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Matthew 4:12-25 – The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee


Jesus begins his ministry of teaching, proclaiming the good news, and healing throughout Galilee in fulfillment of prophecy. He calls for repentance at the coming of the kingdom and calls fishermen, who immediately abandon everything and follow him, as his first disciples.


This passage is important thematically and structurally in Matthew's Gospel as the beginning of the narrative of Jesus' ministry in Galilee. John's arrest occasions what Matthew describes as a "withdrawal" by Jesus to Galilee. The word implies intent and is intentionally chosen (ten of fourteen occurrences of this word in the New Testament occur in Matthew's Gospel). Fulfillment of the scriptures marks both the location and the effect of his ministry, which will cause new light to dawn on those who now dwell in darkness. The word translated as "dawn" is the same as that which described the appearing of the star to the wise men (2:1).  It is significant that Jesus' ministry begins not in Jerusalem but in Gentile territory and that his message is thus for all people (see the Great Commission, 28:18-20). Its content mirrors verbatim the preaching of John the Baptist-"Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near"-joining the themes of righteous obedience in face of the coming of the kingdom (3:2; 4:17).

As in Mark's Gospel, the call of Jesus' first disciples, which follows immediately in the narrative, is significant for its suggestion of the authority of Jesus that can command such response. Matthew, however, has heightened the impact of Jesus' call by making the response of these new disciples verbally symmetrical-they followed immediately (4:20, 22).

The summary description of Jesus' ministry to the crowds as teaching, preaching the good news, and healing diseases is intentionally thematic and programmatic as Matthew here rearranges the narrative of his model Mark. These words are used here and again in 9:35 to frame Jesus' ministry, described in chapters 5 through 9, and carefully structured to match the order of teaching materials (Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5-7) and stories of healing (chapters 8-9). Some readers have seen in the transitional phrase "From that time…" (4:17; repeated in 16:21) a clue to Matthew's structure and movement, dividing the Gospel into three major sections: the presentation of Jesus Messiah (1:1-4:16); the public ministry of Jesus Messiah (4:17-16:20); and the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Messiah (16:21-28:20).
This beginning of Jesus' ministry is auspiciously successful even beyond Galilee. His fame spreads through "all" the regions and people bring to him "all" the sick so that "great crowds follow" him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the regions beyond the Jordan.

Matthew 4:12-25

Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee

12 Now when Jesus* heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
   on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
   have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
   light has dawned.’
17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’*

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus Ministers to Crowds of People

23 Jesus* went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news* of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

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