SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Looking for free sermon messages?
Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video

SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : II The Early Ministry in Judea

The Life Of Jesus Of Nazareth by Rush Rhees

II The Early Ministry in Judea

113. We owe to the fourth gospel our knowledge of the fact that Jesus began his general ministry in Jerusalem. The silence of the other records concerning this beginning cannot discredit the testimony of John. For these other records themselves indicate in various ways that Jesus had repeatedly sought to win Jerusalem before his final visit at the end of his life (compare Luke xiii.34; Matt. xxiii.37). Moreover, the fourth gospel is confirmed by the probability, rising almost to necessity, that such a mission as Jesus conceived his to be must seek first to win the leaders of his people. The temple at Jerusalem was the centre of worship, drawing all Jews sooner or later to itself -- even as Jesus in early youth was accustomed to go thither at the time of feasts (Luke ii.41). Worshippers of God throughout the world prayed with their faces towards Jerusalem (Dan. vi.10). Moreover, at Jerusalem the chief of the scribes, as well as the chief of the priests, were to be found. Compared with Jerusalem all other places were provincial and of small influence. A Messiah, who had not from the outset given up hope of winning the capital, cannot have long delayed his effort to find a following there.

114. Arriving at Jerusalem at the Passover season, in the early spring, Jesus remained in Judea until the following December (John iv.35). Evidently the record which John gives of these months is most fragmentary, and from his own statement (xx.30, 31) it seems highly probable that it is one sided, emphasizing those events and teachings in which Jesus disclosed more or less clearly his claim to be the Messiah. Doubtless the full record would show a much closer similarity between this early work in Judea and that later conducted in Galilee than a comparison of John with the other gospels would suggest; yet it is evident that Jesus opened his ministry in Jerusalem with an unrestrained frankness that is not found later in Galilee.

115. It is a mistake to think of the cleansing of the temple as a distinct Messianic manifesto. The market in the temple was a licensed affront to spiritual religion. It found its excuse for being in the requirement that worshippers offer to the priests for sacrifice animals levitically clean and acceptable, and that gifts for the temple treasury be made in no coin other than the sacred |shekel of the sanctuary.| The chief priests appreciated the convenience which worshippers coming from a distance would find if they could obtain all the means of worship within the temple enclosure itself. The hierarchy or its representatives seem also to have appreciated the opportunity to charge good prices for the accommodation so afforded. The result was the intrusion of the spirit of the market-place, with all its disputes and haggling, into the place set apart for worship. In fact, the only part of the temple open to Gentiles who might wish to worship Israel's God was filled with distraction, unseemly strife, and extortion (compare Mark xi.17). Such despite done the sanctity of God's house must have outraged the pious sense of many a devout Israelite. There is no doubt of what an Isaiah or a Micah would have said and done in such a situation. This is exactly what Jesus did. His act was the assumption of a full prophetic authority. In itself considered it was nothing more. In his expulsion of the traders he had the conscience of the people for his ally. There is no need to think of any use of miraculous power. His moral earnestness, coupled with the underlying consciousness on the part of the traders themselves that they had no business in God's house, readily explains the confusion and departure of the intruders. Even those who challenged Jesus' conduct did not venture to defend the presence of the market in the temple. They only demanded that Jesus show his warrant for disturbing a condition of things authorized by the priests.

116. The temple cleansing is recorded in the other gospels at the end of Jesus' ministry, just before the hostility of the Jews culminated in his condemnation and death. Inasmuch as these gospels give no account of a ministry by Jesus in Jerusalem before the last week of his life, it is easy to see how this event came to be associated by them with the only Jerusalem sojourn which they record. The definite place given to the event in John, together with the seeming necessity that Jesus should condemn such authorized affront to the very idea of worship, mark this cleansing as the inaugural act of Jesus' ministry of spiritual religion, rather than as a final stern rebuke closing his effort to win his people. Against the conclusion commonly held that Jesus cleansed the temple both at the opening and at the close of his course is the extreme improbability that the traders would have been caught twice in the same way. The event fits in closely with the story of the last week, because it actually led to the beginning of opposition in Jerusalem to the prophet from Galilee. At the first the opposition was doubtless of a scornful sort. Later it grew in bitterness when it saw how Jesus was able to arouse a popular enthusiasm that seemed to threaten the stability of existing conditions.

117. The reply of Jesus to the challenge of his authority for his high-handed act shows that he offered it to the people as an invitation; he would lead them to a higher idea and practice of worship (compare John iv.21-24). When they demanded the warrant for his act, he saw that they were not ready to follow him, and could not appreciate the only warrant he needed for his course. He cleansed the temple because they were destroying it as a place where men could worship God in spirit. In reply to the challenge, he who later taught the Samaritan woman that the worship of God is not dependent on any place however sacred, answered that they might finish their work and destroy the temple as a house of God, yet he would speedily re-establish a true means of approach to the Most High for the souls of men. He clothed his reply in a figurative dress, as he was often wont to do in his teaching, -- |Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.| To his unsympathetic hearers it must have been completely enigmatic. Even the disciples did not catch its meaning until after the resurrection had taught them that in their Master a new chapter in God's dealing with men had begun.

118. The unreadiness of the Jewish leaders to receive the only kind of message he had to offer produced in Jesus a decided reserve. He did not lack a certain kind of success in Jerusalem. His cures of the sick won him many followers who seemed ready to believe almost anything of him. But the attitude taken by the leaders made it evident that Jesus must make disciples who should understand in some measure at least his idea of God's kingdom, and, understanding, must be ready to be loyal to it through good report and evil. For the position taken by the leaders of the people had an ominous significance. It could mean but one thing for Jesus, -- unrelenting conflict. If they could not be won, they who would so legalize the desecration of God's house would not hesitate at any extreme in opposing his messenger. This possibility confronted Jesus at the very outset; therefore he held the popular enthusiasm in check, knowing that as yet it had little of that kind of faith which could endure seeming defeat.

119. One of those who were drawn to him, however, gave Jesus opportunity to lay aside his reserve and speak clearly of the truth lie came to publish. He was a member of the Jewish sanhedrin, a rabbi apparently held in high regard in Jerusalem. While his associates were dismissing the claims of Jesus with a wave of the hand, Nicodemus sought out the new teacher by night, and showed his desire to learn what Jesus held to be truth concerning God's kingdom. Jesus first reminded the teacher of Israel of the old doctrine of the prophets, that Israel must find a new heart before God's kingdom can come (Jer. xxxi.31-34; Ezek. xxxvi.25-27), and then declared that the heavenly truth which God now would reveal to men is that all can have the needed new life as freely as the plague-stricken Israelites found relief when Moses lifted up the brazen serpent. This conversation serves to introduce the evangelist's interpretation of Jesus as the only begotten Son of God sent in love to redeem the world (John iii.16-21).

120. John's record suggests that Jesus left Jerusalem shortly after the conversation with Nicodemus. His work there was not without success, for Nicodemus seems to have been henceforth his loyal advocate (compare John vii.50-52; xix.39); and it may be that at the time of this sojourn he won the hearts of his friends in Bethany, for the first picture the gospels give of this household seems to presuppose a somewhat intimate relation of Jesus to the family (Luke x.38-42). It would be idle to speculate whether it was at this time or later that he became acquainted with Joseph of Arimathea, or the friends who during the last week of his life showed him hospitality (Mark xi.2-6; xiv.12-16).

121. For a time after his withdrawal from Jerusalem he lingered in Judea, carrying on a simple ministry of preparation like that of John the Baptist. In this way the summer and early autumn seem to have passed, Jesus growing more popular as a prophet than John himself had been. The fact that Jesus' disciples administered baptism in connection with his work roused the jealousy of some of John's followers, and attracted again the attention of Jerusalem to the new activity of the bold disturber of the temple market. John's disciples complained to him of Jesus' rivalry, and received his self-effacing confession, |He must increase, I must decrease.| The Pharisees, on the other hand, made Jesus feel that further work in Judea was for the time unwise, and he withdrew into Galilee for retirement, since |a prophet has no honor in his own country| (John iv.1-3, 44). Baffled in his first effort to win his people, this journey back from the region of the holy city must have been one of no little sadness for Jesus. Some urgency for haste led him by the direct road through despised Samaria. A seemingly chance conversation with a woman at Jacob's well, where he was resting at noonday, gave him an opportunity for ministry which was more ingenuously received than any which he had been able to render in Judea; and to this woman he declared himself even more plainly than to Nicodemus, and preached to her that spiritual idea of worship which he had sought to enforce by cleansing Jerusalem's temple. Samaria was so isolated from all Jewish interest that Jesus felt no need for reserve in this |strange| land. The few days spent there must have been peculiarly welcome to his heart, fresh from rejection in Judea.

122. One reason why he wished to hasten from Judea seems to have been his knowledge of the hostile movement which was making against John the Baptist. Either before or soon after Jesus started for Galilee Herod had arrested John, ostensibly as a measure of public safety owing to John's undue popularity (Jos. Ant. xviii.5.2). Herod may have been encouraged to take this step by the hostility of the Pharisees to the plain-spoken prophet of the desert (see John iv.1-3). The fourth gospel leaves its readers to infer that the imprisonment took place somewhere about this time (compare iii.24 and v.35), while the other gospels unite in giving this arrest as the occasion for Jesus' withdrawal into Galilee.

123. Arrived in Galilee, Jesus seems to have returned to his home at Nazareth, while his disciples went back to their customary occupations, until he summoned them again to join him in a new ministry (see sect.125). John assigns to this time the cure of a nobleman's son. The father sought out Jesus at Cana, having left his son sick at Capernaum. At first Jesus apparently repelled his approach, even as he had dealt with seekers after marvels at Jerusalem; but on hearing the father's cry of need and trust, he at once spoke the word of healing. This event is in so many ways a duplicate of the cure of a centurion's servant recorded in Matthew and Luke, that to many it seems but another version of the same incident. Considering the variations in the story reported by Matthew and Luke, it is clearly not possible to prove that John tells of a different case. Yet the simple fact of similarity of some details in two events should not exclude the possibility of their still being quite distinct. The reception which Jesus gave the two requests for help is very different, and the case reported in John is in keeping with the attitude of Jesus before he began his new ministry in Galilee. On his arrival in Galilee he wished to avoid a mere wonder faith begotten of the enthusiasm he excited in Jerusalem, yet this wish yielded at once when a genuine need sought relief at his hands.

124. The apparent result of this first activity in Judea was disappointment and failure. He had won no considerable following in the capital. He had definitely excited the jealousy and opposition of the leading men of his nation. Even such popular enthusiasm as had followed his mighty works was of a sort that Jesus could not encourage. The situation in Judea had at length become so nearly untenable that he decided to withdraw into seclusion in Galilee, where, as a prophet, he could be |without honor.| He had gone to Jerusalem eager to begin there, where God should have had readiest service, the ministry of the kingdom of God. Challenge, cold criticism, and superficial faith were the results. A new beginning must be made on other lines in other places. Meanwhile Jesus retired to his home and his followers to theirs.

Outline of Events in the Galilean Ministry (Chapters III. And IV.)

The imprisonment of John and the withdrawal of Jesus into Galilee -- Matt. iv.12-17; Mark i.14, 15; Luke iv.14, 15.

Removal from Nazareth to Capernaum -- Matt. iv.13-16; Luke iv.31.

The call of Simon and Andrew, James and John -- Matt. iv.18-22; Mark i.16-20; Luke v.1-11.

First work in Capernaum -- Matt. viii.14-17; Mark i.21-34; Luke iv.31-41.

First circuit of Galilee -- Matt. iv.23; viii.2-4; Mark i.35-45; Luke iv.42-44; v.12-16.

Cure of a paralytic in Capernaum -- Matt. ix.2-8; Mark ii.1-12; Luke v.17-26.

The call of Matthew -- Matt. ix.9-13; Mark ii.13-17; Luke v.27-32.

? The question about fasting -- Matt ix.14-17; Mark ii.18-22; Luke v.33-39 (see sects.47; A 54).

? Sabbath cure at Jerusalem at the unnamed feast -- John v.1-47 (see sect. A 53).

? The Sabbath controversy in the Galilean grain fields -- Matt. xii.1-8; Mark ii.23-28; Luke vi.1-5 (see sects.47; A 54).

? Another Sabbath controversy: cure of a withered hand -- Matt. xii.9-14; Mark iii.1-6; Luke vi.6-11 (see sects.47; A 54).

Jesus followed by multitudes from all parts -- Matt. iv.23-25; xii.15-21; Mark iii.7-12; Luke vi.17-19.

The choosing of the twelve -- Matt. x.2-4; Mark iii.13-19; Luke vi.12-19.

The sermon on the mount -- Matt. v.1 to viii.1; Luke vi.20 to vii.1 (see sect. A 55).

The cure of a centurion's servant -- Matt. viii.5-13; Luke vii.1-10; John iv.46-54.

The restoration of the widow's son at Nain -- Luke vii.11-17.

The message from John in prison -- Matt. xi.2-19; Luke vii.18-35.

The anointing of Jesus by a sinful woman -- Luke vii.36-50.

The companions of Jesus on his second circuit of Galilee -- Luke viii.1-3.

Cure of a demoniac in Capernaum and blasphemy by the Pharisees -- Matt. xii.22-45; Mark iii.19^a-30; Luke xi.14-36.

The true kindred of Jesus -- Matt. xii.46-50; Mark iii.31-35; Luke viii.19-21.

The parables by the sea -- Matt. xiii.1-53; Mark iv.1-34; Luke viii.4-18 (see sect. A 56).

The tempest stilled -- Matt. viii.18, 23-27; Mark iv.35-41; Luke viii.22-25.

Cure of the Gadarene demoniac -- Matt. viii.28-34; Mark v.1-20; Luke viii.26-39.

The restoration of the daughter of Jairus and cure of an invalid woman -- Matt. ix.1, 18-26; Mark v.21-43; Luke viii.40-56.

Cure of blind and dumb -- Matt. ix.27-34.

Rejection at Nazareth -- Matt. xiii.54-58; Mark vi.1-6^a; Luke iv.16-30 (see sect. A 52).

Third circuit of Galilee -- Matt. ix.35; Mark vi.6^b.

The mission of the twelve -- Matt. ix.36 to xi.1; Mark vi.7-13; Luke ix.1-6 (see sect. A 57).

The death of John the Baptist -- Matt. xiv.1-12; Mark vi.14-29; Luke ix.7-9.

Withdrawal of Jesus across the sea and feeding of the five thousand -- Matt. xiv.13-23; Mark vi.30-46; Luke ix.10-17; John vi.1-15.

Return to Capernaum, Jesus walking on the water -- Matt. xiv.24-36; Mark vi.47-56; John vi.16-21.

Teaching about the Bread of Life in the synagogue at Capernaum -- John vi.22-71 (see sect. A 59).

Controversy concerning tradition: handwashing, etc. -- Matt. xv.1-20; Mark vii.1-23.

Withdrawal to regions of Tyre and Sidon: the Syrophoenician woman's daughter -- Matt. xv.21-28; Mark vii.24-30.

Return through Decapolis -- Matt. xv.29-31; Mark vii.31-37.

? The feeding of the four thousand -- Matt. xv.32-38; Mark viii.1-9 (see sect. A 58).

Pharisaic challenge in Galilee, and warning against the leaven of the Pharisees -- Matt xv.39 to xvi.12; Mark viii.10-21.

Cure of blind man near Bethsaida -- Mark viii.22-26.

Peter's confession of Jesus as Christ near Caesarea Philippi -- Matt. xvi.13-20; Mark viii.27-30; Luke ix.18-21.

The new lesson, that the Christ must die -- Matt. xvi.21-28; Mark viii.31 to ix.1; Luke ix.22-27.

The transfiguration -- Matt. xvii.1-13; Mark ix.2-13; Luke ix.28-36.

Cure of the epileptic boy -- Matt. xvii.14-20; Mark ix.14-29; Luke ix.37-43^a.

Second prediction of approaching death and resurrection -- Matt. xvii.22, 23; Mark ix.30-32; Luke ix.43^b-45.

Return to Capernaum: the temple tax -- Matt. xvii.24-27; Mark ix.33^a.

Teachings concerning humility and forgiveness -- Matt. xviii.1-35; Mark ix.33-50; Luke ix.46-50.

Visit of Jesus to Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles -- John vii.1-52; viii.12-59 (see sect. A 60).

? The woman taken in adultery -- John vii.53 to viii.11 (see sect.163).

The following probably belong to the Galilean ministry before the confession at Caesarea Philippi (see sect.168): --

The disciples taught to pray -- Matt. vi.9-15; vii.7-11; Luke xi.1-13.

The cure of an infirm woman on the Sabbath -- Luke xiii.10-17.

Two parables: mustard-seed and leaven -- Matt. xiii.31-33; Luke xiii.18-21 (see sect. A 56).

The parable of the rich fool -- Luke xii.13-21.

Cure on a Sabbath and teaching at a Pharisee's table -- Luke xiv.1-24.

Five parables -- Luke xv.1 to xvi.31.

Certain disconnected teachings -- Luke xvii.1-4.

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2019 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy