Jesus’baptism was what marked his ministry on Earth. After spending 30 years in Nazareth, he goes to the Jordan River to be baptised by John the Baptist (Mark 1:9). Immediately after his baptism, Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and resisting the temptations of the devil.
When John the Baptist is put in prison, Jesus goes back to Galilee and begins to preach the Good News of God’s Kingdom (Mark 1:14). The summary of his message is, “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
But why did Jesus go back to Galilee to start his ministry? Why didn’t he stay in the southern part of Israel? Why didn’t he spend his time where most of Jews were—in Jerusalem, the political and religious capital of Israel?
We’re going to discuss three reasons why Jesus did this.
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1. To Fulfill Prophecy
Matthew, who was a tax collector, makes good use of the numerous Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. In his testimony, he points out that when Jesus returned to Galilee, he first went to Nazareth, his hometown. But clearly he doesn’t stay in Nazareth for long: “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake (the Sea of Galilee) in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali” (Matthew 4:13)”.
And why does Jesus go to Capernaum? “To fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 4:14). Then Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2, which declares that one day God will honour the region of Galilee, an area that was looked upon with disgust by Jews in the south because of the influx of Gentiles who lived there, with the glorious presence of the Messiah.
It will be in “Galilee of the Gentiles” that “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Jesus declared that he was “the light of the world” (John 8:12). And 700 years before his coming, Isaiah predicted that Jesus would shine his light in Galilee.
2. To Find His Disciples
The second reason why Jesus established his ministry in Galilee is that Jesus had a plan to groom a small group of disciples to carry on his work after he leaves. He knew that he was on a divine schedule: three years of ministry followed by his death, resurrection and ascension. Three years isn’t much time, really. And he knew that it would be critical to spend as much time as possible during those three short years with the men that he personally trained to continue what he started.
Where would he find the best candidates for such a project? In Capernaum. This is where four of the disciples, who were fishermen lived and worked. Peter and Andrew, James and John, two sets of brothers who spent their days fishing together on the Sea of Galilee. These fishermen were to become members of the inner circle Christ chose to be his apostles.
Jesus had already spent time with at least three of these four fishermen near the Jordan River. These men were disciples of John the Baptist, who had introduced them to Jesus. The book of John chapter 1:35-42 tells us about this encounter.
So, Jesus went to Capernaum purposely to find these four fishermen and call them into full-time ministry, which he does in Mark 1:16-20.
3. To Emphasize The Universal Goal Of The Gospel
Jesus was the Messiah, the King of the Jews. But he didn’t only come to save the Jews, but the whole world. He desires that people from every nation follow him. The gospel is for both the Jews and Gentiles. And spending time in “Galilee of the Gentiles” shows us the universal purpose of Jesus’ mission: to seek and save the lost.
Throughout the gospel accounts we see Jesus interacting with all types of people, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and old. He came to offer salvation to all by giving his life on the cross “as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). After his resurrection, his words to the disciples before he ascended were to carry on this mission by preaching the good news “to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and by making disciples of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19). And so we have been commissioned to do what Jesus demonstrated so clearly in Galilee: to share the gospel with everyone in every nation.