February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.”—Matthew 4:12 (NIV)
The ministry of Jesus begins to make a significant shift here, in more ways than one. In a geographical sense, Christ relocates His base of operations at this particular point in time. Up until now, Jesus had primarily preached around His hometown in the region of Nazareth. This put Him on the firm footing of Jewish territory, which is what one would naturally expect of the Jewish Messiah. Of course He’s going to center His efforts in the heart of Judaic culture.
But not so fast! Because it’s at this juncture that Jesus does the unexpected. He leaves Nazareth and heads to the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee to a place called Capernaum (Matthew 4:13-16).
Why was this so unexpected? Because this was really the “outer rim” of the Jewish homeland in that time, it wasn’t the heart of Jewish culture by any means. Instead, Jesus surprisingly heads northward to Capernaum. Matthew takes advantage of this unexpected turn to remind his readers that this was actually forecasted in the Old Testament (Isaiah 9:1–2) to show that the Messiah would shine God’s light to those who seemed too far out of reach, even to the non-Jews (Gentiles) living on the fringes.
When we take a long and searching look at the way the Lord works; however, we find that the unexpected is actually to be expected! Isn’t God in the business of choosing the least likely things to advance His work and will? Wasn’t it an elderly barren couple by the name of Abram and Sarai that He chose to build His chosen nation of Israel on? Wasn’t a washed up “has been” named Moses chosen by Him to deliver them from Egyptian slavery? Wasn’t it an overlooked shepherd boy by the name of David that He chose to raise up to rule as Israel’s greatest king?
We can go on and on about how God chooses the least likely things to fulfill His purposes. And there’s no example more striking than that of Jesus, from His birth to His life to His death to His Resurrection, we see the unexpected woven throughout! His pivot from Nazareth to Capernaum is one such stitch. Truly, you can expect the unexpected with Jesus!
This can hit us one of two ways. It can either frustrate us because we may prefer a Lord who’s predictable and tame, always under the control of our own expectations, or it can excite us because we embrace the open adventure of not knowing exactly what the Lord is going to do next, often going in the opposite direction of our expectations.
The fact is, Jesus is who He is, and He isn’t going to change in order to accommodate our expectations of Him. So, it’s our choice to either reject or embrace this about Him. Again, we can cling to what we think we want Him to be and live in frustration and disappointment, or we can live in excitement and anticipation of where He will go, who He will reach, and what He will do next. Choose wisely!
Pause: What can we reasonably expect when it comes to the Lord?
Practice: Think about the way you respond to the unexpected and unpredictable aspect of God’s nature. Is there a better choice to make and way to live in this regard?
Pray: Lord God, we confess we’re control freaks, by nature. We want to control as much as possible in this life, including You! Forgive us for that. Forgive us for trying to box You in and being frustrated by You being You. Help us to open our clenched fists that try to clutch the reins of our existence and embrace the reality that You usually move in ways we don’t expect. By Your Spirit’s strength, empower us to be okay with that and to even celebrate that about You. Amen!
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.