Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

This excerpt comes from Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 4:12-23:

John the Baptist is arrested. The struggle has only begun. Some may find Jesus’s reaction to John’s arrest strange—he withdraws to Galilee. He escapes from Judea and the power of Archelaus. Jesus does not seek a direct confrontation with the powers, rather he begins to preach, declaring as John had, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Yet unlike John, Jesus proclaims the nearness of the kingdom in “Galilee of the Gentiles.”

Jesus goes to Galilee to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that a light will dawn in the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali (Isa. 9:1). Isaiah identifies that light with the child on whose shoulders will rest all authority. He will be named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa. 9:6–7)

David’s kingdom is now present in Jesus. Jesus now proclaims the advent of the kingdom in Galilee to the Gentiles—a remarkable development, but one that Israel itself anticipated, as we see from the prophet Isaiah. It is a kingdom that requires repentance. Repentance, moreover, requires a training called discipleship. So we should not be surprised that Jesus now calls his first disciples. He does not call his disciples from the powerful or the elites, but rather he calls fishermen, promising to make them fish for people.

When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, James and John, they are working. Yet in both instances they immediately leave their nets and follow him. We are even told that James and John leave their father—a leaving signaling the sacrifices that the disciples will have to undergo in order to recognize who it is they follow, for the kingdom born in this man, the kingdom of David, requires a transformation that all his disciples must undergo. The new David is not one whose purple is immediately evident, but rather his power can be found only in his crucifixion. It will take new eyes and ears to see and hear the truth proclaimed through the cross.


©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


  1. Unlike David and his kingdom of Israel, Jesus shows his power in a new way in Galilee of the Gentiles. As he travels around Galilee, crowds flock to him to be healed; and these crowds come from as far away as (Gentile) Syria and the Decapolis (4:23-25). The great power and widespread mercy shown in this healing reveals (to those with eyes to see) a new king (and kingdom) that will show mercy even to (national) enemies. This foreshadows the climax of Matthew (28:18-20), where Jesus (as risen king) commands his disciples to go among all the nations making new disciples, teaching them to do everything he commanded (such as loving one’s enemies). Matthew is early on introducing this new king–acting mercifully on behalf of Gentiles–and his new kingdom of disciples (who will become an international kingdom in the future).

    Such disciples, like their king, will have to leave behind the revered fathers (of household and nation) and take up their cross, facing hatred and rejection from those ruling fathers (and those loyal to them), who are fully committed to their more narrow special interests.