Let’s read that verse. Matthew 4:12 says, “Now when Jesus had heard that JOHN WAS CAST INTO PRISON, he departed into Galilee.” Let’s back up just a little bit and read John 3:22-28, “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in AEnon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. FOR JOHN WAS NOT YET CAST INTO PRISON. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.”

Matthew 4:1-12 may give the impression that the public work of the Lord Jesus began after John the Baptist had been imprisoned, but the portion in John 3:22-28 shows that the Lord Jesus and John were ministering to others at the same time. It was after this that John was cast into prison. We read in Matthew 14:3-4, “For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.” The reason John was imprisoned was because he spoke out against the evil that Herod was committing. He had taken his brother Philip’s wife away from him and took her as his own wife. Leviticus 18:16 tells us, “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.” It was against the Jewish law for someone to take his brother’s wife, which is what Herod had done. John the Baptist spoke out against Herod’s rebellion, and for this reason, Herod had his arrested and put into prison.

It was after he was put into prison and the Lord heard about it, that He determined to go into Galilee. The Lord’s trip into Galilee was prophesied as we read in Matthew 4:14-16, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” John’s imprisonment was an early sign of the rejection of the Lord. John was the forerunner of Christ, announcing His presence in the world. He said of himself in John 1:23, “He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.” With the rejection of John, indicating the Jews’ rejection of the Lord Jesus, He began to reach out to the Gentiles with the Gospel that the Jews had refused. So, it was in Galilee that “the people which sat in darkness saw great light.” That light was Christ.

Of course, John was never released from prison. He was beheaded. Matthew 14:6-11 says, “But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.” With the rejection of the forerunner, the rejection of the Lord was made clear. We read in John 1:11, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (258.2)