In his zeal for God’s honor, John had publicly spoken against Herod Antipas’ adultery and was subsequently imprisoned. His ministry was basically over, creating a vacuum Jesus would step into. Upon hearing the news, Jesus left the small town of Nazareth and settled in the fishing village of Capernaum. Matthew describes its location as by the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. Matthew is carefully specific because this pivotal moment comes right out of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy.
“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 were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.”
It’s a beautiful and climactic picture of God’s grace breaking into and through the desolate gloom. Exhausted by the burden of performing rules, oppressed by injustice, downcast by disappointment, and shredded by sin, a ravenous darkness is how the people’s reality is depicted. They walked in it, they lived in its haunted halls, they sat sapped in the heaviness of its shadow, drenched by its despondency. There was nothing to look forward to. But as Jesus arrived, “upon them a Light dawned.”
“From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
When this message was preached by the herald, it was a preview; now proclaimed by its King, its reality. A reality bursting with good news. It is not necessarily good news in terms of something neat that happened today or a viral story that will restore your faith in humanity, but good news that flows to the very root of human reality. The Kingdom of Heaven is that good news.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the reality of God’s sovereign and redemptive reign transplanted into the midst of everyday human reality in the person of Jesus the Messiah. It is good news because it reveals the redemptive reordering of reality to begin in light of God’s reign. Set from Heaven into Earth, this kingdom-reality will change everything—how Jesus is to be known, how the community of the King bears witness to the reality of his reign, how kingdom-ethics are righteously lived out, how history is redemptively understood, how kingdom-economics are redemptively managed, how kingdom-justice is redemptively perceived and dispensed, how national identities are redefined in Christ, what it means to be a part of redeemed humanity. The Kingdom of Heaven will mold everything it touches and it will touch everything.
All of us hope for something good to come along, to bathe us in its rejuvenation. To reveal what is real and worth our while in life. We wonder if it will ever come, if we’ll ever get to be a part of it. This text unveils the arrival of the good life, the reality saturated with God’s goodness. By entering this text through reading and assimilating its truth through prayer, reality from out of God’s throne room is formed in us, enabling us to perceive all of life redemptively through Christ’s eyes. It invites us in to participate as residents of its alien realm. God is up to something good, and that goodness is rooted and revealed in “the kingdom of heaven…at hand.”