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Matthew 4:12-16 Transcript

Matt. 4:12 ¶ Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;
Matt. 4:13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.

The text tells us that Jesus withdrew into Galilee. This is a map of the Holy Land as it was at the time of Jesus with the various geographical regions. John the Baptist did his ministry in the Jordan Valley just north of the Dead Sea. That is the area Jesus went to when he was baptized by John. When it says Jesus withdrew into Galilee, this is the area Jesus left. He went to the region of Galilee.

The region of Galilee is the area Jesus grew up in. It was west of the Sea of Galilee. It’s about 65 miles from the north edge of the Dead Sea up to the southern edge of the Sea of Galilee. Generally, humans walk about 30 miles a day. At a minimum, this would have been a two day journey for Jesus to go from the Dead Sea area, back up into Galilee.

Then the text tells us He left the town of Nazareth and went and lived in the town of Capernaum. On this map we see the location of Nazareth and Capernaum. Nazareth was land locked. Capernaum was on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. It’s about 20 miles from Nazareth to Capernaum. That’s a distance Jesus could have covered in one day.

We see a reference to Zebulun and Naphtali. Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the sons of Jacob. If you go back to the Old Testament when the Israelites came out of Egypt, they were divided into 12 tribes. Zebulun and Naphtali were two of those tribes. When the Israelites entered the promised land, the Promised Land was divided amongst those 12 tribes.

This is a map of how the land was divided amongst those 12 tribes. The portion for Zebulun and Naphtali was in the north, in the area that was later known in the time of Jesus as Galilee.

Matt. 4:14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Notice the word fulfill. Something was happening here in the life of Jesus that fulfilled something from the Old Testament. Specifically, something written by Isaiah the prophet. It has to do with the fact that Jesus was going to the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Matt. 4:15 “THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI,
BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES —
Matt. 4:16 “THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT,
AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH,
UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.”

This is a quote from the book of Isaiah.

Is. 9:1 ¶ But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
Is. 9:2 The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.

This area that was known in the Old Testament as Zebulun and Naphtali, just west of the Sea of Galilee, was treated with contempt during the Old Testament time period. But Isaiah pointed out that at some point in the future it would see a light and glory would be brought to it. We see in Matthew that Jesus is the light and the glory that was brought to this area.

Going back to the text in Matthew, we see that Matthew quoted in verse 16, “the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light”. The people in Zebulun and Naphtali, also known as the area of Galilee, lived in a dark area. Then Jesus came. Jesus was a great light. Then that idea is repeated. The people in Galilee “were sitting in the land and shadow of death”, but “upon them a light dawned”. Jesus was the light that came upon them.

There are multiple references in the New Testament that refer to Jesus being the light and also Christians being the light of the world.

John 8:12 ¶ Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Here, Jesus stated very clearly that He is the light of the world.

Acts 13:47 “For so the Lord has commanded us,
‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES,
THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’”

Here the idea is that there were Christians in the first century who were a light to the Gentiles, to bring them the gospel.

2Cor. 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
2Cor. 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Here we see that the gospel is light to those who are perishing, to those who are lost.

Phil. 2:14 ¶ Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
Phil. 2:15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

Here the idea is that we as Christians are light to the world.

We live in a world that is dark, spiritually. We live in a world where many people have many needs. We as Christians are light. We are supposed to be light to them, bring the light to them, share the good news with them. We as Christians have a great message to share with the world. The message is the truth about Jesus Christ.

It’s not always easy to live as a Christian. There are parts of the truth that are hard and harsh. However, even though part of the truth is difficult to hear, it’s still better to live with that truth than it is to live without it. We have a great message that we need to take to the world. As Christians we need to live as light, and take this message of light to the dark world we live in.

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“Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
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