Hi.. I’m Gene Ort.. and you’re listening to the common man commentary..


This is podcast #10..  We will be looking at MATTHEW 4:12-17


The Title for this podcast is  : “ ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS”


In the last podcast 9, we left Jesus.. being refreshed by Angel’s.. and if you haven’t figured it out yet, my favorite question is : “ I wonder what that means ?“ 


We are tempted to think in terms of Jesus as being mostly Devine..and impervious to the weakness and fragility of humanity, but this is not true. Jesus is said to be. “ fully human.. and fully God”, thats not easy for us to understand. Jesus is hungry.. the angel’s bring Him food and something to drink. 


He is setting on top of Mount Nebo…with a nice sandwich and a cool glass of water and a beautiful view to the west toward Jericho about 16 miles away.. No one knows where he went after this.. but the closest city is Jericho so I don’t find it hard to imagine him going there. The speed of life at that time in history was about three miles per hour.. the average walking speed of an adult. So the walk is somewhere around 5 to 7 hours. A good days journey. It’s anyone’s guess how long Jesus was there .. before he got the news..


Reading from the message bible, Matthew 4, starting at verse 12.. through 17.


“When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee. He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum, nestled at the base of the Zebulun and Naphtali hills. This move completed Isaiah’s sermon: Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, road to the sea, over Jordan, Galilee, crossroads for the nations. People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up. This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.””


Matthew 4:12-17 MSG


John B. The baptizer, was imprisoned by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the great ) a tetrarch or sub king of Galilee. John B had openly verbally attacked him, basically calling him and Phasaelis, the woman he stole from his brother, both adulterers. More about John later on.. lets just say.. it doesn’t go well. 


Jesus and John were cousins. Podcast 5 has tons of detailed information about John and his connection to Jesus. It might be worthwhile to listen to that for a little context.


What stands out to me right away, is Jesus first response to the news. One might think Jesus would immediately dash off to John to try and rescue him. But no, he goes back to his home town of Nazareth in Galilee .. gets his things and moves to the beautiful lake side village of Capernaum. 


So here is one of those things that’s easy to skip over. But in our real life, where we live today, that feels like Jesus is abandoning John B. When we allow passages like this to go by us without feeling that, we reduce these accounts to bible stories. This is not a bible story, it’s recorded history of real lives of real people with real outcomes. John B’s last encounter with Jesus has him standing in a river with Him listening to the audible voice of God proclaiming “ This is my son ! “ The next thing he hears is the sound of prison bars closing behind him. I’m pretty sure that was not what he was expecting. 


In fact, I think John B. was emboldened by what he had heard and seen with Jesus. He is confident that Jesus is the Messiah and He is going to kick some… well.. you get the point. All Jews saw the Messiah as their salvation from tyrannous domination from foreign invaders. He would be the ultimate political and military power resulting in the Jews becoming the new ultimate empire. So John in his now exaggerated exuberance takes his “calls them as he sees them “ attitude to the next level. 


On earth, consequences are real and they rule. God did not put John B. In jail.. his mouth did. It’s a sobering thing to realize that your actions have consequences. The Jews had a propensity to believe that bad things only happen to bad people. God was punitive. John B. Had to be feeling very confused. I think he expected God through Jesus to bail him out !


Ok.. back to sunny Capernaum.


Capernaum really is a beautiful place. One of the nicest places in Israel. The Sea of Galilee is there.. its about the size of a large lake. 13 miles long, 8 miles wide. The temperature idyllic, it’s lush and green in stark contrast to the desert wilderness of southern Israel. 


Capernaum was the crossroads of the Middle East at the time. From the North, was the trade route from all of what would eventually be called Europe, Rome being the centerpiece and this road came straight to Capernaum and split into two directions. One to the east toward the ten Romans style cities called the decapolis on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, and another road to the west along the Mediterranean Sea that went all the way to Egypt. It was a bustling blend of all the cultures available. This would be Jesus home base for what was about to begin.


It should be noted that Matthew, the writer of this Gospel was a Jew speaking primarily to Jews. Jews were collectively very interested if not fixated on all things prophetic. So the next proclamation would have been immensely significant to them.  


Enter Isaiah..  what’s he doing in this story.. ? He has been dead a very long time. He lived between 742 to 687 BC. That’s 700 years dead. Isaiah was a major prophet,one of five. A prophet was considered to be a spokesman for God. They often warned the people of the outcomes of their disobedience to God’s instructions. They also fore told the future.  Thats what Matthew is referring to here in this passage. 


The Jews needed a lot of convincing about the true identity of Jesus. He did not look, smell, taste, sound or act anything like the warrior Messiah they had been expecting.  Apparently they also had misunderstood the scriptures about who the Messiah was going to be. In the coming chapters, we will begin to see just how confused they were about the very nature of God. They saw God in one way… but they were about to encounter Him in a completely new way. 


Change is hard..changing your mind or someone else’s at times seems impossible. There will need to be some massive deconstruction of all they had learned and a new construction based on truth. And to quote Jack Nicholson sometimes, “ you cant handle the truth “ !


Matthew is pulling this quote from the book of Isaiah to make the point that Isaiah had heard from God 700 years earlier that something significant was going to happen in Capernaum.  The quote again reads “ People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up. “


So, Capernaum is this beautiful lake side .. almost resort side community now.. why all the death and dark language ? Well it turns out that Capernaum, due to its strategic location at the crossroads of several countries had in its past been the place where all the invading countries that had concurred Israel brought all the slaves and captives just before taking them back to their own countries. The image of Aushwitz  comes to mind. Once a quiet little Polish community.. transformed into a death camp. 


The bright light.. the light of salvation, the light of the world come to visit is Jesus. With every word he spoke, it was like a warm sunrise after a long cold night, and in true to form poetic Jewish language, Isaiah captures a glimpse of what is to come.  This is the kind of truth that the Jews respected. This is what they needed to hear to begin the turn around in their thinking. 


We all have something like this going on in our minds in one way or another. We hold on with all stubbornness to a particular way of thinking. Usually because of one or all of these circumstances. Where we were born, when we were born, who are our parents, what they believed and what we were taught in school and culture. 


These elements bound together are like gravity for our minds.. it will take tremendous thrust to escape the gravitational pull of previously held ideals and opinions, and not without a great deal of emotional and intellectual pain through the process. 


In one way thats good. You don’t want to be swayed in every different direction with every new fad idea that comes along, but staying open minded requires a pretty high level of security in knowing why you believe what you believe. And thats a good question, why do you believe what you believe ?


And so the dawn arises on Jesus ministry with him picking up where John B. left off…. “ Change your mind .. The Kingdom of God is here !”


Well thats enough to think about for now..


Until next time ..  I am Gene Ort and Thank you for listening to the common man commentary. 


I’D LIKE TO LEAVE YOU WITH This “ blessing :


Love God. Love Yourself. Love the next person He puts in front of you.