Lesson 71: From Capernaum to Jerusalem
John 7:1-10, Luke 9:51-62
Welcome again! This is lesson # 71. Our last two lessons centered around a session which Jesus had with his apostles at Capernaum. First, there was the conversation of Jesus with Peter about the tribute money. Then Jesus called the twelve and ask them about the dispute on the road from Caesarea Philippi; which you will remember was about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. Then, John told about a man they saw casting out demons. Jesus in that session discussed first the sin of temptation and not offending a brother. Then, secondly, he discussed being reconciled to a brother A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. and how to handle a trespass when a brother sins against you. It was during those comments that Peter spoke up and wanted to know how many times one is to forgive a brother. In answer to that question, Jesus gave the parable of the UNFORGIVING SERVANT as part of his answer (at the end of Matt. ch. 18). If we have rightly estimated the time; John the Baptist was beheaded near the time of the passover in AD 32. Jesus and the apostles must have completed the two by two travels over Galilee about that time; although, they may have split up again for short periods all though that summer, we don't know. They traveled in the region of Tyre and Sidon with a loop back down through Trachinitis and Decapolis. Then there's a second trip, we're told about in the region of Caesarea Philippi. And, of course, some time was spent in and around Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee in between other jaunts. Five thousand were miraculously fed on one occasion. Four thousand were miraculously fed on another occasion. Many, many people had been healed and much teaching was undoubtedly done every day that summer either with the apostles or the crowds or both. As the weather changed that fall, Jesus' teaching strategy changed also. To make a long story short, Jesus left the area of Galilee and gave the fall and winter to teaching in Judea. Undoubtedly, Jesus felt that his apostles were finally better trained and more ready to take on Jewry, i.e. to concentrate on the more militant Jews. But, Jesus knew that his teaching would soon upset the keepers of orthodoxy. Threats on his life had already occurred on several occasion and mostly from that element. But, the time had come to face up to the task of moving into the field of Judea. Jesus was THE master teacher. The fields were ready for harvest. So, Jesus began to move with his apostles on to the field of Judea undoubtedly about September of AD 32.
Let's begin our reading in John ch. 7. Please be turning there! We've read the first two verse of John ch. 7 before. But, we're going to re-read that and continue down through v.9. Are you ready? Beginning in John 7:1. "After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be know openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee."
Alright, the feast of tabernacles was the last of the five feasts that were prescribed in the Law. All of these feasts, I trust you understand, were held in Jerusalem in an around the temple which was what we would call: the capital city of the Jews. The feast of Trumpets was held about September or possibly as late as October on our calendar. That was the first of the civil year, the way they counted time.
Don't let this confuse you; but, the Jews used two different years. One was the religious year that began 14 days before the passover in the spring of the year. The other year was their civil year which began in the fall. Every Jewish month started on a new moon (you'll remember), so the first day of the seventh month, that we're talking about, that seventh month was spelled: "Tisri", if you are interested. The feast of Trumpets is sometimes called the Feast of the New Moon, since it was the only feast held at the beginning of a month. What you and I would call New Years. Then ten days after the Feast of Trumpets or ten days into the civil year, there was another feast day prescribed in the O.T. called the Day of Atonement. It was a little more like our 4th of July, in that it was a national holiday. But it was ALSO a religious celebration in which the high priest went into the Most Holy Place of the temple with the blood of the offering to make atonement for the sins of himself and the sins of the people. This was done once a year. If you want to read more about this look in Lev. 23:26ff. But, what we want to see here is that five days after the Day of Atonement, when the moon was full, there was still another feast of the Jews called the feast of tabernacles, the one mentioned here in John 7:2, where we read. There's more about that day also in the 23 ch. of Lev., if you're interested. But, this feast called the feast of tabernacles lasted, altogether, eight days. It was a week long celebration in which the people built huts or booths out of certain thick growing tree twigs and foliage. They lived in these booths, which they called of course TABERNACLES. They lived in these huts for a week while the festival was going on; a kind of cheap hotel. You may want to think of it more as a camp-out. All of these things had their educational value, for example, this was to help them remember and teach their children about the time when their ancestors wandered in the wilderness in tents and also when they first came into the land of Canaan living in tents or tabernacles. It was really, in our thinking, a big festival in the fall of the year when the weather was nice; not too hot and not too cold. All three of these fall feasts, i.e. Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles were sometimes spoken of collectively as the feast of ingatherings or we would say of harvest. It was the time of the year when foods were most plentiful; when many things was being harvested and stored for winter. This festival must have been a time of the year when the young people had a ball. Different activities were scheduled each day during the feast. Well, it wasn't necessary for me to say all this; but, I think it helps us to understand the atmosphere around Jerusalem when Jesus and his apostles went to Jerusalem that fall.
Now, let's get back to John 7:3. "His brethren" mention there are thought to be his half brothers, i.e. the sons of Mary and Joseph and mentioned by named in Matt. 13:55. The point is: they were giving Jesus a little friendly advice, so-to-speak. Don't miss the point in v.5; they did not believe Jesus was the messiah. But, they recognized in him great ability and possibly even considered him a prophet of some kind. And, their concept of the coming kingdom was probably that of an earthly kingdom similar to the general Jewish understanding. So, they thought that with all the capability that Jesus had; he needed more exposure as the politicians say. Their thinking was undoubtedly that the feast of harvests would be a great opportunity for Jesus to get some that exposure and possibly in the back of their mind they thought possibly he might turn out to be the king of Israel, i.e. a ruler of the Jews that would liberate the Jews from the oppression of the Romans. So, they encouraged Jesus, "Go to Judea." (v.3). "If thou do these things, show thyself to the world." (v.4). But, Jesus explained to them in v.6, "My time is not yet come..." Jesus told THEM to go on up to Jerusalem; but, Jesus remained in Galilee until after the crowds had departed to the capital city and the festivals were well in progress.
Let's read ONE MORE verse! Are you ready, John 7:10. We'll read v.10 only! "But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret."
O.K., it is my understanding that the usual route to Jerusalem from Galilee was to follow down along the Jordan most of the way crossing over into Perea (if you glance at your map). They then crossed back over the Jordan somewhere north of the Dead Sea and then climbed the mountain to Jerusalem. But, Jesus did not follow that usual route. He went straight down through Samaria on your map which you can see on your map is the shorter route; but, it was also the less traveled route. Jesus sent some of his disciples on ahead to make preparations. So, let's flip over to Luke and read a few verses. Luke 9:51-56. Please turn there! Luke ch. 9. Let's begin in v.51. Are you ready, beginning in Luke 9:51. "And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his fact to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of Samaria, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
It would seem that the statement in v.51, "when the time was come that he should be received up", might refer to a later time than six months before the time of Jesus' ascension; but, in keeping with Luke's location of this text; it PROBABLY was at the time of the feast of tabernacles. There is another angle that might NOT come through to you here. Jesus was more or less moving his headquarters to central Judea. Up until that time, Capernaum had served as his home base, his own city, if you remember Matt. 9:1. Notice, the village where they went was in Samaria. We don't know which village. Possibly Sychar where Jesus had stayed two days once before (John 4:43). But, what ever village, you can see from your map, it must have been somewhat in line with his general route from Galilee to Jerusalem. If Jesus had come to the Samaritans as a missionary, they might have accepted Jesus on that basis. They accepted his visit in John ch. 4, you'll remember. But, when they learned it was merely a stop-over to Jerusalem, they undoubtedly felt they were being used. That was the basis of their refusal. You can see in this the feeling of separation; i.e. the Jews and Samaritans had nothing to do with each other. We've discussed this before. Whatever they said and whatever their diplomacy was; it really ticked-off James and John, two of Jesus' apostles. Take a look at v.54, "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down...and consume them?" they made reference to II Kings ch. 1, where Elijah called down fire upon 100 men. But, consider Jesus' answer to James and John, a great message to us "the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." Do you remember what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:17? "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." You see, this says much about Jesus' mission. We can learn much form this: rather than to retaliate when we are refused or rejected; it is so much wiser to do as Jesus did: he simply made a little detour — just that simple.
Let's read the rest of Luke ch. 9. Get your eyes on v.57. Are you ready? Beginning in Luke 9:57, let's read. "And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." The wording in this passage is so much like that recorded in Matt. 8:18-22 that we covered back in connection with that long day at Capernaum when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee in the evening. One is forced to try to reconcile them as being the same occasion. But, Luke's account seems to be saying that Jesus found disciples in Samaria that made an offer to follow Jesus, which must have happened on many occasions. And Jesus was soliciting such disciples, it's obvious from the fact Jesus said, "Follow me." And, it very well may be that Jesus used many of the same illustrations as he went from place to place. And that could account for the similarity. I'm not sure on this point. The message to us is simply; that we must not let OTHER obligations over-power and over-shadow our duty and responsibility to serve Jesus. And Jesus etched that message deep and powerfully into their brain cells with his illustrations. V.62 is another parable, teaching the same thought; but is unique to Luke's record. I fear that many in our generation may simply gloss over Jesus' plow-boy illustration. But, having spent some time behind a plow pulled by big-footed horses during my high school years; I glean from Jesus words a principle Ifear many will miss. When following a plow of that kind balancing pressure has to be applied from side to side to keep the point in the ground. If you ignore it for even the briefest period of a few seconds the plow will jump out of the ground. If one looks back, he's asking for it! If that plow point hops out of the ground; that plow-handle will kick you right in the ribs every time. So, Jesus was saying, that to keep up with one's duties in the kingdom, i.e. Christ's church, it requires a constant effort of concentration on where we are, what we're doing, and where we're going. We have to constantly apply the right pressure from side to side to keep ourselves following down the straight and narrow path. You can see Jesus' opinion, his appraisal, of one who considers himself a Sunday Christian and forgets his religion the rest of the week. And, some put far less effort, concentration and study into it than that. And, most of us can find an excuse that carries far less resemblance to reason than, those people there who wanted to bury a parent or say good-bye to their family. So, you can see Jesus' feeling on these matters. Jesus said such a person is NOT FIT for the kingdom; now, that's Jesus' words. If we are in the kingdom looking back into the world lusting after that greener grass on the other side of the fence; we'll probably get a sudden kick in the ribs on judgment day that's going to be far worse than any plow handle you've ever seen. So, watch out for those plow handles! Until our next lesson, have a good day