Revelations from the Word

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The people have seen a great light

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:12-17).

After His baptism, Jesus fasted for forty days during which He was tempted by the devil, and then started His ministry in Capernaum in the territory of Naphtali (Joshua 19:32-39). The prophet Isaiah had in fact announced that the Messianic times would begin in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, which formed the region of Galilee in the time of Jesus – today, Nazareth is the capital of Galilee. Because this region was near to Phoenicia (modern day Lebanon), it was for the most part inhabited by Gentiles, that is why it was called Galilee of the Gentiles. The prophet announced that the darkness would not always reign on the earth, but that, "If times past had covered the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with disgrace, the times to come would cover this land bordering on the sea with glory" (Isaiah 8:23).

When the times were accomplished (Mark 1:15), that is about 430 years after Malachi, the last prophet – the same duration as the stay in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) –, God sent John the Baptist, then Jesus. These times were considered dark for the People of God were blind and led by the blind (Matthew 15:14). The people had not heard God speak any more since the last prophet, "Remember the Torah of Moses… Behold I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the Day of the Lord arrives, that great and terrible day" (Malachi 4:4-5). John the Baptist was that prophet who came with the spirit of Elijah (Matthew 11:14) to turn the hearts of the children back to their fathers, Abraham and Moses, that is to faith in God and in the Torah.

So the people of Israel have seen the Light of God, Jesus of Nazareth, shine in Galilee. Speaking of this time Isaiah said, "You make the people numerous, you impart great joy to the people; they rejoice before you, as there is rejoicing at the harvest, as one shouts with gladness at the sharing of the spoil. For the yoke which weighed heavily on them, the rod which beat their backs and the staff of the one who oppressed them, you have broken, as on the day of Midian" (Isaiah 9:2-4). In fact the people of God were oppressed by religious power, which loaded them with heavy burdens in the same way as they were oppressed by the Egyptians before they came out of Egypt (Matthew 23:2-4). As Moses came as a redeemer to free the Israelite people, Jesus came as the Redeemer to free His people from the religious yoke. Isaiah also announced that this Son, which was being given to them, would come to affirm the Kingdom of David and give it a peace without end, and sustain it by righteousness and justice (Isaiah 9:5-6).