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January 7, 2019 Featured

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book PNG2112Gospel: Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.In this way, the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea; and you, who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans:The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a light has shone.From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim his message, “Change your ways: the kingdom of heaven is near.”Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

The news about him spread through the whole of Syria; and the people brought all their sick to him, and all those who suffered: the possessed, the deranged, the paralyzed; and he healed them all. Large crowds followed him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea, and from across the Jordan.

“The kingdom of heaven is near.”
The arrest of John the Bap­tist marks a significant turn in the gospel “plot.” For Jesus, this marks the signal to begin his own ministry, while also fore­ shadowing the ultimate price he will pay. Understandably, he is moved to withdraw “into Gali­lee,” perhaps to discern his next steps. Those who arrested John had hoped they were silencing his proclamation. But they soon learn their mistake, when Jesus steps forward to repeat the very words from John’s lips: “Change your ways: the kingdom of hea­ven is near.”But if there is  continuity with John’s mission,  there  is also something new. If John delivered a message of coming judgment, Jesus’  proclamation is tempered by works of mercy and compassion: not only the sick, but “the possessed, the deranged, the paralyzed” are healed. In “curing all kinds of sickness and disease” Jesus is ad­vancing far beyond John’s message; the “kingdom of heaven” is not simply “near” but is actually breaking forth in Jesus’ words and deeds.

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