Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
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.”
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:12-17
In the cultural moment of Jesus’ day the Israelites were living under the oppression of the Roman Empire. This was not how it was supposed to be. God’s people moaned under Roman occupation, waiting for the promised Messiah to come with a message of peace, hope and ultimately national and political freedom. The light they expected to dawn was to be primarily one of throwing off the rule of Rome and re-establishing Israel’s freedom and identity as a nation.
But what happens? Jesus comes with a message of peace, hope and freedom, yes. But one they (and we) more desperately and personally needed. Freedom from the clutches of sin and death. Hope for life eternal with the Father not just personal comfort here and now. Peace internally not merely geographically. His kingdom was utterly different than what anyone in that time period would have expected. His message of repentance was completely backwards from their thinking. They were the victims here waiting for a deliverer; a call to take personal responsibility for sin and to turn from it? Unheard of.
Here he is, the promised Messiah with an entirely different message than the people would have been looking for. And yet a handful of followers respond. They accept his message and allow it to completely reroute their lives. They change their minds as to what the cultural consensus at the time was saying the Messiah would be all about.
When was the last time you changed your mind on something? Think about the cultural moment we are living in today as believers in Jesus. Do you think there are some political and social expectations the church, or even you personally, has upon Jesus? Lay these before your Lord in prayer today and ask for his kingdom come, surrendering your limited understanding of it. Ask him to change your mind and align your will to his own perfect will.
By Ellen Rosenberger