12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali-- 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, along the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles--
16 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."

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Matt 4:12-17 (NIV)

John is now in prison, the mantle has officially passed hands and Jesus sets out for Capernaum fleeing the dissidents in His hometown of Nazareth. Luke gives us more information regarding our Lord’s departure from Nazareth – He left for good reason:

24 "I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed--only Naaman the Syrian." 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. Luke 4:24-30 (NIV)

Jesus never stayed where He was not welcomed neither could He be ridden of until He finished the work God had given Him to complete. Upon hearing the news of the Baptist’s incarceration, our Lord heads out to take up where John had left off. John had been sent to prepare the way and indeed, Christ was and is the way. God never leaves Himself without witnesses or His church without able guides. The Baptist was Christ’s forerunner, He was never to be His rival – the moon and stars must give way to the Sun of Righteousness just as the Baptist rightly proclaimed:

27 To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:27-30 (NIV)

In our verses for today, our Lord heads for the area of Zebulun and Naphtali to the town of Capernaum fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy that light would dawn there on those living in the darkness of the shadow of death. Indeed, Jesus, the Light of the Nations, the Sun of Righteousness came to shine His Light in the darkness of this world upon every soul dwelling in the shadow of death. Those who are without Christ remain in the darkness. When the gospel comes, light comes – and when it comes to a soul, day dawns to reveal and guide. Though humble in its beginnings – as compared by Jesus to the small mustard seed which grows to the greatest plant in the garden - the gospel is continuously growing and progressing – its forward march cannot be stopped - small yet steady in growth but great in perfection. I am reminded of its culmination in John’s words in Revelation regarding the new heavenly Jerusalem:

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. Rev 21:22-27 (NIV)

Jesus, as John, came preaching this old plain text of repentance. Interestingly, neither He nor His followers ever considered its subject to be worn out and passé. The reason for the repentance message – until the return of the Savior – remains ever the same – the kingdom of heaven is near. Sadly, in Jesus’ day – just as in every age – many missed their window of opportunity. They chose to cling tenaciously to the darkness rather than to embrace the Light our Lord offered. Jesus states in the Gospel of John regarding this:

19 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:19-21 (NIV)

“Every sermon, every Bible lesson, every word of testimony, and every verse of Scripture is a warning, calling us to repentance and revival. Our God is a consuming fire, and a day of judgment is coming. We must not neglect the warning, and today’s church must not forget that our message includes the ministry of warning.” Robert J. Morgan

What I Glean

  • John the Baptist was the forerunner to Christ not His rival.
  • Jesus is the Light of the world.
  • The kingdom of heaven is near.