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The Nature of the Light
by Dennis Downing


“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,” (Matthew 4:12-13 RSV)

    Capernaum was an unlikely place for Jesus to begin his ministry. Galilee, on the northernmost edge of Palestine, was a region of Gentile infiltration and pagan influence. During the exile the region was the first to be taken captive by the Assyrians. In Jesus’ day, with its zealots and rebel uprisings, it was still considered on the distant edge of the Israelite faith.

    Did Jesus begin there because he sensed that on the fringe of faith he would discover a rousing response?

    Did he go to those furthest from the light knowing they would be the first to repent?

    Here Jesus would find no horde of faithful followers.

    Jesus would later condemn Capernaum for its faithlessness. Sodom itself, he said, will be dealt with less severely in the judgement.

Jesus didn’t begin his ministry in Capernau because the people there were so spiritual... He began there because they were not.
    From Capernaum and its surroundings few would follow Jesus. Most would refuse his call. But Jesus did not begin his ministry in Capernaum, and return time and again to Galilee, because the people there were so spiritual. He began there and kept coming back precisely because they were not.

    One who would remember this most clearly was the quiet tax collector who one day rose from where he sat in the darkness of that terrible shadow, never to return. Maybe that’s why he pointed out that Jesus didn’t just pass through Capernaum. He went and lived there in the darkness with men like Matthew. He “dwelt” there, not because they were looking for the light, but because they weren’t. That is the very nature of the Light. It needs to be taken into the darkness, not so much because that is where it is wanted, but because that is where it is needed.

QUOTE: “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 4:16

PRAYER: Oh Father, the Gospel really is Good news. You didn’t come to us because we were good or wise or deserving. You came to us because you are good and loving. Jesus came and dwelt with us. And he is still in Capernaum, the one I live in and in the one I was born in, and in so many others to this day. But, we know there are many others still under the shadow of death. Because we are truly thankful that you have come to us, we are truly prayerful that you will go to them.


HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-97, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
© 1999 Dennis Downing. Used by permission.