Matthew 4.12-17, 23-25
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Through the season of Advent we heard John the Baptist’s message of repentance. Today we hear of the moment when Jesus begins to proclaim: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Then we hear of Jesus going so much further than John did.
John was the long-foretold herald of the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. His message was one of preparation for the ‘main event’. As John called people to repent, he was calling them to turn from their sinful ways, be washed clean in the waters of baptism and then hold themselves in readiness for the true baptism that was to follow, baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ message followed on from John’s, but went so much further.
John preached and baptised in the wilderness around Jerusalem. Jesus, we are told, travelled through Galilee. Rather than waiting for the people to come to him, Jesus went out teaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. Then, he went further by curing every disease and every sickness among the people. The message and the actions of Jesus changed the lives of the people, and especially the lives of those who were afflicted and whose lives were restricted with sickness and pain of every kind.
We are told that Jesus’ fame spread throughout all Syria. We are also told that great crowds followed him. In our modern culture, ‘fame’ has become something self-serving and destructive. We are constantly witnessing the way in which ‘fame’ destroys lives because it separates those who crave its power from God. Jesus’ fame was different. Jesus’ fame revealed a lifestyle and mission that brought healing and new life to those who followed him. Jesus’ fame was not a fatuous display feeding a superficial ego. Jesus’ fame was rooted in the sharing of the good news of the kingdom far and wide.
Throughout Advent we were called to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ into this world. At Christmas we were called to worship the Holy Child and to give thanks for his Incarnation. As we journey through Epiphany we are called to emulate Jesus himself as we set self aside and share the good news of the kingdom with all we meet. Let us pray that we might be selfless advocates on behalf of our Lord and Saviour as we strive to bring Christ’s healing and light into the lives of others.