Jesus Begins His Preaching
All three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, agree that Jesus began his mission in Galilee, and that he did so after the arrest of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist had been a significant public figure. Through his outspokenness and his austere life-style he carried the people with him, even while he antagonized the political and the religious establishment. More, he pointed to Jesus, and sent many of his disciples to follow this new teacher. There could have been no better herald.
No wonder then that John’s persistent cry, “Repent! The reign of God is here !” matches the opening message of Jesus when he began his preaching: “Change your lives ! The kingdom of heaven is upon you !”
The first place to see Jesus’s preaching was Galilee, often called “heathen Galilee” by traditional Jews. Galilee was the province which saw the greatest influx of pagans after the Assyrian invasion, and so its inhabitants were regarded as rustic and uncouth, their crude accents a matter of ridicule. It is these people “that lived in darkness” which would “see a great light.”
Jesus moved out of Nazareth, a small village, and settled in Capernaum by the Lake Gennasereth (or Sea of Galilee, as it was also called). This was a crossroads for trade, well connected to many small and big towns, an excellent location to reach a wider audience.
Jesus’s method was tested and effective: he preached every Sabbath in the local synagogues, usually at the request of the local official. He was known to be an effective speaker, and his presence usually swelled the crowd. Time would come, of course, when no synagogue could hold his audiences, and then Jesus had to speak outdoors, by the lakeside or on the hillside.
But more than the preaching it was the healing which attracted the crowds. He cured everyone who came, everyone! He cured people of illnesses, of demonic possession; he set right cripples, the blind, deaf mutes, paralytics, and even restored the dead to life.
There had never been anyone like him. And even as he healed people, he invited them to a new relationship with him, to trust him, to live differently by the values he spoke about. His cures and his healing were the visible signs of the reign of God present among the people.
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