Lesson 24: Jesus Began His Public Ministry
Matthew 4:12-17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 3:19-20, 4:14-15, John 4:43-54
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Welcome to lesson # 24. In our last lesson we covered Jesus passing through Samaria. John 4:40 said, "when the Samaritans came unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days." V.43-44-45 we have not read; but, I would like to read that right now. Are you ready? "Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country. Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast." So, Jesus finally returned to Galilee. It's a little hard for me to reconcile this was as late as December as was suggested in our last lesson back in v.35. The feast mentioned in v.45 is not identified. The feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles were close together in the fall of the year, finishing up sometime in October on our calendar. Thus, we cannot be sure about the time. But, it's logical that Jesus may have went back into Galilee after these feasts and before the beginning of the rainy season. V.45 undoubtedly means that the people of Galilee were glad to see Jesus back in his home territory.
O.K. with Jesus back in Galilee, this is where Matt., Mark, and Luke blend BACK into our study. You will remember, it was our aim to follow the general outline of Luke. We skipped over Luke 3:19-20. Let's read that right now. Have you got it? Luke 3:19-20. Luke was discussing John the Baptist. Let's read. "But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evil which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison." ALRIGHT, FINALLY you can highlight verses 19-20. John was shut up in prison! The Herod mentioned here was Herod Antipas the tetrarch of Galilee, a son of Herod-the-Great. You recall, John the Baptist was teaching and baptizing at a lake called Aenon only a few week before (John 3:23). That's where John's disciples got into a dispute with the Pharisees over purifying. And John made that speech about his disciples' attitude.
Why did Antipater Herod arrest John? Two things are given in v.19, (#1) because John reproved Herod (i.e. he blamed Herod) for having Herodias and (#2) "for all the evils which Herod had done." That could have been quite a catalog of sins, so this must have been quite a clash. And notice the way Luke said it (3:20), on top of all other sins Herod added some more by imprisoning John. If John called the Pharisees and Sadducees snakes, can you imagine how John characterized Herod? John, 30 years of age, filled with the Spirit, a diet of locusts and wild honey; camel's hair clothing tied-up with a crude raw-hide belt of some kind; didn't hesitate to tell it like it was in his preaching. So, when the opportunity came, John poured it on Herod also. We learn in Matt. 14:4 that John said to Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." i.e. Herodias. The Herod family were a real incestuous soap opera mess. The Philip mentioned here in Luke 3:19 was NOT Philip the tetrarch of Iturea mentioned up in Luke 3:1. Herod Antipater had AT LEAST two half brothers named Philip. Herod-the-Great was married ten times and Herod Antipater's mother was a Samaritan woman. And, you NOW know all about the Samaritan, right? But, the Philip mentioned here also had another half brother named Aristobulus. Philip and Aristobulus were both sons of Herod-the-Great. Their mothers were both Jewish girls, and to confuse things a little more, both women were named Mariamne. Then, Aristobulus Herod had a daughter named Herodias, mentioned here in Luke 3:19. She first married her half uncle, Philip, and they had a daughter named Salome. Then Herodias did a switch and married her husband, Philip's half brother, Antipater Herod, who was ALSO her half uncle and tetrarch of Galilee mentioned here in Luke 3:19. Why did John tell Antipater "It is NOT LAWFUL for thee to have her?". I would assume when John said it was NOT LAWFUL, he was referring to Leviticus ch. 18 and the fact that she was his niece making the marriage an incestuous relationship, for starters. I don't know Antipater's marriage status before he took Herodias; so, I'll disregard that. But, he was not entitled to his brother Philip's wife (according Leviticus 18:16) even if Herodias HAD NOT BEEN related to Antipater. So, John had grounds for this accusation on about three or four different fronts. And John chewed out Herod for more evils than just his incestuous marriage relationship according to the last part of Luke 3:19. Jesus called this Herod a "fox" in Luke 13:32; but we'll get to that later.
Right now, get your perspective, John was in a prison cell some place in Galilee and the sad fact is that he remained there for many months. But, right now, let's snatch a couple more verses from Luke, ch.4. V.14-15. Got your eyes on it? Let's read. "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region around about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all." O.K. this agrees with John 4:45 where it simply said, "the Galileans received him." Now, I trust you noticed, Luke’s statement followed his record of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, i.e. v.1-13 of chapter 4. Thus, skipping over Jesus' trip to the passover, the cleansing of the temple, Nicodemus, the speech of John the Baptist, and the Samaritans. And don't miss this point: when Jesus got back into Galilee; v.15 here tells us, WHERE he began to teach — in the synagogues. This is the first time we have encountered the word "synagogue" in our study. What is a synagogue? O.K. get the synagogue and the temple clearly separated in your mind; they are NOT the same. The temple was a permanent structure in Jerusalem that replaced the tabernacle in the O.T. at the time of Solomon. Synagogues are not mentioned in the O.T. Apparently synagogues came into being during the 400 silent years between the O.T. and the N.T. probably while the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. As they began to meet in those foreign lands for prayer, study, edification, etc., with no access to the temple; they began to meet locally as a synagogue. The word at first simply meant a congregation or an assembly; but, later the word took on the idea of a PLACE of assembly. When the Jews returned from captivity into Palestine or wherever they went, they built synagogues as a place for weddings, funerals and as well as a place to teach the children. A set of hand-written scrolls containing what we would call the O.T. was usually maintained at the synagogues. It was too expensive to maintain a complete set of scrolls in the home as we have the Bible today. So, the synagogue was probably the closest thing to what we know as a "church building". Synagogues were part of Jewish tradition, they are NOT authorized by scripture. We have already learned the Pharisees were big on tradition. Synagogues abounded at the time of Jesus. So as Jesus began his public ministry, he often took advantage of these assemblies as they provided a ready audience. But, this was not the only place where he taught; it was just one natural place.
Now thumb a few pages back to Matt. 4:12. And you will observe that this also follows Matthew's account of the temptation. V.12-17. Matthew ch. 4. Let's read. "Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali: that is might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, The land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, 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 in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." O.K. did you notice (v.12) that Matthew said Jesus had heard John was cast into prison before Jesus left Judea. This we didn't know before and no doubt had something to do with Jesus returning to Galilee. Jesus left Nazareth and dwelt in Capernaum, city # 9 on your map. You should, already have it posted. Do you remember what we called Matthew's FULFILLMENT DOCTRINE? He's at it again. Matthew said (v.14) that this was according to the prophet Isaiah. Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the twelve tribes of Israel and this territory known as Galilee WAS ONCE their land. V.15-16 is a quotation from Isaiah 9:1-2.
But, pay particularly close attention to v.17, here. From that time, i.e. from the time that John was cast into prison (v.13); Jesus began to preach. This is the first time we have encountered the word "preach" in connection with Jesus; it simply means to declare or to proclaim publicly. Thus, we learn here that Jesus did not begin an active public ministry until after John was put in prison. Although Jesus had taught many, e.g. Nicodemus was taught about baptism and entering the kingdom (John ch. 3). Jesus taught the woman at the well and the Samaritans that a new kind of worship would soon arrive from God. And, Jesus had taught and baptized more disciples than John. But, according to v.17, it was after Jesus came back into Galilee that he began an active public ministry. Now, notice something else in v.17. What did Jesus preach? "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Now, first off, you should realize this is Matthew's SUMMARY STATEMENT of what Jesus preached. This is the essence of what Jesus taught. Secondly, let me ask you: Have you ever heard that doctrine before? Compare what Jesus preached in Matthew's summary statement with what John the Baptist preached in Matt. 3:2. ALMOST, word for word! Jesus spoke mostly to Jews who already believed in God; thus, repentance and restoration to the Mosaic way was the primary ingredient needed at that time. And Jesus emphasized, just like John, that the kingdom was close at hand.
Now, let's read Mark's account. Mark 1:14-15. Mark says it short and sweet. Are you ready, let's read. "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." What does it mean to say, "The time is fulfilled?" Obviously, the time is up, or very close at hand. That's what both Jesus and John taught about the kingdom. V.15 here is the only place in the N.T. where the word "repent" and the word "believe" occur together and in this order. Some of our denominational friends try to make a lot of hay out of this, and use it to teach repentance before faith. This would be an illogical order for us; because the word repent literally means for one to change their mind or change their will. Thus, such mind changing activity would naturally follow faith or believing. In other words, one must have confidence in the truth, i.e. believe the gospel before they could and would logically resolve to act accordingly, i.e. repent. However remember; we just said that Jesus spoke to Jews who believed, i.e. they accepted the O.T., they claimed to believe in Moses and the prophets. They had been circumcised and kept the feast days, etc. However, MOST OF THEM still needed some of that mind changing activity that Jesus and John called repentance. In other words, their first step was to be restored to the Mosaic way. Then, step two, in addition to that they must believe the good news that Jesus was the Messiah as well, i.e. the gospel. So, in that sense (as Jesus intended the statement), that was a perfectly logical order — you see. Although, it would NOT BE the logical order for an alien sinner today.
Now, there are a about 9 verses at the end of John ch. 4 that I would like to crowd into this lesson. John 4:46-54. We're going to read that; but, before we do, see if you can fit this in to our discussion. Matt. 4:13 said that after Jesus came out of Judea into Galilee; he left Nazareth and went to Capernaum. The incident here at the end of John ch. 4 undoubtedly took place before Jesus arrived at Capernaum. Let's read. Beginning in v.46. "So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee."
O.K. from your map you can see Capernaum and Cana are separated by at least a full day's travel. It's obvious Jesus's return into Galilee was soon spread over the district by word of mouth. The man from Capernaum traveled all the way TO Cana to track down Jesus. The man is referred to as a NOBLEMAN. That word literally means, "one of the king men." Thus, undoubtedly the man was a Jew and a publican. Now, look at his request. He wanted Jesus to COME DOWN and heal his son. Notice what Jesus said, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." Now, get the implication here. Miracles were for the purpose of producing faith, NOT merely for extending physical life upon this old planet we call Earth. Jesus' miracles of healing, etc., verified Jesus' divinity. Many who came to Jesus were interested only in their own selfish welfare. But, when Jesus saw the faith of this man who had to travel at least two days coming and going; Jesus simply said the word and the man's son was healed immediately. The man even verified the timing (v.52). This proves that Jesus is not limited by time and space. And, like all miracles that Jesus DID this was NOT some vague, intangible CLAIM like the so-called miracles of today. The fever left the boy immediately, a measurable and observable symptom. Now, the faith of this nobleman was NOT necessary in order for Jesus to heal the boy. Undoubtedly the man DID believe in Jesus to some degree or he would never have traveled those weary mountain roads up hill from the Sea of Galilee seeking Jesus. All that was necessary was for Jesus to simply say the word. How this was accomplished behind the scenes, of course, I don't know. And, it's not necessary to know in order to understand by cause and effect that it happened. In v.54, John points out this was the second time that Jesus came out of Judea and done a miracle in Cana of Galilee. The first was "when he made the water wine." (v.46).
You will remember that Matthew pointed out (4:13) that Jesus went to Capernaum to dwell, apparently a little later. After John was put in prison, and Jesus began an all out public ministry Capernaum was apparently Jesus' principal place of residence. It is even referred to as "his own city" in Matt 9:1. This period is sometime called Jesus' GREAT GALILEAN MINISTRY in some literature to distinguish it from the Early Galilean Ministry the year before. We'll get back to this. But, for now; have a good day!