The arrest of John the Baptist is the occasion for Jesus to withdraw. However, the withdrawal of Jesus is not one from fear or cowardice, but in keeping with his view of a non-violent kingship. Jesus will not retaliate or react. He remains always the actor, not the reactor.
The reason why Matthew has Jesus settle in
While in Mark the first words that Jesus speaks consist of his proclamation, this is not the case in Matthew. Jesus speaks first with John the Baptist and during the temptations responds to Satan. However, the first public words that Jesus speaks in Matthew are found here. They consist of an imperative based on an indicative. The imperative is the call to “Repent”. The reason for this repentance is that the kingdom of haven is here or has already arrived. The text therefore explicates that no one can do anything or need do anything to bring about the kingdom. No amount of effort on the part of human beings can result in the coming of the kingdom. The reason for this is that it has already come and is given as a free gift to all of humankind. The proper response to the arrival of the kingdom is receiving it with all humility and simplicity and openness and receptivity. A change of mind, heart and vision is what is required to receive the kingdom as a free gift from God. Since the kingdom that Jesus brings is one that has never been experienced before, a narrow mind with a stereotypical way of looking at God and the world will not be able to comprehend it, thus the new mind.
Many of us still think that it is our good deeds which are responsible for our salvation and that if we continue to do good and be good, we will have earned eternal life. This is a warped way of understanding God, Jesus and his message. Our God in Jesus is not a God who is a grocer or one who deals with us as in barter exchange. Salvation can never be earned or bought by our goodness. Rather, our goodness is a consequence of our salvation.
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