There is a lot of moving going on in the first 4 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel. Places are important. Prior to this Matthew has situated Jesus in his genealogy, birth in Bethlehem, flight to Egypt, return to land of Israel, departs for Galilee, dwelt in a town called Nazareth, came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil, and finally we arrive at today’s Gospel.
Vs. 12-17, “When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.” But then more moving: “He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum.” In the New American Bible Revised Edition this section is titled “The beginning of the Galilean Ministry”.
Vs. 18-23 have the titles “The Call of the First Disciples” followed by “Ministering to a great multitude.”
The importance of all this is captured for me in a footnote in the Jerusalem Bible. This quote jumped out at me: “THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD…IS TO BE REASSERTED BY AN ACT OF SUPREME INTERVENTION ON THE PART OF GOD AND OF HIS MESSIAH.”
God intervenes and sends Jesus, and Jesus in turn turns out to be not the Messiah of a successful nationalist rising, but whose ministry is teaching, proclaiming the gospel and healing. “The redemptive work of Jesus as ‘Son of Man’ and as ‘servant’ sets human beings free from Satan’s rule which opposes God.” JB “At the beginning of his preaching Jesus takes up the words of John the Baptist (3:2) although with a different meaning; in his ministry the kingdom of heaven has already begun to be present (12:28).
In Matthew and the Margins, Warren Carter states: “The immediate, but partial demonstrations of the impact of the reign comes in a call narrative.” Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We are told “he walked along from there” and saw two other brothers James and John. Vs. 21 “He called them and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.” In Matthew and Mark, the disciples’ response is motivated only by Jesus’ invitation. Luke has them witnessing a miraculous catch of fish and then being called. One speculation is that Jesus may have known them prior to this. He may have worked as a carpenter on fixing their boats. From what we learn from further on in this Gospels is that Jesus must have had an attractive and attracting demeanor and personality.
The Roman empire had control of the fishing industry by licensing, quotas and taxation. What could they have known as to where this “following” could lead? Seems they entrust themselves to him at considerable social and economic cost.
This specific and detailed account then becomes a generalized account of Jesus going around all of Galilee and teaching in their synagogues and “curing every disease and illness among the people.” This leads to great crowds following him.
But Matthew gets specific again about “disease and illness”. Vs. 24 “…they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics and paralytics, and he cured them.”
Carter explains each of these. “The word translated pain suggests not only disease but also distress and torment from imperial power and torture by imperial tyrants.”
Demoniacs. “To cast out demons is to defeat the devil’s agents and to represent the defeat and rejection of Rome, the devil’s ally and agent.” Carter makes an interesting reference here to the 3rd temptation of Jesus in (4:8-9) He continues: “In 9:34 and 12:24 the elite accuse Jesus of being possessed. Jesus’ exorcisms challenge attempt at control and put the exerciser in conflict with the elite.”
Epileptics. “means literally ‘moon struck’.
Paralytics. Jesus healed them (this verb will appear 16 times).
Great crowds followed him. Crowds appears 50 times. “They express “amazement” and some perception that God is at work in Jesus, yet they lack the understanding and faith of disciples. They also lack hostility of the religious leaders. Religious leaders resisted John in Judea at the Jordan (3:1-2, and he has been arrested (4:12).” I would comment that at this time the disciples understanding and faith was also very limited. Mark’s Gospel amplifies this fact.)
APPLICATION FOR LIFE.
In doing this research I have discovered so many parallels to the present reality of January 14, 2020. Taxation, Tyrants, Diseases, Illness, considerable social and economic cost Lunatics, racked with pain, Possessed, paralytics and paralyzed. I Long for AN ACT OF SUPREME INTERVENTION ON THE PART OF GOD AND OF HIS MESSIAH.” I am praying for it. Am I not a disciple a follower of Jesus? What am I to do?
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