2011 - Vol. 47.
Jesus heals a lame man, by James
Good News of the Kingdom
Jesus went about
all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the
kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
After his baptism, Jesus went to Capernaum,
a fishing village on the northwest shore of Lake Gennesaret. From this
home base, he taught and preached throughout Galilee. (Matthew 4:13; Mark
2:1). Capernaum was located in the area settled by the tribes of Naphtali
and Zebulun in the northern kingdom. This territory had been invaded and
occupied by Assyria in 734 B.C. and was flooded with Gentiles, while many
of the Jewish population had been deported. When Jesus took up his ministry
there, Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling the exiles’ deliverance was fulfilled:
- Matthew 4:23
Jesus alerts anyone who
would listen to the fact that the victorious presence of God is at hand
and that the death throes of creation and of history are about to come
to an end.
- Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis,
Heart of the Word
The land of Zebulun and
the land of
Thus, this region, so despoiled in Isaiah’s
time, was the first to see the light of Christ dawning on it. “When Christ
appeared in those lands . . . something began on earth like when a stone
is cast into a quiet lake and starts ripples that finally reach the farthest
shores,” wrote Archbishop Oscar Romero. “Christ appeared in Zebulun and
Naphtali with the signs of liberation: shaking off oppressive yokes, bringing
joy to hearts, sowing hope. And this is what God is doing now in history”
(The Violence of Love).
toward 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. (Matthew 4:15-16;
see also Isaiah 9:1-2)
Jesus’ first message echoed that
of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew
4:17), and provided the bridge between the ministries of John the Baptist
and Jesus. Commenting on Matthew’s gospel, theologian Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
said Jesus choose those first words “to show his debt of gratitude to the
Baptist and his strict continuity with him.” However, “now the word of
preparation becomes the word of fulfillment.” As the herald faithfully
completed his task, the Messiah began his own –
God’s promises were thus being fully realized.
Both John and Jesus challenged their
hearers to repentance and conversion of heart in order to receive the kingdom
of God –
is, God’s reign on earth, a reign exercised in the lives of men and women.
However, whereas John’s work had been to proclaim what was to happen in
the future and prepare the way for it, Jesus announced a kingdom that had
arrived in its fullness and was present among his hearers. Jesus proclaimed
“good news,” thus personifying in himself Isaiah’s prophecy,
How beautiful upon the mountains
In his preaching and teaching
sermons, exhortations, and parables –
unfolded the values of God’s kingdom and the principles of “kingdom living”
kingdom often at odds with worldly values. It is a kingdom of priceless
worth: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field . . .”
(Matthew 13:44). It starts out small but grows into something much bigger:
“To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven . . .” (Luke
13:20-21). It requires great humility: “Unless you turn and become like
children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). The
kingdom that Jesus proclaimed was a kingdom where God reigned.
are the feet of him who brings
who publishes peace, who brings
good tidings of good,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God
reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)
Matthew tells us that Jesus “went
about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel
of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the
people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all
the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics,
and paralytics, and he healed them” (Matthew 4:23-24). This is a clear
and concise summary of the works of the Messiah, which mirrored the messianic
signs that had also been foretold by Isaiah:
Then the eyes of the blind
Indeed, these signs described by Isaiah
were the answer that Jesus gave to the disciples of John the Baptist in
reply to their inquiry, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for
another?” (Matthew 11:2-5). The miracles and healings that Christ performed
both affirmed and demonstrated that he had a God-given mission to bring
salvation and the good news of God’s kingdom to all who would believe.
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like
and the tongue of the dumb
for joy. (Isaiah 35:5-6)
Luke’s account of Jesus’ visit to
his hometown of Nazareth further emphasizes the prophetic fulfillment of
God’s promises embodied in Jesus –
Christ, the anointed one. When Jesus came to the synagogue as was his custom,
“there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah” (Luke 4:17). Finding
these prophetic words, he read to his fellow townspeople:
“The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me,
Anointed by the Spirit at his baptism,
Jesus took up the mission entrusted to him by the Father and now identified
himself as the one foretold in Isaiah’s prophecy, declaring, “Today this
scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). This declaration
was “followed by the actions and words known through the Gospel. By these
actions and words Christ makes the Father present among men. . . . [T]he
Messiah becomes a particularly clear sign of God who is love, a sign of
the Father” (Pope John Paul II, Rich in Mercy).
because he has anointed me to preach
good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are
to proclaim the acceptable year
(Luke 4:18-19; see also Isaiah 61:1-2)
The good news that Jesus proclaimed
and the kingdom that he ushered in confounded the expectations of most
of his hearers. The glory of King David and his descendants had been dimmed
by their failures, sins, and defeats at the hands of their enemies. Israel
longed for an heir to David’s dynasty –
ideal ruler, a messianic figure –
God would raise up to establish justice, build an empire, bring peace,
and restore the throne of David. By Jesus’ time, the messiah many Jews
hoped for was a political leader who would free their nation from the domination
Jesus’ behavior and actions contradicted
this understanding of a messianic ruler and transcended nationalistic conceptions
of his role. Yet he seemed ambivalent about verbally declaring or clarifying
his identity as the Messiah. On the one hand, Jesus did not deny that he
was God’s agent, sent by God to establish the new order that he was so
openly proclaiming. When the woman at the well in Samaria said, “I know
that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will
show us all things,” Jesus replied, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:25-26).
And he accepted Peter’s and Martha’s professions of faith in him as “the
Christ, the Son of the God” (Matthew 16:16; John 11:27). On the other hand,
however, Jesus did not want to people to think of him as a political figure
who would conquer Israel’s enemies and establish a new Davidic kingdom
on earth, a role he refused and rejected. So when his identity was being
questioned, Jesus’ responses were generally oblique: “You have said
so” (Matthew 26:64; 27:11); “Why do you ask me?” (John 18:21) “If I tell
you, you will not believe; and if I ask you, you will not answer” (Luke
The Messiah –
Son of God, the Word-made-flesh –
was sent into the
world by the Father to redeem humankind from sin, liberate us from slavery
to sin and death, and restore us to full union with God. Each of us must
search our hearts to fully recognize our own need for a Messiah so that
we can receive the salvation he offers us.
Jeanne Kun is President
Association and a senior woman leader in the Word
of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Promises Fulfilled, The Word Among Us Press, Copyright
© 2006. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
in His Hands
laid his hands on every one of them and healed them
me through and through, O Lord.
my sin-bruised being
bind up my injuries
gained through fault or folly).
I surrender to your skilled hands and healing touch,
fingers strip away my protections and self-illusions,
the wounds of my heart,
raw sores of my soul,
aching disappointments and mutilated hopes.
then with patient care and Spirit’s balm,
nurse me back to sound wholeness in you,
giving new exercise to my so-long-crippled love.
when [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee;
13and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the
territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet
Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land
the sea, across the Jordan,
of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
seen a great light,
for those who sat in the region
and shadow of death
that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven
is at hand.”
he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the
gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among
the people. 24So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought
him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs,
epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25And great crowds followed
him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond
4:16-24, 28-32, 40-44
[Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to
the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to
read; 17and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened
the book and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
he has anointed me to preach
good news to the poor.
has sent me to proclaim release to
recovering of sight to the blind,
set at liberty those who are
to proclaim the acceptable year of
he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and
the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say
to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22And
all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded
out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23And he said
to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal
yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your
own country.’” 24And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable
in his own country.’” . . . 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue
were filled with wrath. 29And they rose up and put him out of the city,
and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that
they might throw him down headlong. 30But passing through the midst of
them he went away.
he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them
on the sabbath; 32and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word
was with authority.
when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various
diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them
and healed them. 41And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the
Son of God!” But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because
they knew that he was the Christ.
when it was day he departed and went into a lonely place. And the people
sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them;
43but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God
to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44And he was
preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
1. Note as
many similarities as you can between John the Baptist’s message and that
of Jesus. What does this suggest to you? In what ways did their respective
messages and missions differ?
and Luke stressed the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies as Jesus began
to preach throughout Galilee and as he taught in the synagogue at Nazareth.
How might Jesus’ consciousness of his role and identity as the Messiah
as described by Isaiah have affected his public ministry?
3. Jesus proclaimed
the gospel or good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; Luke 4:43).
What do you think a first-century Jew would have recognized as “good news”
in the public ministry of Jesus? What good news might they think was lacking?
4. What, in
your opinion, did Jesus’ hearers understand by his reading of Isaiah 61:1-2
in the synagogue in Nazareth? Why might they have reacted negatively to
him (Luke 4:28)?
5. Why would
the demons have recognized the identity of Jesus when the religious people
of the day did not (Luke 4:40-41)? Why do you think Jesus forbade the demons
to speak when he rebuked them?
6. Note all
the geographical places listed in Matthew 4:12-13, 23-25. Relate this to
Jesus’ statement in Luke 4:43: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom
of God to the other cities also.” What do these two texts say about Jesus’
call and mission?
Living the Word
yourself among the crowds that came to Jesus to be healed. How do you think
you might have reacted? How easy or difficult is it for you to believe
that Jesus still heals people today?
2. What effect
has the “good news” had on your daily life? On your world outlook? On your
3. What manifestations
of the kingdom of God do you see around you? Would someone meeting
you for the first time detect any signs or clues that you are living in
God’s kingdom? Why or why not?
4. In what
ways have you experienced the messianic activities of Jesus described in
Isaiah 61:1-2 for yourself? Which of these actions speaks most directly
to you at this time in your life?
5. How are
you actively sharing in Jesus’ messianic work and mission? What are some
concrete ways you can build God’s kingdom in your home? In your workplace?
In your parish?
6. The Jewish
people had different assumptions about what a Messiah should do, and this
prevented some of them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. How can our
preconceptions and assumptions about how God acts in the world today keep
us from recognizing his presence? Think of a time when you may have missed
God’s action in your life because you were expecting something else.