Lesson 17: Jesus Stopped Over at Bethabara on His Way to Galilee
Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14, Luke 3:19-20, John 1:35-51
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Lesson # 17. And welcome again to our study! Our last lesson covered the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. We are now ready to launch upon the personal ministry of Jesus. And surely, you are excited to reach this stage in our study. We want to know exactly: What DID Jesus teach? After Jesus was baptized by John, we learned in our last lesson, he was led into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan. That, dire and grievous experience lasted at least six weeks and we don't know the length of the recuperation period when the angels ministered to him; before Jesus could travel again. In that lesson we learned the first principle recorded in the N.T. that Jesus taught: "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." (Luke 4:4). The idea of bread there is a metaphor that more properly includes ALL material things.
But, to get oriented into our lesson today, I would like for you to notice in Matt. 4:12, immediately after the wilderness temptation of Jesus, Matthew points out that John was cast into prison. Mark makes the same statement, "AFTER John was put in prison..." in Mark 1:14. We skipped Luke 3:19-20, in our last lesson, you will recall. Those verses say: "But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him [i.e. John the Baptist] for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison." That's Luke's report. Also, I would like for you to observe in the same verse, Matthew said, Jesus departed into Galilee (Matt. 4:12). And, Mark likewise, in the verse immediately following the temptation (v.14), says "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God." Luke also, in the same relative place, i.e. immediately after his record of the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:14) says, "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee..." Thus, Matthew, Mark and Luke (the first three writers) after recording the baptism and temptation of Jesus; then report in a short statement that John was imprisoned and quickly skip on to Jesus in Galilee. This is sometimes referred to as Jesus's EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY. However, John filled in a few blanks that the other writers skipped over here. Turn with me to John 3:24. "John was not yet cast into prison." Do you see that? Then over in John 4:43, we finally read that Jesus went into Galilee. Thus, all the material in John's record preceding John 4:43 is skipped over by the first three writers. So, we have enough material here in the first four chapters of John to cover several lessons before we catch-up AGAIN with Matthew, Mark and Luke.
So, let's get into that. Turn to John 1:35. But, before we read that; let's review the text of John ch. 1, very briefly. After his prologue, John the apostle began his record here in v.]9 on a day when John the Baptist was being interrogated by some Pharisees, who were also priests and Levites that had been sent from Jerusalem for that purpose. Then in v.29 we learn that Jesus arrived there in Bethabara the next day or at least that's when Jesus again visited John. And, as I pounded on this before, this was several weeks AFTER John had baptized Jesus further down the Jordan. Thus, this was after the temptation of Jesus which had consumed at least six weeks someplace along the way there in the wilderness. Therefore, Jesus must have been in a very bad state of health; when he caught up with John the Baptist and John's disciples there at Bethabara. Jesus spent at least three days at Bethabara, possibly in rest and recuperation, before going on into Galilee. Now, what we're going to read here in v.35 was the next day, i.e. the third day in this report written by John the apostle. Alright, are you ready to read? Beginning in v.35, let's read. "Again the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! and the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou are Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone."
O.K. back up to v.35 and let's comb it down a little. On this third day (as John labeled it) John the Baptist was with two of his disciples, i.e. learners or followers of John the Baptist. Now, the name of one of John's disciples (here) was Andrew (v.40). But, who was the other disciple? His name is not revealed. However, this is usually thought to be John, who later became an apostle, and eventually wrote the book that we are now studying. And I believe this interpretation is correct; because John, other places in his writings, seems to refer to himself in an indirect way, similar to this reference. John was too modest to make the comment here, but John the apostle probably considered this day, one of the most memorable days in his entire life. I would infer that this was the day that, that writer first met Jesus. Thus, I would infer that John the Baptist here introduced John and Andrew to Jesus. "Behold, the Lamb of God!" John the Baptist had (in identical words) the day before; introduced Jesus to the Pharisees up in v.29. Except, THAT John (the day before) added the words, "that taketh away the sin of the world!" Now, I would assume, Andrew and John understood John the Baptist to mean the Messiah by that introduction. John and Andrew were a little shy; but they wanted to talk to Jesus. Did you notice the first question they asked Jesus; when Jesus asked them what they wanted? "Rabbi,... where dwellest thou?" I suppose that was a pretty good way to start a conversation. Where are you staying? Holiday Inn? Best Western? Or the Jordan Hotel? So, Jesus invited them to his place .of residence, wherever he was staying there in Bethabara. Now, they MET Jesus LATE in the afternoon, about the tenth hour! That translates out to about 4:00 PM our time. They counted time, 12 hours per day, i.e. of daylight, and they started counting when the sun came up of a morning.
V.39 apparently MEANS they STAYED with Jesus that night. Can you imagine what they discussed? It would be a great feast to know what they talked about that night. What about Moses? What about the prophets of old? What about Elijah? But, we are given NO HINT as to what they discussed. But, when daylight came, Andrew searched out his brother, Simon Peter, and undoubtedly with great enthusiasm said: Peter! "We have found the Messiah!" (v.41). And Andrew quickly must have taken Peter to meet Jesus. JESUS! This my brother, PETER! Peter, THIS is the Messiah! Can you imagine the firm handshake, or however they did it back then? Wonder what Peter USED as a conversation starter? Well, judging from what we learn about Peter's personality later; he probably DIDN'T have any trouble on that point. I get the impression Peter had a firm handshake; and handled himself well on such occasions. He gave a staunch appearance; and may have over done it just a little, in that respect. Now, don't think I'm trying to say ho was not sincere; because, I doubt if any person has ever been MORE sincere, than Peter. But, there was something about Peter's personality that Jesus signified or connotated in that word Cephas at the end of v.42. In other words, Jesus here gave Peter a nicknamed; if, I understand it correctly.
Now, what's this interpretation bit that John keeps throwing in? I'm talking about v.38, v.41 and again in v.42. Latch on to this! Here's the point! And, we'll run across this over and over. What John is saying is, Jesus, John, Peter, Andrew and others there spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. But, when John wrote this at a later time; (many years later) he wrote it in Greek. So, John, here quotes the conversation using some Aramaic words, in the language that the conversation actually took place. So, John (our writer) takes time out to explain or define the Aramaic words that he used. "Rabbi" up in 38 is the Aramaic word, but John points out in the parenthesis, that the word means "Master." Down in v.41 John quotes Andrew as telling Simon Peter, "We have found the Messiah". But, THEN John defines that Hebrew word "Messiah" for the reader. Actually, the word in Greek is, "Christos", meaning the anointed one. But the English equivalent that the Greek was ultimately translated into in the KJV is "Christ." Thus, Christ and Messiah is the same word, JUST two different languages.
Now, WHY did Jesus call Simon Peter a stone? This may seem a little strange to us. But, apparently it was a common gesture in those days to nickname a person by their appearance, personality, occupation or life style. The son of Zechariah became known as John the Baptizer. Thus, Jesus called Peter, "Cephas" (that was the Hebrew word) i.e. translated into English, Jesus simply called Peter a "stone1, or in Kentucky, we would say a "rock". This was done in a friendly way; NOT in an offensive way. This must have described something about Peter's appearance or personality. But, I'll let you form your own mental image here. Peter became one of Jesus' twelve apostles at a later time and perhaps the best know of the twelve. But, John here in his book, gives us an opportunity to eavesdrop (in a remote sort of way) upon the first association between Peter and Jesus. AND, at a later time Jesus selected this man, Andrew here as well as John as one of the twelve apostle also.
0. K., Let's read the rest of John chapter one. Beginning in v.43, are you ready? Let's read! "The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida/the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him/ Before that Philip called thee, when thou was under the fig tree, I saw thee. And Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou are the Son of God: thou are the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, Isay unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God descending and ascending upon the Son of man."
Alright,"the day following," in v.43, "Jesus would go forth into Galilee." Thus, Jesus left Bethabara on the fourth day and went into his home territory. Now, this is NOT, the time that Jesus went into Galilee, mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the verses we mentioned before. That was at a later time that we'll eventually get to. But, as Jesus left the Jordan here in v.43, this is the last record that we have that Jesus and John the Baptist were ever together upon this old earth. This was apparently late autumn of A.D. 29. And apparently Jesus stayed in Galilee unto the next passover which was the next spring, mentioned in John 2:13. Some commentators refer to this period as THE EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY OF JESUS. A period that we know very little about. Jesus must have went in the general direction of Nazareth. However, the point John wants us to get here is that in returning to Galilee, Jesus met up with a man named Philip, who was most likely another disciple of John the Baptist and whose hometown WAS Bethsaida on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. This is city # 7 on your map, the spelling is in v.44. John didn't interpret this word for us; but "beth" means house and the last part of the word has to do with fishing. So, Bethsaida was literally, the house of fishing in Hebrew. And, I trust you noticed this was also Peter and Andrew's hometown. It is interesting that Jesus did not meet all these men in their hometown. This could possibly mean they had attended a feast at Jerusalem and were on their way back home. The feast of Trumpets, the day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles all fell about October on our calendar. Or it could be since they were disciples of John the Baptist; it had to do with John's preaching along the Jordan. Jesus invited Philip to "follow" him. Philip, like Andrew was eager to spread the word to others that he had found the messiah. So, Philip in turn brought Nathanael unto Jesus, similar to the way Andrew had brought Peter. No relationship is expressed between Philip and Nathaniel and some mystery surrounds the identity of Nathaniel. Philip, Andrew, Simon Peter and John all later became apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ and that would seem to be the reason for Nathanael being introduced here in the book of John. But, Nathanael is mentioned only once more in the entire N.T. (John 21:2). He is never said to be an apostle. Some think Nathanael was the same as Bartholomew, who IS listed as an apostle and associated with Philip.
Now, take a second look at the conversation between Nathanael and Jesus. And, notice the words in v.45 that Philip used to introduce AND to identify Jesus. This gives you something of his concept and understanding of the O.T. Nathanael said, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Thus, I get the impression that Nazareth was not looked upon as the most affluent and cultural village around. Maybe a little like saying "Jesus lived on the other side of the tracks." V.48 makes it virtually certain that Jesus had not met this man before. But, Nathanael was quickly impressed with Jesus. That statement about the fig tree sounds as if Jesus' communication involved some supernatural aspect but, that is undoubtedly not intended as (2:1]) identifies Jesus' first miracle as being some place else. Whatever was involved, in that statement, quickly convinced Nathanael that Jesus was the Christ. Study the words in Nathanael's confession in v.49. I mentioned this before; the general Jewish conception (or maybe I should say misconception) was that the Messiah would be a great earthly king like David and Solomon had been in the O.T. Jesus assured Nathanael that he would see greater things in v50. What Jesus meant in v.51 about the angels ascending and descending and WHEN this has reference to, I am not sure. But, latch on to this man's concept of the Messiah and the KINGDOM IDEA as presented in other verses. It helps us see WHY these metaphors were used.
Thus, IF Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same man; then John introduced (in these verses) five of the twelve men who ultimately became apostles. We'll get back to John chapter 2 in our next lesson. Until then, have a good day.