This is a gospel of beginnings and of endings. John has been imprisoned, we are told.
The gates of a prison have closed on the mighty voice of John. This marks the end of the
preparatory period for the Messiah and the effective end of the prophetic voice in the
scriptures. It has always been the fate of prophets to end badly – even if their message
This gospel also marks the start of Jesus’ public ministry with its characteristically
radical demands. Jesus begins to speak and to preach openly. He begins in what was then
called ‘Galilee of the nations’, the crossroads of the known world. Sceptics and cynics
had asked, ‘can anything good come out of Galilee?’
Jesus preaching of the Good News is a message set to spread. The kingdom of God is
being announced. Light is dawning that will dispel the long night of sin and death. The
scriptures are being foretold. As the prophet Isaiah had said, ‘The people that lived in
darkness has seen a great light, On those who live in the land of deep shadow a light has
The Lord has come to take away the bar of oppression that weighed his people down, to
remove the yoke that locked his people into suffering and slavery. The Lord, the light and
help of mankind begins his mission among us.
Salvation has come to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.
Jesus’ first teaching is a call to repentance and forgiveness. All of his subsequent stories
are stories with a common thread of forgiveness. His dying words are words of
forgiveness for the repentant thief and for his killers. His resurrection gift is that of the
Spirit of forgiveness, offered to his repentant people.
This gospel represents a beginning for the Christian church and mission. To help Jesus in
his work and to spread his word there follows the choosing of apostles. ‘Follow me’ he
commands, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ The challenge of Jesus is radical and
immediate. They are to be fishermen of the vast fishing-ground of the human race. There
is an importance in Christ’s choice of ordinary men who leave all, expect their humanity
and follow him. The response of the apostles is an example of wholehearted obedience to
Christ’s call and to the point of great personal sacrifice.
Christ goes on his public mission all around Galilee, teaching, proclaiming the Good
News and authenticating his claims by curing the sick. Where this continues, where
repentance is preached, where the Good News is proclaimed, where people leave all to
follow him and become fishers of men, then truly the kingdom of God is close at hand.