12When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. 13Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali-- 14to 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-- 16the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." 17From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum... Galilee of the Gentiles. Matthew 4:13, 15
When I travel to an unfamiliar city, I usually check the major routes and addresses of places on a local map. It saves me from driving around in circles.
The strange names in our passage today are like Matthew's version of MapQuest. Matthew wants to tell us that Jesus will begin his ministry among people who desperately need his presence. He will start in "Galilee of the Gentiles," showing that he has come into a world lost in darkness. But he will also be a light piercing the darkness--and Jesus doesn't travel alone.
Jesus invites disciples to follow along on his journey, and they're just ordinary folks like us, without great credentials. As the apostle Paul reminds us, God uses the foolish, the weak, and the lowly of this world to show that it isn't about us but about God and his power working through us (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
Getting ready for this journey with Jesus means we need to repent. "Repent," Jesus preached, "for the kingdom of heaven is near." Repentance means turning around from our dead-end ways that will end up getting us killed eternally, and heading in a new direction. It means starting over, living differently.
Jesus came to live in "Galilee of the Gentiles"--an ordinary place like your own area. That's where God wants to shine his light into the darkness through you.
Lord, thank you for caring about real cities and streets and people like the ones around us. May our lives shine like a beacon of hope for you in what are often dark places. Amen.
See God's love, power, presence, and purpose in your life every day!