I don't know about you, but I've never thought much about the details of where Jesus first began His ministry. Where? Why there? What happened? These details matter and set the tone for Who He is and what He is about.
In Matthew 4:12-17, we find that Jesus went to Capernaum, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. To us, that probably means nothing; so let's dig a little. Isaiah prophesied about the land of Zebulun and Naphtali! He said that one day, there would be no more gloom for those in that land. He said that those who walk in darkness will see a great light!
Before Zebulun and Naphtali were "lands," they were two of the twelve sons of Israel/Jacob. Their territory of land was in the northern most part of Israel. They were the furthest away from the Temple. They were highly vulnerable to foreign invasion, and in fact, were invaded by the Assyrians. The Assyrian culture must have mixed in, because their own Israelite brothers rejected them, thinking them unclean. Through the prophet Isaiah, God acknowledges their anguish. He knows they have walked in darkness and yet He gives a promise of hope...of light.
Enter Jesus. He begins right there, with the people of Zebulun and Naphtali. The downcast. Those that have been in the ruins and remains of invasion. The forsaken. The rejects. "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 4:16
When Jesus started his ministry, the first thing we see is light in the darkness.
So, we see a glimpse into why Jesus picked the area of Zebulun and Naphtali to start His ministry. But, what happened here? What did he preach first?
REPENT, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (Mt. 4:17)
Before Jesus did any public miracles...
Before Jesus called any disciples...
Before Jesus instructed us to love God and love others...
Before any of this, the very first word we get is: repent.
A gospel without repentance is not the gospel. There is no good news or truth without the light that shows our need for repentance, nor without the repentance that invasive grace demands.
Repent in Greek here is "metanoeo" which means to think differently. "It is to repent with regret accompanied by a true change of heart toward God. It signifies a change of mind consequent to the after knowledge indicating regret of the course pursued and resulting in a wiser view of the past and future." (lexical aids)
This is awesome you guys... to know is "noeo" and after is "meta."
The light has to shine in the darkness in order for us to know...to see as He does. After He shows us the light, we have the ability to think differently on an issue and turn towards God's heart on the matter...whether it be the initial redemption or the daily sanctification.
When I see the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali in the future, I will remember the Light clothed in invasive grace, beckoning all to repentance.
Lord, we praise You for not leaving us in the darkness. We invite you to shine your light into hidden pockets of darkness, so that we might know and turn away from ourselves and into Your heart of wisdom. It is You we long for. Only You.