- The Ancient Path, Matthew Chapter 4:17 Message of Christ to Israel

The Gospel of Matthew

Jesus Begins His Public Ministry - His Message to Israel

Jim Deering,



Mt 4:17, The Revealed Message for Israel - REPENT


Lk 4:15, Jesus teaches in the Synagogues


Jn 4:46-54, The Healing of the Nobleman's Son in Cana


Lk 4:16-31a, Jesus Ministry and Rejection at Nazareth


Mt 4:13-16, Jesus moves to Capernaum


Matthew 4:17

4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent;[52] for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."[53]

The message, like that of John The Baptist, indicates the need for repentance on behalf of the Nation of Israel before the Kingdom of Heaven could be established. Jesus was born into a society that had endured the captivities. They had largely been assimilated into the gentile cultures in which they lived for the last 400 years. The "faith" which they had practiced during those captivities was based upon the Law taught by Moses. Do this, not that. Eat this, not that. Separate yourselves form them and be different, etc. But they had left their God behind may years before the captivities - that's why they had been taken into those captivities in the first place. They refused to believe God.


Now, as the Kingdom of Heaven was to be offered, once again to these people, Jesus brings this new message - "Repent!" And His reason is, "FOR the Kingdom is at hand." The Messiah has come - but it is a spiritual kingdom, and you cannot enter it in flesh and blood, but by the Spirit. I have not come to free you from the Romans, but to free you from the separation from God you experience because of your sin against Him. "Repent!"


The phrase "the Kingdom of Heaven" refers to "the Kingdom of God at hand," Christ the King present upon the Earth ("the Kingdom is where the King is!). God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Caleb, Joshua, and David. The savior of mankind would come through them and their nation. What a great blessing. But the nation rejected this message and focused upon the Law and the power they could wield as their nation once did. - but Salvation..... "Not interested."


Luke 4:15

15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.[54]

There are two elements to this verse. The first is that Jesus begins his public teaching ministry in the context of Judaism. In this first stage of His ministry He has not come to call the world to repentance - but to call the nation of Israel to repentance. He comes to establish, in the minds of the Jewish leadership, that He is the "Promised One," the Messiah., and He has come in answer to all the promises and prophesies of the Old Testament that speak of Him. He begins in the synagogues where the leadership gathers for worship. Ordinary Jews will be there as well, some faithful, some not. He will work, largely, in the context of the synagogue - for these people are the object of His attention.


The second element in this verse is that all that heard him were pleased and praised his teaching. This new Rabbi was worth hearing. His knowledge of the Old Testament and His authority were striking elements of His ministry. Their hearts burned to hear Him preach from and teach the Word of God. It "tickled their ears." Later this statement will provide the contrast for the rejection of His teaching and preaching as He presents repentance and return to God for the Nation. Their hearts are roused by His message as He speaks of the Promised One and the coming promised kingdom.


The Nobleman's Son, Healed by Jesus While at Cana in Capernaum[55]

John 4:46-54

46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”[56] 49 The royal official *said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus *said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. 51 As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. 52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. 54 This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

John now reports that Jesus has this one miracle which must come to pass. Jesus is authenticating who He is as He will, in the next set of verses from Luke, present Himself as that Messiah, that "Promised One" whom God will send to His people.


The Miracle itself is here to demonstrate the power of the believing heart. We must remember Abraham - but Abraham as recorded in the book of Hebrews. It may have pleased God to honor Abraham in the matter of offering his own son but God called Abraham and blessed Him long before that event. Why did God bless Abraham - if it was not because of Isaac? The book of Hebrews reports that God greatly blessed Abraham with Righteousness based upon his believing God. The following verse is Abram's first contact with God from Hebrews Chapter 11.

"8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

Abraham believed God - and it was accounted to him as righteousness.


This report concerning Jesus and the royal official is about BELIEVING GOD (Jesus Christ). This royal official was obviously a Jew for Jesus says to him "unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe."


1 Corinthians 2:22 records: "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:"


The Jews are a hard hearted people. The will not believe God without some kind of miraculous event that will convince them of the truth of one's claims. Jesus reminds this royal of this saying. But this Jew is different - His son is dying and His faith is in Jesus as the One who is Come from God. "Sir, come down for my child is dying," he exclaims and Jesus, seeing his belief responds, "Go your way; your son lives."

So there are those of Faith among the Jews. There are those whom God has called and chosen and we'll see evidence of them throughout the ministry of Jesus. They will be few, but they will show us the depth of their belief and the depth of the Love of Christ through them.


The Miracle at Cana and this miracle of the royal official set the stage for the contrast of belief and unbelief that occurs in this next section.


Jesus' Ministry and Rejection at Nazareth

Luke 4:16-31a

16 And He came to Nazareth[57], where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set free those who are oppressed,

19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”[58]

20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus, now back in His home town ("a prophet has no honor in his own country") having just complete two major miracles. In the first He demonstrated that He was the God of Creation and in the second He demonstrated that He has the power of Life, Death, and Healing. All signs of being the Promised Messiah.


It was Friday, at evening, when Jesus steps to the front of the synagogue in Nazareth and began to read from the Scriptures (as was the custom).


"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" - I am possessed by the Holy Spirit of God.


Why is this so? Because God appointed ME to preach the Good News to the poor (in Spirit). In case you didn't see it before, He is saying that that His audience is Poor in the Spirit of God, and God has anointed HIM with HIS Holy Spirit (and not them).


"He, the Lord God, has sent ME to proclaim release to the captives."


His audience would recognize these verses from the Book of Isaiah and that the captives would be those who have died and are awaiting release from Sheol (Hades) which is the place of the dead. This would require the power of resurrection to accomplish this.


"And the recovery of sight to the blind."


We haven't seen Him do this yet but Jesus is now making the claim that He has the power to restore lost sight - something impossible even to this day.


"To set free those who are oppressed."


Again a reference to the promised Messiah who would be able to bring release to both physical and spiritual oppression. Like the serpent on the top of the rod, Messiah would bring instant healing to those who "looked" upon Him in BELIEF, and like the Jews in Egypt only He could bring deliverance from the oppression that held them  there - if they BELIEVED by sprinkling the blood upon their door posts.


"To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."


God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, become a great people, and bring forth the ONE who would deliver His people and bring great blessing to that nation. God promised Abraham's son Isaac that the promises He made to Abraham would continue through Him. God promised Isaac's son Jacob that the promises made to his father would continue through Him. A great nation, a great people, and a great deliverer - A great age would come and all the blessings would be delivered - the year when God would look favorably upon His people and deliver His Kingdom of Heaven to them. This was the "favorable year of the Lord" and For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: was proclaiming it. "I'm the One, and I am doing this."

22 And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23 And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

What was Jesus saying to these Jewish leaders, priests, elders, rabbis, and people in general? While Israel was in trouble - God sent the prophets to those who BELIEVED GOD - and they were Gentiles! God could not find believers in Israel, so he went to those who believed among non-Jews.


At nearly every turn in the history of Israel - they rejected Jehovah, the God who established them because of Abraham's belief. True belief would only be found outside the people whom God had made His covenant of blessing. He loved them, they despised Him.

28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things;[59] 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.[60]

They quickly became an enraged mob. "Grab him, Kill him, he's reading our Scriptures and showing us the errors of our people." What a change from speaking well of Him to shouting "Kill Him." He reported the words of the Scriptures to them, words that they already knew, and they hated Him for it.


31 And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee[61]


Jesus Moves to Capernaum

Matthew 4:13-16
4:13 and leaving Nazareth[62], He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulon and Naphtali. 4:14 In order to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, 4:15 "THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES. 4:16 THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND TO THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT SPRANG UP." (Isaiah 9:1-2, and part of a dialog that continues through verse 7.)


Matthew inserts this quote which, at first glance, seems to be only about the "Light" of Christ among the Gentiles. However, the whole plan of God for Jesus as Messiah is in view in the context of these two verses.


From Gleason Archer's Isaiah[63]:

"It was through Isaiah that this part of Jesus' ministry was revealed about 800 years earlier. Isaiah 1:1-12:6 is called "The Volume of Immanuel." There are four movements to this set of verses and our quote comes from the second movement, Isaiah 7:1-9:7, where the "Speedy deliverance Foreshadows the Coming Deliverer."


Isaiah 8:1 begins a section that foretells (in Isaiah's time) of the fall of Samaria. You may recall that in Isaiah's time the Nation of Assyria was about to come into power. God gave Isaiah a number of visions that would outline the discipline He would place upon the Northern tribes who were named "Israel" for abandoning their God and wholeheartedly turning to other gods.


Isaiah 8:9-15 gives us insight into the mind of God as He challenges the nations of the world to do their best to try to destroy His people of Israel. He tells us that these nations will be the object of great wrath because they willingly seek to destroy God's people.


Isaiah 8:16-22 tell of the returning "remnant" of His people will remain out of that captivity in the land of Samaria.


Then Verses 9:1-7 describe the "Light Will Come from God the Redeemer." The portion of the Twelve Tribes which first fell under the foreigner' yoke was the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, the area known as Galilee. It was ravaged by the the armies of Tiglath-Pileser and annexed to the Assyrian Empire in 732 B.C. Yet in the providence of God, it was this very region which was in later times to be visited by the radiant light of Jesus, the Messiah, who made His headquarters in Galilee. The prophet, by inspiration, foresees how God is going to multiply the small nation of those who return from the Babylonian Exile (followed the Assyrian) into a great and mighty people, achieving (under the Maccabees) notable victories on the battlefield. Then beyond that the prophecy extends to the multiplication of Christ'sdisciples from a little band of 120 to a host of many millions, victoriously extending the frontiers of Christ's spiritual empire over all the earth. Ultimately the final triumph of Armageddon is in view.


Matthew's quote (a single verse) would have brought to the minds of His readers the full context of Isaiah's words and the seven major points He was making in them concerning the Messiah.

1.     He will be born a Son of God as a human child, rather than appearing full-grown as a heavenly conqueror

2.     He will be born a son of the house of Israel - a Jew

3.     He will be the ultimate ruler of the earth

4.     He will be a wonder or marvel as a counselor, imparting that counsel which alone can save man from eternal doom

5.     He will be God Himself, and specifically God in His aspect as champion in battle

6.     He, as God, will be the Eternal One - both the possessor of eternity and the author of eternal life (Father of eternity)

7.     He is the Prince or Ruler of Peace - bestowing wellbeing of soul, and in the Millennial Kingdom, prosperity and warlessness to the whole world in the age to come. He shall exercise this royal authority upon the throne of David, He will surpass the glory of David. The perfect righteousness of God shall be enforced in His benevolent administration and shall prevail in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven itself. This glorious consummation will be brought to pass by the zeal of the Father on behalf of His beloved Son. To this promise we, equally with the generation of Isaiah, look forward with eager anticipation; for us too it is "the blessed hope" of Christ's appearing.”


[52] Like John the Baptist, Christ also preached the necessity of repentance before the messianic kingdom could be established.

[53] The timing of God's programs in history is a major theme of biblical teaching. The first (Gal 4:4) and second (Acts 1:7; 3:19-21) comings of Christ are foundational to God's schedule for world history.

[54] How glorious it must have been, God in the flesh expounding the Word of God. His audiences were thrilled at His exposition, however later, when they heard that He was calling Himself the Messiah, God, they would seek His death by crucifixion.

[55] About 20 miles from the center of Capernaum

[56] Jesus was not rebuking the royal official but lamenting over what was a typical attitude of the Galileans. The official was different in that he believed solely on the basis of Jesus' word (John 4:50).

[57] This statement implies that Nazareth had ceased to be Jesus' home already. It had been His boyhood custom to attend the synagogue services in that town. He retained the habit after reaching manhood.

[58] Deut 6:16; Isaiah 61:1-2a Jesus reserved 6:2b for it dealt with His Second coming.

[59] To hear Jesus preaching that the Gentiles were to be blessed enraged his hearers - especially if that was to happen because the Jews rejected Him (i.e., 1 Kings 17:8-24 and 2 Kings 5:1-14).

[60] There is no need to see something miraculous here. Jesus talked and walked with righteousness and the Authority of God. People would move when He moved towards them.

[61] Capernaum is a city on the lake of Galilee, about 25 miles NE of Nazareth. Jesus carried on an extensive ministry there.

[62] According to Luke Jesus left because they were attempting to kill Him.

[63] Gleason Archer, "Isaiah," The Biblical Expositor, the Holman Company, Phil.