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection for sinners. And Matthew tells us that Simon Peter and Andrew left their nets at once and followed him. Had they ever met the Lord Jesus before? Had they ever heard of him before? If they had, Matthew does not tell us. As far as Matthew is concerned, the King called them and they responded immediately.
And the same goes for James and John. They were in a boat with their father, preparing their nets. But when the Lord called them, they immediately left their boat and their father and followed him. And therefore we see the authority of Christ the King. He calls; and his people respond. He summons; and they follow. He is the King and he has come to rule over his people and to establish his kingdom on the earth.
Verses 23 to 25
And we see his authority in the following verses, because, as he went throughout Galilee, he taught in the synagogues and he preached the good news of the kingdom. Jewish synagogues were like our churches, because instead of going up to the temple to worship God there, the people would gather in the local synagogue to worship God and to hear instruction from his word. And Christ the King taught them and preached to them there.
Matthew tells us that he preached the good news of the kingdom. The message of God’s kingdom is good news because Christ is the King and he is a good King. In those days, he helped his people by healing them of every disease and sickness. Do you see that in verse 23? Every disease. Every sickness. And, of course, ultimately he helps us by delivering us from our sin and misery in this life and by delivering us from death and giving us eternal life in the new heavens and earth.
News about the Lord Jesus spread all over Syria. Syria was the name of the Roman province that covered the whole of Palestine. So, the news about the Lord Jesus spread far away. And the people brought him all who were ill with various diseases as well as those who were suffering severe pain and those who were demon-possessed and who suffered seizures and who were paralysed. So, they brought him people who were suffering in all kinds of ways.
And look: he healed them all. It wasn’t as if he could heal some, but not all. There weren’t any hard cases which stumped him. It didn’t matter if the problem was physical or spiritual, whether it was caused by disease or by demons. He was able to heal them all. And therefore, large crowds from all over the place began to follow him.
Think of the people of Israel again. After their time in the desert, the people of Israel began to conquer the Promised Land. And in today’s passage we read of how the Lord Jesus, after his time in the desert, began to conquer the Promised Land. He is the king of God’s heavenly kingdom and he came to establish his kingdom on the earth by teaching and preaching and by healing the sick and the demon-possessed. And he demonstrated that he is a powerful king, with the authority to call men to himself and with the authority to heal every kind of disease. And he’s a good king, who has come to deliver his people from their misery and to fill their lives with good. And every time the Lord Jesus healed the sick and delivered someone from demon-possession, he gave us a foretaste of what he will do for all of his people when he comes again in glory and power to establish his kingdom in all its fullness.
When he comes again, he will defeat Satan and all his demons once and for all and they will be cast into the lake of fire to be tormented day and night forever. And when he comes, he will renew the whole of creation and he will give his people new and perfect bodies. These old, broken, weak and sick bodies will be made new. And so, in the new creation to come, there will be no more disease or death or sorrow or pain and there will be no more tears, because the former things — the sorrow and sadness of this fallen life — will be no more and all of Christ’s people will have perfect peace and rest in God’s everlasting kingdom.
The king has already come and he calls on sinners everywhere to repent and believe in him for forgiveness and for the hope of everlasting life. And since he is our king, he helps us with our daily troubles. But when he comes again, he will establish his kingdom in all its fullness and we will live with him and reign with him forever and forever.