22 January 2017Matthew 4:13-23
“From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (v. 17)
Psalm: Psalm 27
Having been baptized (Matthew 3:13-17) and then tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus begins his public ministry with preaching, healing and the choosing of his first disciples. Matthew's Gospel links the start of Jesus' ministry with the ending, through imprisonment, of his cousin John's ministry (Matthew 14:3).
Matthew's Gospel explains Jesus' decision to base his ministry around Capernaum using words from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:1-2). Jesus leaves the family home in Nazareth but remains in Galilee. "Galilee of the Gentiles/nations" (v. 15) captures the fact that although the area was Jewish it was close to non-Jewish territory and had a cosmopolitan population of assorted ethnicity and religion.
The "kingdom of heaven" (v. 17) is a shorthand way of expressing the long-held Jewish hope that God would anoint a leader who would establish an era of political and spiritual fulfilment where God's sovereignty would be exercised and acknowledged. By re-stating John's emphasis on repentance (see Matthew 3:2) Jesus declares that people must turn their lives around in order to experience the kingdom.
Jesus was to give 12 disciples a special role in being part of his ministry and carrying it forward after his death and resurrection. They are named in Matthew 10:2-4, but we do not know the circumstances by which many of them joined his group of followers. In this passage we read about four fishermen who were to have key significance. They would almost certainly have known Jesus before this occasion on which he asked them to "Follow me" (v. 19), and they would have understood this as an invitation to become his companions and learners. The emphasis on leaving nets, boats and father underline that this was a life-changing moment for them.
- What moments have been life-changing for you? In what sense did you have a choice? And in what ways, if any, was repentance a part of that change?
- Do you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus? How would you explain to someone what it means to describe oneself in that way?
- Jesus "made his home in Capernaum" (v. 13). Today is Homeless Sunday. What makes a home, and how might we contribute to reversing the doubling in homelessness that has arisen in the last few years?
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