Have you ever gotten one of those phone calls, probably late at night, to say that a close friend has been arrested? It may be another friend of both of you that calls, or it may be the wife, husband or parent of the one arrested or it may well be the friend who calls. They may be looking for help or just someone who will take care of some things for them that are about to happen. Sometimes it is a plea for you to help bail them out of jail. It took place with Jesus when he received word that his friend, partner and first cousin, John the Baptist was arrested, It was not long after Jesus had gone to John at the Jordan River to be baptized by him. People from all over the area were coming to hear him preach about the coming kingdom and to be baptized for their sins to be forgiven. He was not the average preacher or teacher for that day or any other. He lived in the desert, ate locust and wild honey and wore camel’s hair with a leather belt. He had pointedly spoken to the religious leaders among the people telling them that they were not living right and if they thought that being the physical descendants of Abraham would make them right with God they were wrong. God is able to raise up descendants of Abraham from these rocks. But that wasn’t what led to him being arrested. He had preached to King Herod about his marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, telling him that he had no right to her. It not only angered Herod but it put Herodias into a rage. She wanted his life for it. One might think that preaching is a safe life. But if one tells the truth to others about things that are very personal and sensitive to them, it often leads to angry words and violent deeds.
Look at what Jesus did when John was arrested. John had been deeply involved in preaching the message of the coming kingdom. The epitome of his preaching was, “repent and be baptized for the kingdom of heaven is near.” In Matthew 4:12 it says, “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.” Matthew had just recorded the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness where he had spent forty days, fasting and praying. When Jesus completed the battle with the devil, Satan left him for a time and angels came to minister to Jesus. Then he heard the news of John’s arrest and determined to go back to Galilee.
It seems to me that Jesus’ actions on learning of the arrest of John give us insight into how to handle those tough situations that arise in life all along. Focus on what he did for a moment. First, he went back to Galilee, the area where he had grown up. Judea was the place for the religious authorities, the temple and the ceremonies. But Jesus always seemed more at home in Galilee. The next verse says, “And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.” In Capernaum is the place where Jesus was at his home, and the crowds gathered so tightly that when four men brought a paralytic to be healed, they had to tear away part of the roof to let the man down in front of Jesus. This became his new home. When hard, tragic times come, it often helps to get back to familiar territory among people you already have a connection. Plus it had the effect of getting him away from the religious leaders in Jerusalem and of Herod. Jesus was able to carry on his ministry until the proper time came for his death by staying outside Judea where most of the friction was, most of the time.
In Galilee, He took up the work John had been doing. He began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus always avoided being in conflict in any way with John or his disciples. When the word got out that he and his disciples were baptizing more than John, Jesus left the area and went through Samaria for a time. In Matthew 4:23 it says, “He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.” He preached the same message that John had proclaimed, but along with the preaching, he did miraculous deeds in healing people who were hurting in all kinds of ways. When we are struggling in some hard time in life, it is powerful to see the difference it makes for us if we are involved in helping others with their pains and issues.
Finally, Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They left their nets and followed him. Their lives changed tremendously. Jesus had close companions that would walk with him throughout his life on this earth. Nothing helps us more in facing life’s challenges than having others we love, walking along with us and sharing life together.