This is it. The ministry has begun. Baptised by John, hearing his Father’s voice, being led by the Spirit in and out of the desert’s temptations, he is now ready! He is empowered. Then see what happens …
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. (Matthew 4 v 12)
Isn’t this strange to you? On first reading it can look like Jesus wasn’t bothered about John being in prison. There isn’t any reaction except it looks like he is withdrawing perhaps also afraid?
Have you ever written an email and you left out some details because either a) you didn’t want your letter to end up being an encyclopaedia or b) the other details were not relevant to what you were wanting to focus on? However the person reading it totally misunderstood what you had written.
Look at the next verse which we will unpack tomorrow:
“Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum” v 13.
So when he decided to withdraw to Galilee, did he leave Nazareth to go to Capernaum? NO. Nazareth is in Galilee. So there is a period of time in between verse 12 and 13. He left for Galilee – gap (presumably arrived in Nazareth) – then he left Nazareth.
Similarly, Matthew leaves Jesus in the desert being looked after by angels in verse 11 and immediately John is in prison in verse 12. Another gap.
The recording of life is full of gaps. There are things we do not know. We are thankful for the other gospels that bring us information that brings the missing jigsaw pieces. But sometimes life has missing pieces. When you are trying to make a judgment about something then digging for evidence is important. An official investigation is often needed to settle disputes. Fake news is often created by taking half a sentence and taping it seamlessly to another half sentence creating a whole new story. So we do need wisdom of course otherwise we will be believing anything.
But settling our minds that there are things to life’s story that we simply do not know allows for a life to be lived by faith.
In between the desert and “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.” What had been happening?
John tells us in his gospel (chapters 1-3) that Jesus had called his first disciples, he performed his first miracle at the Wedding in Cana (north east of Nazareth, in Galilee), he goes and spends a few days in Capernaum with his mother, brothers and disciples before going to Jerusalem to clear out the temple. Finally, he encounters Nicodemus and then settles at Aenon to baptise, on the west side of the Jordan.
He hears of John’s imprisonment which happened under Herod in Galilee, a region populated by Gentiles but a rising dominance of Jewish settlers in the cities and towns. John is down but Jesus goes to take up the baton. The work carries on. He will carry the same message, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near’. It is heaven’s message. He withdraws to Nazareth and along the way he will meet a Samaritan woman at the well. But that’s another missing jigsaw piece for Matthew. He returns to Galilee and behind him are already many stories and encounters with people. Lives are changed and God has been glorified.
It is the same with you. When people look at you they see a life where you have lived and the major things you have done. You are fine with that. At the end of our time people will say, ‘he/she lived a full life’ and they will have actually no idea! They will not know just exactly what you have done. The conversations you have had, the acts of kindness you have given, a trail of love and grace behind you, the poor you have helped, the broken you have healed. Yes, a full life indeed. And there were gaps of missing information that you had to live with. Questions unanswered, things you didn’t know but you found that faith is learning to live with missing pieces from the story.