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When Jesus returned from the desert, John was in prison. John had boldly told everyone that Herod had sinned by marrying his brother's wife. Because John had challenged Herod, John had been arrested and imprisoned. Many people expected Jesus to challenge Herod, too. The Holy Spirit rested on Jesus. He had resisted the devil. Now, people thought, he would save John. But Jesus "withdrew" to Galilee.
Was Jesus running away? Was he hiding in his hometown?
Was Jesus, the Son of God, afraid of Herod?
Albert Einstein helps us resolve this dilemma.
In 1905, Einstein published the theory of relativity. This theory changed the way people viewed the world. Space and time began to be understood as a complex unit called “spacetime.” Our understanding of gravity changed because of “spacetime.”
Imagine that spacetime is a sheet.
When heavy objects are placed on the sheet, the sheet bends.
If a lighter object is placed on the sheet, it will be drawn to the heavier object that is already on the sheet.
If a heavier object is placed on the sheet, the object on the sheet will be drawn to this heavier object.
Jesus is like the heaviest weight on the sheet. Everything is drawn to him. Because we human beings are not the heavy weight, we must work to captivate others. We must use anger, politics, and weapons to obtain power. But he does not need to move—everything naturally comes to him.
The Bible only makes sense if we understand that God is the heaviest weight. If we think that kings or nations or natural forces are more powerful than God, scripture will confuse us. We will think that Jesus is running away from Herod in Matthew 4. But he is not running away. Herod is not the heaviest weight; Jesus is.
Matthew wrote this scripture to explain that Jesus was returning to Galilee to fulfill Isaiah 9. Since Jesus is the heaviest weight in the Bible, every scripture, including Isaiah 9, is drawn toward Jesus.
Isaiah 9 tells us that the Messiah's work will begin in "the Land of Zebulon, the Land of Naphtali," and this is where Galilee is located. Scripture shows us that even the Israelites did not regard these lands as valuable. King Solomon gives away twenty towns in this area to the King of Tyre.
These lands swarm with Gentiles. The region was often berated in Israel for its strange brew of races and gods. Through Isaiah, God prophesied that those in this land would be the first Israelites sent into captivity. The area is called a “land that sat in darkness.” But God also says that this land will “see a great light.”
It is here that God the Son chooses to begin his earthly ministry.
Because Jesus is the Word, he knows that this is what Isaiah 9 means. So when Jesus hears about John’s arrest, he knows his time is at hand. He also knows that his ministry must begin in Galilee. Therefore, withdraws there.
In last week’s gospel reading, three people came to Jesus and called him Lamb of God and Messiah.
This week, Jesus calls them. In fact, he commands them.
“Follow me,” he says.
And they follow him.
The heaviest weight in the world is Christ. All nations bow before him. All scripture rushes toward him. Everyone is drawn to him.
But if that is true, why isn’t everyone Christian?
Bending the knee to God and welcoming his reign are two different things. Everyone serves God’s will, whether they want to or not. But the Christian is the one who welcomes God’s will. Blaise Pascal captures this reality precisely when he writes:
[God] openly appear[s] to those who look for Him with all their heart, [but he] hid[es] from those who run from Him with all their heart. God governs human knowledge of His presence. He gives signs that are visible to those who search for Him, and yet invisible to those who are indifferent to Him. To those who wish to see, God gives sufficient light; to those who do not wish to see, He gives sufficient darkness.