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The Life Of Jesus Of Nazareth by Rush Rhees

IV The Ministry in Galilee--The New Lesson

150. With the crisis in Capernaum the ministry in Galilee may be said in one sense to have come to an end. Yet Jesus did not immediately go up to Jerusalem. Once and again he was found in or near Capernaum, while the time between these visits was spent in regions to the north and northwest. In fact, the disciples were far from ready for the trial their loyalty was to meet before they had seen the end of the opposition to their Lord. The time intervening between the collapse of popularity and Jesus' final departure from Galilee may well be thought of, then, as a time of further discipline of the faith of his followers and of added instruction concerning the truth for which their Master stood. The length of this supplementary period in Galilee is not definitely known. It extended from the Passover to about the feast of Tabernacles (April to October, see John vi.4 and vii.2). The record of what Jesus did and said in this time is meagre, only enough being reported to show that it was a time of repeated withdrawals from Galilee and of private instruction for the disciples.

151. The disciples were trained in faith by further exhibitions of the complete break between their Master and the leaders of the people. This break appeared most clearly, soon after the feeding of the multitudes, in his reply to a criticism of the disciples for disregard of pharisaic traditions concerning hand-washing (Mark vii.1-23). The critics insisted on the sacredness of their traditions. Jesus in reply scored them for disregard for the plain demands of God's law, and with a word freed men from bondage to the whole ritual of ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness (Mark vii.19), thus attacking Judaism in its citadel.

152. It was immediately after this that he withdrew with his disciples to the regions of Tyre. On his return a little later to the west side of the sea of Galilee he was met by hostile Pharisees with a demand for a sign (Mark viii.11-13), and after refusing to satisfy the unbelieving challenge, -- signs in plenty having been before their eyes since the opening of his work among them, -- he and his disciples withdrew again from Galilee towards Caesarea Philippi. As they went on their way, Jesus distinctly warned them against the influence of their leaders, religious and political (Mark viii.14f.). So far as our records tell us Jesus was but once again in Capernaum. Then he was met with the demand that he pay the temple tax (Matt. xvii.24-27). This tax was usually collected just before the Passover. As this last visit to Capernaum was probably not far from the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus seems to have been in arrears. This may have been due to his absence from Capernaum at the time of the collection. The prompt answer of Peter may indicate that he knew that in other years Jesus had paid this tax, as it is altogether probable that he did. The question, however, implies official suspicion that Jesus was seeking to evade payment, and exhibits further the straining of the relations between him and the Jewish leaders. The conversation of Jesus with Peter served to show his clear consciousness of superiority, and was a further summons to the disciples to choose between him and his opponents.

153. Within the limits of the Holy Land the faith of the disciples had been constantly tested by the increasing opposition between their master and their old leaders. When the little company withdrew to Gentile regions, however, Jesus had regard for their Jewish feeling. The time would come when he would send them forth to make disciples of all the nations. For the present he made it his business to nurture their faith in him, and when appealed to for help by one of these foreigners, he refused to |take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs| (Mark vii.27). Jesus had assumed a different attitude to the Samaritans before the opening of his work in Galilee, and in general had shown ready sympathy for all in distress. In fact it seems as if he welcomed the Syrophoenician woman's great faith with a feeling of relief from a restriction that he had felt it wise to adopt for his work in Phoenicia. It appears from his later attitude in the Gentile regions of the Decapolis (Mark vii.31-37; Matt. xv.21-31) that, having once shown his regard for the limitations of his disciples' faith in the case of the Syrophoenician, he felt no longer obliged to check his natural readiness to help the needy who sought him out. Although in one instance, for reasons no longer known to us, Jesus charged a man whom he had cured to keep it secret (Mark vii.32-37), in general his work in these heathen regions seems, after the visit to Phoenicia, to have been quite unrestrained, and to have produced the same enthusiasm that had earlier brought the multitudes to him in Galilee (Mark viii.1f.).

154. This continued activity of healing must have served greatly to strengthen the determination of the disciples to cling to Jesus, let the leaders say what they would. We can only conjecture what various teachings filled the days, and what personal fellowship the disciples had with him who spake as never man spake. There was need for advance in the faith of these loyal friends. Their enthusiastic declaration when the multitudes turned away could easily have been followed by reaction. Each new exhibition of the irrevocableness of the break between Jesus and the leaders was a severe test of their loyalty. These weeks of withdrawal were doubtless filled, therefore, with new proofs that Jesus had the words of eternal life.

155. Before he put to his disciples the crucial question, he who knew what was in man (John ii.25) was confident that they were ready for it. It was after the rebuff in Galilee, when the unbelieving Pharisees had again demanded a sign of his authority, and after he had definitely warned the disciples against the influence of their leaders, that Jesus led his little company far to the north towards the slopes of Hermon. There, near the recently built Caesarea Philippi, Jesus plainly asked his disciples what the people thought of him (Mark viii.27-30). We have seen how gradually sentiment in Galilee concerning the new teacher crystallized until, from thinking him a prophet, the people, first timidly, then boldly, concluded that such a teacher and worker of signs must be the promised king. We have seen also how the popular estimate changed when Jesus refused to be guided by the popular will. Now, after the lapse of a few weeks, in answer to his inquiry concerning the common opinion of him, he is told that the people look on him as a prophet, in whom the spirit of the men of old had been revived; but not a whisper remains of the former readiness to hail him as the Messiah. It was in the face of such a definite revulsion in the popular feeling, in the face, too, of the increasing hostility of all the great in the nation, that Peter answered for the twelve that they believed Jesus to be the Messiah, God's appointed Deliverer of his people (Matt. xvi.16 ff.). In form this confession was no more than Nathanael had rendered on his first meeting with Jesus (John i.49), and was practically the same as the report made by Andrew to Simon his brother, and by Philip to Nathanael (John i.41, 45). In both idea and expression the reply to Jesus' question, |Will ye also go away?| (John vi.68, 69), was virtually equivalent to this later confession of Peter. Yet Jesus found in Peter's answer at Caesarea Philippi something so significant and remarkable that he declared that the faith that could answer thus could spring only from a heavenly source (Matt. xvi.17). The early confessions were in fact no more than expressions of more or less intelligent expectation that Jesus would fulfil the confessor's hopes. The confession at Capernaum followed one of Jesus' mightiest exhibitions of power, and was given before the disciples had had time to consider the extent of the defection from their Master. Here at Caesarea Philippi, however, the word was spoken immediately after an acknowledgment that the people had no more thought of finding in Jesus their Messiah. It was spoken after the disciples had had repeated evidence of the determined hostility of the leaders to Jesus. All the disappointment he had given to their cherished ideas was emphasized by the isolation in which the little company now found itself. One after another their ideas of how a Messiah should act and what he should be had received contradiction in what Jesus was and did. Yet after the weeks of withdrawal from Galilee, Peter could only in effect assert anew what he had declared at Capernaum, -- that Jesus had the words of eternal life. It was a faith chastened by perplexity, and taught at length to follow the Lord let him lead where he would. It was an actual surrender to his mastery over thought and life. Here at length Jesus had won what he had been seeking during all his work in Galilee, -- a corner-stone on which to build up the new community of the kingdom of God. Peter was the first to confess openly to this simple surrender to the full mastery of Jesus. He was the first stone in the foundation of the new |building of God.|

156. In his commendation of Peter Jesus revealed the secret of his method in the work which, because of this confession, he could now proceed to do more rapidly. He cuts loose utterly from the method of the scribes. He, the new teacher, commits to them no body of teaching which they are to give to others as the key to eternal life. The salvation they are to preach is a salvation by personal attachment; that is, by faith. The rock on which he will build his church is personal attachment, faith that is ready to leave all and follow him. Peter, not the substance of his confession, was its corner-stone, but Peter, as the first clear confessor of a faith that is ready to leave all, a faith whose very nature it is to be contagious, and associate with itself others of |like precious faith.| His faith was as yet meagre, as he showed at once; but it was genuine, the surrender of his heart to his Lord's guidance and control. This was the distinctive mark of the new religious life inaugurated by Jesus of Nazareth.

157. If anything were needed to prove that the idea that he was the Messiah was no new thought to Jesus, it could be found in the new lesson which he at once began to teach his disciples. The confession of Peter indicated to him simply that the first stage in his work had been accomplished. He immediately began to prepare the disciples for the end which for some time past he had seen to be inevitable. He taught them more than that his death was inevitable; he declared that it was divinely necessary that he should be put to death as a result of the hostility of the Jews to him (|the Son of Man must suffer|). All the contradictions which he had offered to the Messianic ideas of his disciples paled into insignificance beside this one. When they saw how he failed to meet the hopes that were commonly held, they needed only to urge themselves to patience, expecting that in time he would cast off the strange mask and take to himself his power and reign. But it was too much for the late confessed and very genuine faith of Peter to hear that the Messiah must die. So unthinkable was the idea, that he assumed that Jesus had become unduly discouraged by the relentlessness of the opposition which had driven him first out of Judea and later out of Galilee. Accordingly Peter sought to turn his Master's mind to a brighter prospect, asserting that his forebodings could not be true. It is hard for us to conceive the chill of heart which must have followed the glow of his confession when he heard the stern rebuke of Jesus, who found in Peter's later words the voice of the Evil One, as before in his confession he had recognized the Spirit of God.

158. The sternness of Jesus' rebuke escapes extravagance only in view of the fact that the words of Peter had greatly affected Jesus himself. At the outset of his public life he had faced the difficulty of doing the Messiah's work in his Father's way, and had withstood the temptation to accommodate himself to the ideas of his world, declaring allegiance to God alone (Matt. iv.10). Yet once and again in the course of his ministry he showed that this allegiance cost him much. Luke reports a saying in which Jesus confessed that, in view of this prospect of death which Peter was opposing so eagerly, he was greatly |straitened| (xii.50), and at the near approach of the end |his soul was exceeding sorrowful| (Mark xiv.34). It should never be forgotten that Jesus was a Jew, and heir to all the Messianic ideas of his people. In these, glory, not rejection and death, was to be the Messiah's portion. That he was always superior to current expectations is no sign that he did not feel their force. They quite mistake who find the bitterness of Jesus' |cup| simply in his physical shrinking from suffering. The temptation was ever with him to find some other way to the goal of his work than that which led through death. What Peter said hid a force greater than any word of the disciple's. It voiced the crucial temptation of Jesus' life. The answer addressed to Peter showed that his words had drawn the thought of Jesus away from the disciple to that earlier temptation which was never absent from him more than |for a season| (Luke iv.13).

159. Jesus was not content with a mere rebuke of his impulsive disciple. In his first announcement of his death as necessary he had also declared that it would not be a tragedy, but would be followed by a resurrection. This the disciples could not appreciate, as they found the idea of the Messiah's death unthinkable. Jesus, however, saw in it the general law, that life must ever win its goal by disregard of itself, and called his disciples also to walk in the path of self-sacrifice. In order that the new lesson might not quite overwhelm the yet feeble faith of these followers, Jesus assured them that after his death and resurrection he would come as Messianic Judge and fulfil the hopes which his prediction of death seemed to blot out utterly (Mark viii.34 to ix.1).

160. That this new lesson was a difficult one for master as well as disciple seems to be shown by the experience which came a few days later to Jesus and his three closest friends. He had withdrawn with them to a |high mountain| for prayer (Luke ix.28f.). While he prayed the light of heaven came into his face, and his disciples were granted a vision of him in celestial glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah, representatives of Old Testament law and prophecy. The theme of the discourse was that death which had so troubled the disciples, and which then and later weighed heavily on Jesus' own spirit (Luke ix.31). At the conclusion of the vision came a divine injunction to hear him who now was superseding law and prophets. The effect of the transfiguration can only be inferred. It doubtless brought strengthening to Jesus for his difficult task (compare Heb. v.7), and at least a silencing of remonstrance when he spoke again to his disciples of his approaching death. This he did while the little company was making its way back towards Capernaum (Mark ix.30-32), and repeatedly later before the end came (Mark x.32-34; Matt. xxvi.1f.).

161. On Jesus' return from the mountain, he was met by the despairing plea of a father and healed his epileptic son, out of whom the disciples were unable to cast the demon (Mark ix.14-29; compare vi.7, 13). It may have been the shock which the new lesson had given the disciples that accounted for the reproof of their lack of faith. The new evidence of Jesus' power, coupled with this reproof, seems to have restored their confidence in him. Perhaps, too, there was something contagious about the spirit of hope with which the three came from their vision of the Master's glory. For, although they were not free to tell what they had seen (Mark ix.9), they could not have concealed the fact that their faith had received great encouragement. Whatever the cause, hope revived for the disciples, for on the way back to Capernaum a dispute arose among them concerning personal precedence in the kingdom which their Master should soon set up. In this rapid reaction from unbelief to faith the disciples seem to have forgotten the lesson of self-denial recently given them (Mark viii.34, 35). In Peter's confession the corner-stone of the church was laid; but the superstructure was yet far out of sight. Although his own soul, taking its way down into the valley of shadows, might rightly have asked for sympathy and complained of its lack, Jesus simply set a little child in the midst of them, and taught them again the first lessons of faith, -- gentle humility and trust. Thereby he rebuked the spirit of rivalry and asked of his disciples a generous, unselfish, and forgiving spirit (Matt, xviii.1-35).

162. It was possibly at this time, certainly near the end of the Galilean ministry, that Jesus was approached by his own brethren, who urged him to try to win the capital. Their attitude was not one of indifference, though clearly not one of actual faith in his claim (John vii.2-5). They seem to have felt that Jesus had not made adequate effort to secure a following in Jerusalem, and that he could not hope for success in his work if he continued to confine his attention to Galilee. Jesus knew conditions in Jerusalem far better than they did, and had no idea as yet of resuming a general ministry there. He therefore dismissed the suggestion, and left his brethren to go up to the feast disappointed in their desire that he make a demonstration at that time. Yet Jesus still yearned over Jerusalem. He knew in what organized opposition a general demonstration would result. There were some, however, in the capital who had real faith in him. His repeated efforts to win Jerusalem mean nothing if we do not recognize that he hoped against hope that many of the people might yet turn and let him lead them. With some such purpose, therefore, he went up a little later without ostentation, and quietly appeared in the temple teaching. The effect of this unannounced arrival was that the opposition was not ready for him. The multitude was compelled to form an opinion of him for itself, and he had opportunity to make his own impression for a time, independently of official suggestion as to what ought to be thought of him. This course resulted in a division of sentiment among the people, so much so that when the leaders, both secular and religious, sought to compass his arrest, the officers sent to take Jesus were themselves entranced by his teaching. In spite of the wish of the leaders Jesus continued to teach, and many of the people began to think of him with favor. When, however, he tried to lead them on to become |disciples indeed,| they took offence, and showed that they were not ready yet to follow him. This effort to |gather the children of Jerusalem| resulted in new proof that they preferred his death to his message (John vii.2 to viii.59).

163. Interesting evidence of the fact that |Jesus did many other signs which are not written| in our accepted gospels is found in the story of his dealing with an adulteress whom the Pharisees brought to him for judgment (John vii.53 to viii.11). This narrative had no secure place in any of the gospels in the earliest days, yet was so highly regarded that men would not let it go. Hence in the manuscripts which contain it, it is found in various places. Some give it in Luke after chapter xxi., some at the end of the Gospel of John, one placing it after John vii.36. Many considerations combine to prove that it was no part of the Gospel of John, but as many show that it preserves a true incident in the ministry of Jesus. In scene it belongs to the temple, therefore in time to one of the Jerusalem visits. To which of those visits it should he assigned is not now discoverable. The ancient copyists who assigned it to this feast of Tabernacles, chose as well as later students can. If the incident belongs to this visit, it illustrates the patience and the keen insight of Jesus in his effort to win self-satisfied Jerusalem.

164. John is silent concerning the doings of Jesus after the feast of Tabernacles. In x.22 he notes that Jesus was at Jerusalem at the feast of Dedication, which followed two months later. It seems probable that after his hurried and private journey to the feast of Tabernacles (John vii.10) he returned to Galilee and gathered to himself again the little company of his loyal followers, preparatory to that final journey to Jerusalem which should bring the end foreseen, unless, perchance, Israel should yet repent and turn unto the Lord. As the shadow deepened over his own life, and the persistency of the unbelief of his people appeared more and more clearly, the teachings of Jesus took on a new note of tragedy which was not characteristic of the earlier preaching in Galilee. Even when his topic was similar and his treatment of it not unlike some earlier discourse, there appeared in it here and there a warning of impending judgment. This is seen as early as the reply to the criticism of the disciples for disregard of traditions (Matt. xv.13f.). Many discourses in the section peculiar to Luke show by the presence of this note of doom that they belong to this later time rather than to the Galilean period proper. (See the table prefixed to Chapter V.)

165. Two years had nearly passed since Jesus withdrew from Judea to start his ministry anew in a different region and following a different method. The fruit of that ministry was small, but significant. His proclamation of the coming kingdom and his call to a deeper righteousness, coupled as they were with his works of heavenly power, had won at first an enthusiastic following. Realizing that an uncontrolled enthusiasm would thwart his purpose to introduce a kingdom of the spirit, Jesus had kept his Messianic claim in the background, seeking first to win disciples to the kingdom that he was proclaiming. Yet emphasize his message as he would, he could not conceal his personal significance. In fact he wished by winning disciples to his doctrine of the kingdom to attach followers to himself, the bearer of the words of eternal life. The great development of popular enthusiasm did not deceive him, nor did he hesitate, when the multitude would force him to do its will, to show clearly how far he was from being a fulfiller of their desires. By successive disappointments of the popular ideas he sifted his followers until a few were ready to follow him whithersoever he might lead. With these he allowed time for the fact of his unpopularity to appear, giving them opportunity to consider the relentless hostility of their national leaders to the teacher from Galilee. Then when the time was ripe he drew from the loyal few their declaration that they would follow him in spite of disappointments and unpopularity, their confession that he had come to be to them more than their cherished preconceptions, that he had won the mastery over their thought and life. He began then to prepare them for the end he had long foreseen, and at length, after giving them time for that perplexing mystery to find place in their hearts, he was ready to move on toward the crisis which he knew his public appearance in Jerusalem would precipitate. Before setting out on this journey his desire still to seek to win Jerusalem, if perchance it would repent, led him to visit the capital unannounced at the feast of Tabernacles. This taught him that, however ready some might be superficially to believe in him, he could as yet win in Jerusalem only hatred and plots against his life, and he returned to his faithful friends in Galilee.

Outline of Events in the Journey through Perea to Jerusalem

The final departure from Galilee -- Matt. xix.1, 2; viii.19-22; Mark x.1; Luke ix.51-62.

The mission of the seventy -- Matt. xi.20-30; Luke x.1-24.

The visit to the feast of Dedication -- John ix.1 to x.39.

Possibly at this time: The parable of the Good Samaritan -- Luke x.25-37. The visit to Mary and Martha -- Luke x.38-42.

Return to Perea -- John x.40-42.

The visit to Bethany and the raising of Lazarus -- John xi.1-46.

The withdrawal to Ephraim -- John xi.47-54.

Events connected with the last journey to Jerusalem, which cannot be more definitely located:

The question whether few are saved -- Luke xiii.22-30.

Reply to the warning against Herod, probably near the close -- Luke xiii.31-35.

The cure of ten lepers -- Luke xvii.11-19.

The question of the Pharisees concerning divorce -- Matt. xix.3-12; Mark x.2-12.

The blessing of little children -- Matt. xix.13-15; Mark x.13-16; Luke xviii.15-17.

The question of the rich young ruler -- Matt. xix.16 to xx.16; Mark x.17-31; Luke xviii.18-30.

The third prediction of death and resurrection -- Matt xx.17-19; Mark x.32-34; Luke xviii.31-34.

The ambitious request of the sons of Zebedee -- Matt. xx.20-28; Mark x.35-45.

The last stage, Jericho to Jerusalem:

The blind men near Jericho -- Matt. xx.29-34; Mark x.46-52; Luke xviii.35-43.

The visit to Zacchaeus -- Luke xix.1-10.

The parable of the pounds (minae) -- Luke xix.11-28. Events and discourses found in Luke ix.51 to xviii.14, which probably belong after the confession of Peter, and very likely to some stage of the journey to Jerusalem:

Woes against the Pharisees, uttered at a Pharisee's table -- Luke xi.37-54.

Warnings against the spirit of pharisaism -- Luke xii.1-59.

Comment on the slaughter of Galileans by Pilate -- Luke xiii.1-9.

Discourse on counting the cost of discipleship -- Luke xiv.25-35.

Discourse on the coming of the kingdom -- Luke xvii.20-37.

Parable of the Unjust Judge -- Luke xviii.1-8.

Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican -- Luke xviii.9-14.

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