When did Jesus actually begin his ministry of preaching and healing? We can’t say for sure. However we can construct a rough picture from details given in the Gospels. John the Baptist was the significant prophet of that time, and it was he who pointed out Jesus as God’s Chosen One. Jesus was also baptized by John and this meant that he was acceptable to John’s many disciples – some of whom even went over to him. We also know that Jesus didn’t start his mission until John had been arrested and put away in Herod’s dungeons. Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, which he now left and settled in Capernaum, a larger town on the northern tip of the Lake of Gennasereth. We may assume that he thereby wished to reach a larger audience, such as would be found in the many lakeshore townships of that time. Certainly his first disciples were fishermen from Capernaum. Curiously, Capernaum lay in the old tribal territory of Zebulun and Naphthali, which was the first to bear the brunt of the Assyrian invasion in the 8th century before Christ. As Isaiah prophesied, they would also be the first to hear the good news of salvation. The core of Jesus’s proclamation was this: Repent ! The kingdom of heaven is upon you ! The Kingdom of Heaven – or ‘ the Kingdom of God’ as the other Gospels put it – is not a territory but a way of life. Better translated as the ‘reign of God’, it is when God’s sovereignty is acknowledged and mankind accepts his rule. When we do so, we enjoy the benefits of his sovereignty: peace, justice, harmony between mankind and nature, compassion and forgiveness, equal rights for all. But for all this, first we must change our hearts. So repentance is the first requisite, for sin challenges God’s reign. In all his preaching Jesus focused on the acceptance of God’s reign, and the rejection of the claims of a bogus religion, obsessed with external practices, such as Judaism had become. Jesus also realized that so many were held in bondage by sickness and false beliefs, so healing and the wholeness of the human person was an integral part of his message. This is why he cured all who were brought to him, to open their hearts to a new way of life – life in the ‘kingdom’. And Jesus encouraged all whom he met to place their trust in him. To be saved was not a matter of rituals and duties, but a matter of relying on Jesus as their friend and savior.
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