Summary: Christ came 1) At the Right Time (Matthew 4:12a); to 2) The Right Place (Matthew 4:12b-16); and with 3) The Right Proclamation (Matthew 4:17).
There are a few times in people’s lives that world wide seminal changes occur. For many in this room, World War II meant the removal of an evil atheistic empire. In my lifetime, the fall of Communion in Eastern Europe allowed a new freedom of worship and the proclamation of the Gospel. For those living now events in Yemen, Egypt, Libya and other middle-eastern nations are wholesale changes of despotic regimes. People are becoming more and more sensitive to democratic abilities and rising up to seize freedom.
Jesus Christ came not only to make man sensitive again to sin, but to restore the life and health that sin has destroyed. He came not only to reveal the darkness that sin causes, but also to bring the light that overcomes the darkness. (Luke 2:30–32; Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 52:10).
As you consider your own life, do you notice that you become more and more sensitive to sin? Do you find yourself craving the word of God more and more? Do you desire to worship with the people of God? Do you desire to spend time studying the word with other Christians? Do you desire to be a reflective light of hope and truth for others? These are signs of the light of Christ dawning in believers lives.
In Matthew 4:12–17, Matthew gives three features of Jesus’ early ministry that show God’s perfect work through His Son, "the Light that Dawned". They show how Christ was to be a light and how he came: 1) At the Right Time (Matthew 4:12a); 2) The Right Place (Matthew 4:12b-16); and with 3) The Right Proclamation (Matthew 4:17).
Jesus’ early ministry was:
1) The Right Time (Matthew 4:12a)
Matthew 4:12a Now when he heard that John had been arrested, (he withdrew into Galilee). (ESV)
In Matthew’s presentation, Jesus’ official ministry began when the herald of the King went to jail. There may well have been a time interval of about a year, during which the events related in John 1:19–4:42 occurred. If so, the date when Jesus set out for Galilee to begin the Great Galilean Ministry was probably about December of the year A.D. 27 or a little later. (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 9: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. New Testament Commentary (238–239). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).
The Son of God always worked on His Father’s divine timetable. He had, as it were, a divine clock ticking in His mind and heart that regulated everything He said and did. Paul affirms:
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (ESV)
Jesus chose not to use His supernatural powers to accomplish things that could be accomplished by ordinary human means. He submitted Himself to human limitations. Although He knew what was in every, human’s heart (John 2:24–25), He learned of John’s imprisonment by common report, just as did everyone else. It was only when He heard of John’s arrest that He went back to Galilee.
John had been arrested/taken into custody by Herod Antipas and thrown into the dungeon at the palace at Machaerus, on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.
Luke 3:19-20 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. (ESV)
John’s reproof of Herod for his great wickedness, including the taking of his half-brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, for himself (14:3–4; Luke 3:19–20), cost the prophet his freedom and eventually his life. This non-Jewish Idumean was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea and, like his father before him, held office by Rome’s appointment. He was one of several sons (by several wives) of Herod the Great who were appointed over parts of the region ruled by their father before his death. Herodias was the woman-vile even by Roman standards-who would induce her daughter, Salome, to trick Herod into serving the head of John the Baptist on a platter before his guests at a royal dinner (Matthew 14:6–11). The act was so unusually barbaric that even the hardened Herod himself “was distressed” (v. 9, NIV ).
John the Baptist’s imprisonment and death, just as his heralding the King of kings, were in God’s divine plan and timetable. The end of the herald’s work signaled the beginning of the King’s. Herod and Herodias believed they freely controlled their province, and certainly the destiny of the insignificant Jewish preacher who dared condemn them. It is amazing how the proud and arrogant think they act in perfect freedom to accomplish their selfish ends, when in truth their decisions and actions only trigger events that God scheduled before the foundation of the world.