12 When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. 13 He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”
17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.
Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the kingdom of heaven is near. Matthew is about to give us a lot more of Jesus’ teaching, but he begins with this as a summary statement. The Sermon on the Mount is an explanation of what it means to repent of our sins, what it means to turn to God, what it means to live with the Kingdom drawn so close. If you look back to Matt. 3.2 you will see that this is word-for-word what John said there, the message is the same as both (for Matthew) are the culmination and fulfillment of all God’s promises and prophecies to Israel. The command comes in two parts, repent of your sins and turn to God, but they describe one motion. Repenting literally means to turn away from, in turning the direction of your life from pointing to sin and self to pointing to Jesus, you have undergone the turning-away-and-toward action and are ready to live according to the Great Sermon that is about to begin, ready to live in the truth that the Kingdom is very close, ready to embrace the fullness of the calling, which is always a call to discipleship, always a call to follow and fish for humans. You don’t have to recite a specific prayer or swear allegiance to any certain creed, but you do have to take that first step, actually more of a basketball pivot, turning around, pointing your compass Jesus-north, and then commence following Jesus. And don’t be fooled, a lot of people who call themselves Christians and consider themselves “saved” have never done this. Jesus did not come to make converts, Jesus came to make disciples, followers, doers. And what do these followers do? Read verses 23 and 24 again. That’s what followers do.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.