‘Are you from Galilee too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee’ ~ John 7:52
This statement from Jewish leaders who were considered well-versed with the law and were actually custodians of it, was a euphemism directed to Jesus. To put it bluntly, the question was, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ (John 14:6). Nazareth was a town in the ‘district of Galilee’ (Matthew 2:22). It was considered a God-forsaken place. In fact, it was referred to as ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ (v15) and ‘the land of the shadows of death’ (v16). You see, the Gentiles were not only non-Jews, but those who lived in darkness because they did not know God nor have His law. However, that God-forsaken place was where God in the flesh grew up and where Jesus began His ministry. This was to fulfil a prophecy made through Prophet Isaiah, ‘Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned’ (v15-16).
If the religious leaders and Jews at that time would have really known God and His mysterious and perfect ways, then they would have known that ‘God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one can boast before him’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). And to date, God still chooses the same. So when the True Light came, it was obvious that He would go to the darkest place, the land of the shadows of death, to a people living in darkness. Because then, the brightness of the Light would be undeniable. ‘See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you’ (Isaiah 60:2).
Jesus who says ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12) dawned into the dark world and to a darkened people, and those who believe and receive Him, become like Him. Jesus tells them, ‘You are the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14). So when those who once lived in darkness believe in the True Light and see that ‘the entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple’ (Psalm 119:13), their status changes- from good for nothing to glorious. Each time a person receives the True Light, and they come out of darkness to become light bearers, this jubilation is sounded; ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you’ (Isaiah 60:1). When the glory of the Lord rises upon you, no longer will people ask Can anything good come from such a person? or dare say that A prophet can never come from such a state. Instead, people will see for themselves that ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning’ (James 1:17). They will finally remark as they did to Jesus, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world’ (John 6:14).
When the glory of God dawns on a person, it does not matter if people around realize it or not. It does not matter if they accept it or not, and neither does it hinder the entrance and workings of the Light in one’s life. When Ezekiel was prophesying the words of God, and none was paying attention, God says to him, ‘Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them to practice’ (Ezekiel 33:32). So God continues, ‘When all this comes true – and it surely will – then they will know that a prophet has been among them’ (v33).
When the Light dawns on a person, it transforms them so much that people may not believe that such a change can occur in such a person. This is because they have their minds fixed on the narrative like that of Galilee, nothing good can come out of it. However, the Light cares less about the former darkness and shines through and through. God even urges, ‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has her husband’ (Isaiah 54:1). God urges on, ‘Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth’ (v4). In the same way, Galilee forgot its good for nothing, God-forsaken, narrative when Jesus Christ came in His glorious light.
The first message that Jesus spoke when He began His ministry in God-forsaken Galilee was ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17). Repentance has to do with a turning, a shift. Once we turn our focus from darkness – from our sin, insufficiencies, shortcomings and inabilities, then we can truly see that the glorious kingdom of light near us. We were once ‘without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13). Now living as Children of Light, we are ‘taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is corrupt according to its deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new man, created to be like God in the true righteousness and holiness’ (4:v22-24).
When we ‘put ye on the Lord Christ Jesus’ (Romans 13:14), our narrative changes so that ‘Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God’ (1 Peter 2:10). Even though our flesh may fail, we have hope that Jesus our Light ‘will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body’ (Philippians 3:21) because ‘will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness?’ (2 Corinthians 3:8-9). While living in the Spirit which Jesus sends to all those who believe in Him, all labels of our past are thrown out the window. The Spirit that works in us now brings out all the good and godly so we become ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). After all, Jesus can make everything good come out of Galilee!