12 “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 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.” (Matthew 4:12–16 (ESV)
Following John the Baptist’s arrest by Herod Antipas (Matt. 14:1-12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:18-20) Jesus withdrew into the region of Galilee and began His ministry when He was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23). Matthew recorded that Jesus spent some time in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30) before He went and lived in Capernaum. Capernaum was located on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret) and became the headquarters of much of Jesus’ ministry. Capernaum was located in the region populated by the Jewish tribes Zebulun and Naphtali.
“Capernaum was an important settlement, with a Roman garrison, adopted by Jesus as his own city after his rejection by Nazareth (Matt 9:1). Here he was at home (Mk 2:1) and performed many miracles (Mark 1:34): the healing of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5); the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:31); and the exorcism of the unclean spirit (Mark 1:23; Luke 4:33). Thus highly favored by the ministry of Jesus, there was also a heavy curse imposed on the city because of its unrepentance: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades” (Matt. 11:23, rsv),” explains the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.
Jesus’ departure into the Galilean region was not a coincidence. It was sovereignly directed by God the Father and revealed by the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament prophets (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Matthew specifically referred to Isaiah 9:1-2; 42:7; Job 3:1-5; Psalm 23:4; and Amos 5:8.
“Upon hearing of John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus returns to minister in Galilee (Matt. 4:12). It is important to note that this is a “new phase” of ministry, for our Savior does not enter Galilee immediately after His baptism. According to John’s gospel, Jesus has already spent time ministering in Jerusalem and Judea after His baptism (1:29–42). In fact, the ministry of our Lord and His forerunner actually overlap (3:22–24), if only for a brief period,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.
“When Jesus comes to Galilee, He settles in a small village on the northwest edge of the Sea of Galilee named Capernaum (Matt. 4:13). Matthew tells us this fulfills biblical prophecy, specifically the words of Isaiah 9:1–2, which the evangelist paraphrases in Matthew 4:15–16. The original setting of Isaiah’s text helps us understand how Christ fulfills this passage. Isaiah predicted that God would use the Assyrian empire as His rod to judge the northern kingdom of Israel (chap. 7–8), and as was foretold, Israel fell and the people were exiled over a period of many decades culminating in 722 b B.C. (2 Kings 15:29; 17:7–23).”
“Scripture often uses light to refer to the knowledge of God and obedience to Him (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 4:18). As the light of the world (John 8:12), Jesus gives us true knowledge of our Creator (John 12:44–50) and frees us from sin’s oppression (Rom. 6:17–18), which makes us unable in and of ourselves to serve the Lord,” concludes Dr. Sproul.
Today’s text is another example of God’s sovereign grace. Take time today to thank Him for the graciously you the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!