So far Jesus has spent most of His time in the northern part of the country with only short periods on visits to Jerusalem. After spending the first Passover of His public ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus returns home once again. During the year between the second Passover to the third, the Lord will minister exclusively in the area of Galilee near His original home and the homes of many of His Apostles.
We pick up the story from the point where He was at Cana in the north and returns to Jerusalem for a brief story during the second Passover after which He will turn northward again.
There are thirty-six events recorded during this period. Most are described by Matthew, Mark and Luke with John providing the story of the first incident and sharing a description of the last three.
33. Jesus attends second Passover
At His first appearance in the temple, Jesus affected the crowds with His zeal (cleansing the temple) and signs and teaching. The priests saw Him as a nuisance and tried to get rid of Him by confronting Him. This second Passover appearance infuriates the Jews because He does two things:
- He heals a man on the Sabbath and orders him to pick up his pallet and go home. They accused Him of sinning because He had healed (in the Temple of all places) on a Sabbath – this was work. Jesus gave the man instructions to carry his pallet – this was work.
- In His preaching He equates Himself with God: punishable by death if untrue.
His position has gone from challenger and nuisance to enemy and threat. John says that they begin seeking ways to kill Him so that He was now in danger if He stayed in Jerusalem.
34. Return to Galilee
Luke only begins this section with "and" without connecting it to other events, but the information contained matches other information in Matthew and Mark for this time frame.
Jesus, rejected in Jerusalem, returns to the north once again and goes into His hometown of Nazareth to preach. He also begins to declare His true identity by telling them that a passage in Isaiah concerning the Messiah referred directly to Him personally. His people are amazed since they see Him only as a hometown boy, but when He insists that this is the truth and that if they don't accept it – it will go to the Gentiles (another new development in His preaching). They too become angry and try to mob Him. He escapes their attack and leaves town.
35. Jesus settles in Capernaum
After His rejection at Nazareth, He goes to His adult home in Capernaum at the north side of the lake and settles there.
Here He teaches and performs a miracle (casts out a demon), but here the people are amazed and spread the knowledge of Him throughout the region, helping the spread of His ministry.
36. Healing of Simon's Mother-in-Law
These events come close together and are hard to put in order since the writers tell the story differently.
- Preaching and healing at Capernaum
- Healing Simon's Mother-in-Law
- Call to Apostles
However, Mark says that immediately after leaving the synagogue, they went to Peter's house and Jesus healed his Mother-in-Law and many rich who sought Him out. This event leads to the next in logical order.
37. The call of Simon, Andrew, James and John
Mark is out of sync with his account, but his gospel is a series of snap shots of Jesus' life, not meant to follow a precise chronological order (unlike Luke who is a historian and is more particular).
After the powerful preaching followed by the miracles, even a miracle done for the Apostles themselves (Jesus shows them where to find a huge catch of fish), the Lord takes the opportunity to call 4 men into full-time ministry.
Up until this time these men have continued their work as fishermen and followed Jesus as disciples. But now Jesus calls on them to leave everything to be with Him full-time. Now their training as Apostles will begin in earnest.
38. Circuit preaching through Galilee
Once Jesus has His disciples called, they set out on a preaching tour of the region. His miracles and teaching, as well as the news of His activity in Jerusalem had caused a great interest in the north. Jesus begins the training process of His newly called Apostles by taking them along on the speaking tour that He had up until this point done largely on His own.
39. Jesus heals a leper
The Jews believed that when the Messiah came, He would be able to cure lepers. This leper comes to Jesus convinced that Jesus could cure him – and Jesus does. His reason for coming was faith that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jesus tells him not to tell anyone (to avoid people coming for a cure, but not related to faith). The man is overjoyed and can't contain himself and tells everyone. This causes the Lord to avoid the cities because of the crowds searching for Him and looking for a sign or miracle.
40. Return to Capernaum
The leper's unwanted publicity seems to have forced an end to the preaching tour and Jesus returns to His home in Capernaum. While He is in His home there are crowds that come to hear Him speak – even at His house.
It was during this time that several men, who couldn't get inside the house through the door, decide to remove the tile from His roof and lower one of their paralyzed friends through so he could be with the Lord. Jesus forgives the man's sins first (to show His divine authority) and when the scribes sitting there questioned if He had authority, Jesus healed the man to show that He had both the authority to forgive sins and the power to heal since one goes with the other (only God can heal/only God can forgive) – if you can do one you can do the other.
41. The calling of Matthew
After this event He was by the Sea of Galilee where He found and called Matthew as His next Apostle.
So far, most of His Apostles are relatives and fishermen from His own region. Matthew is not a relative or fisherman, but a despised tax collector for the region. He collected Roman tax and tacked on a collecting fee for his services. He, as a tax collector for a foreign government, was considered a sinner along with gamblers, thieves, herdsmen, custom officials, etc. As such, they could not act as judges or witnesses against others because of their moral uncertainty.
Jesus, nevertheless, calls this man to follow and he does so immediately. So enthusiastic is he about his call that he invites Jews to his home for a feast. Many of his "sinner" friends are there and this causes the Jews to murmur that Jesus is associating with sinners. Jesus was associating with sinners, but not to share their sins, He was there to call them out of their sins.
42. Questions on fasting
43. Questions on working
44. Pharisees plot His death
Now that He has saturated the north with His healings, miracles, teaching and witnessing about Himself there begins a concerted effort to discredit Him and His teaching – blowback!
At first it was John's disciples along with the Pharisees' disciples who challenged the Apostles because they did not fast. Then it was the Pharisees who challenged them for eating corn they picked on the Sabbath. Of course the answer to these and all other objections was that Jesus was the Messiah and in His presence no fasting was required, and in His service all work was blessed at all times.
Of course the Pharisees rejected the claim of His being the Messiah and when their efforts to discredit Him fail, they began to try to silence Him for good.
45. Jesus withdraws from the attacks
The confrontations and plots to take His life force Him to withdraw from the public places. However, this does not stop the crowds from coming to Him – all the way from Jerusalem. Jesus teaches and heals all who come to Him.
46. Jesus appoints the twelve
His ministry has grown so large that He cannot easily move from place to place because of the crowds; He cannot venture into the main cities without drawing violence towards Himself.
After a long night of prayer, Jesus chooses among His many disciples, 12 who will become His Apostles.
- Disciples are ones who follow.
- Apostles are messengers who are sent ahead.
These twelve men who have been disciples from the beginning of His ministry are called to be in exclusive service to Him and the gospel as Apostles. He gives them instructions about their work and empowers them for the task.
This will change the nature and growth of His ministry as the Apostles will now begin to bring the message ahead of Jesus in preparation for His coming into a place.
Although this section describes much of Jesus' work in the north and the growing opposition towards Him, one thread that's seen through these events is the approach and work of "ministry." For example:
1. Ministry is in stages
Note that God sent Jesus out in stages; as a child, a boy, family, region, main cities, disciples, messengers, etc. Note also that the disciples grew in their time and commitment – first part-time disciples, then Apostles, finally giving their lives to God in death.
In the end God will want us to be with Him and devoted to Him forever (a joy for us) and so as disciples and ministers we are, in this life, working our way towards that total devotion now.
- If you don't want that now, you're not going to have it later.
- Those who love the world (even if they say they are Christians) do so at the expense of devoting themselves to God.
- We need to check which way we're going; more devoted to God or less?
2. Ministry is like stone polishing
The example of what Jesus did with the Apostles is much like what He does with us in the church. He took 12 very different men (zealots, tax collectors, fishermen, intellectuals, etc.) and like 12 uncut, unpolished stones, He put them in a bag and shook them together for three years. Circumstances, work, challenges, etc.
After 3 years 11 of them came out smooth and polished like jewels – and one was crushed to dust (Judas).
It's the same way with us in the church. Jesus takes different people with different backgrounds, puts us all in a bag and shakes us up for a lifetime. Some will come out as smooth and polished stones ready for His crown by faithfully persevering in faith and in love; and some will be turned to dust because of unfaithfulness, sinfulness and lack of commitment.
READING ASSIGNMENT FOR CHAPTER 6
- Matthew 5:1-8:1; Luke 6:20-49
- Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10
- Luke 7:11-17
- Matthew 11:20-30
- Luke 7:36-50
- Luke 8:1-3
- Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:22-30; Luke 11:14-15
- Matthew 12:38-45; Luke 11:16, Luke 11:24-36
- Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:20-21; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21
- Matthew 13:1-53; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-18
- Matthew 8:18-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25
- Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-40
- Matthew 9:1; 18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:41-56
- Matthew 9:27-34
- Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6
- Matthew 9:35-38; Mark 6:6
- Matthew 10:1-11:1; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6
- Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9
- Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14
- Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:15-21
- John 6:22-71
- Why was it practical for Jesus to approach His ministry in stages? How does this staged pattern relate to us?
- How do we, who are members of God's Kingdom today, develop the characteristics of the Apostles who were the first to follow Jesus?
- How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?