Jesus Christ (a transliteration of the Aramaic from the Heb. "Joshua," meaning "Yahweh is salvation"), Christos (a translation of the Heb.Â "Messiah," meaning "anointed," or "anointed one").] The Saviour of the world, the Messiah. In NT times, "Jesus," was a common given name for Jewish boys. It expressed the parents' faith in God and in His promise of One who would bring salvation to Israel. The angel Gabriel instructed Joseph to call Mary's first-born by this name, the reason given being, "He shall save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). "Christ" was not a personal name by which people knew Him while on earth, but a title used to identify Him as the One in whom the Messianic promises and prophecies of the OT met their fulfilment. To those who believed in Him as sent of God He was the Christ, that is, the Messiah, the One "anointed" by God to be the Saviour of the world. When used together, as in Mt 1:18; 16:20; Mk 1:1, the 2 names Jesus and Christ constitute a confession of faith that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, is indeed the Christ, the Messiah (Mt 1:1; Acts 2:38). He was also to be known by the title Emmanuel, "God with us," in recognition of His deity and virgin birth (Mt 1:23; cf. Is 7:14; 9:6, 7). Christ's usual designation for Himself was "the Son of man" (Mk 2:10; etc.), an expression never used by others when speaking of or to Him. By this title, which seems to have Messianic implications, Jesus emphasised His humanity, doubtless thinking of Himself as the promised Seed of Gen 3:15; 22:18; cf. Gal 3:16. Jesus seldom used the title "Son of God," which stresses deity, of Himself (Jn 9:35-37, KJV; 10:36), though He often referred to God as His Father (Mt 16:17; etc.). However, the Father called Him His Son (Lk 3:22; 9:35), and John the Baptist (Jn 1:34) and the Twelve (Mt 14:33; 16:16), "Son of God." It was Jesus' claim that God was His Father in a special sense, and later His admission that He was the Son of God, that the Jews seized upon as warranting His condemnation and death (Lk 22:70, 71). Gabriel explained that Jesus was to be called the Son of God by virtue of His birth to Mary by the power of the Holy Ghost (Lk 1:35; cf. Heb 1:5), and Paul declared that Jesus' resurrection from the dead designated Him "Son of God" in power (Rom 1:4, RSV). His disciples frequently addressed Him as "Master" (Mk 4:38; 9:38; etc.), and eventually, in recognition of His deity, as "Lord" (Jn 14:5, 8; 20:28). The term "son of David" was a popular Messianic designation used by rulers and people alike (Mt 12:23; 22:42; Mk 12:35; etc.) as an expression of hope for deliverance from political oppression.
I. Historical Background. More than anything else it was faith in the promised Messiah that bound the Jews as a race together down through the centuries and gave point to their existence as a nation. The Messianic hope is the central theme of the OT, from the announcement of a Redeemer in Gen 3:15 to the promise of one who would come before Him to prepare His way in Is 40:3-5; Mal 4:5. Correctly understood, the OT Scriptures all anticipate His coming and bear witness to Him (Lk 24:25-27; Jn 5:39, 47). The Gospel writers frequently refer to OT prophecies as meeting their fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 1:23; 2:6, 15, 18; 3:3; etc.), and Christ Himself repeatedly cited the OT Scriptures as evidence that He was the Messiah (Lk 4:18-21; 24:25-27; Jn 5:39, 47; etc.).
For some 375 years after the restoration from Babylonian captivity in 536 b.c., Judea was, successively, tributary to the Persians, to Alexander the Great, and to his successors, the Ptolemies of Egypt and Seleucids of Syria. Then for approximately a century the Jews enjoyed a measure of independence from foreign rule, under a series of rulers known as the Maccabees, or Hasmonaeans. From 63 b.c. onward, Palestine was tributary to the Romansâ€”though largely autonomous in the administration of its internal civil and religious lifeâ€”until a.d. 70, when the nation became extinct. About 15 years after Pompey's subjugation of Palestine, Herod, later known as "the Great," was appointed chief magistrate of Galilee. At the time of the Parthian invasion, when 2 Hasmonaean rulers fought for the throne, Herod was appointed king of Judea by the Romans (40 b.c.), and with the aid of the Romans, took Jerusalem in 37 b.c. This terminated the long series of sanguinary wars that had marked the years 63-37 b.c., during which, it is said, more than 100,000 Jews were slain. Over the next 70 years, to a.d. 34, another 100,000 Jews are said to have lost their lives in abortive attempts to cast off the Roman-Herodian yoke. Herod murdered various members of the Hasmonaean family, to which members one after another the Jews had rallied in a futile attempt to regain their freedom. He also murdered scores of the Jewish nobles on various occasions, either out of dislike or fear or in order to confiscate their property. He further incurred the hatred of his subjects by oppressive taxes, one of the means by which he raised the necessary funds for his grandiose building projects. It is said that whereas he found the nation reasonably prosperous, he left it at his death in abject poverty. The Jews also hated Herod for his paganising activities and his untrammelled, unbounded cruelties. They called him "that Edomite slave" and looked upon him as Satan incarnate. Despicable though he was, he had an insatiable desire to be liked and honoured, but realising that the Jews would never accord him either, he bestowed rich favours and grand buildings upon the inhabitants of Gentile cities, near and far. A disastrous earthquake in 31 b.c. and a severe famine 6 years later added to the suffering of the Jewish people during his reign of about 33 years. One of his last acts prior to his death, probably in 4 b.c., was the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem (Mt 2). As his successors he appointed his son Archelaus over Judea and Samaria, another son, Herod Antipas, over Galilee and Perea, and a 3rd son, Philip, over the region to the north and east of the Sea of Galilee. Philip, whose subjects were mostly Gentiles, is said to have made his leadership a blessing. Upon occasion Jesus retired briefly to areas under Philip's jurisdiction, where He enjoyed momentary freedom from the harassment of the scribes and Pharisees. Much of Jesus' ministry was devoted to Galilee and Perea, which were under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas.
Archelaus inherited his father's fiendish character, but lacked his father's capabilities. He was barbaric and tyrannical in the worst sense of the words. He inaugurated his reign over Judea by the senseless slaughter of 3,000 persons in the Temple courts. This massacre aroused public sentiment and provoked a series of unprecedented riots. Hatred for Herodian-Roman rule reached such a pitch that complete anarchy prevailed for a time. Finally, in a.d. 6, Augustus banished Archelaus to Gaul and annexed Judea and Samaria to the Roman province of Syria, thus placing the Jews directly under Roman rule for the first time. As could be expected, the Jews bitterly resented the presence of Roman administrators and soldiers, but with occasional exceptions the affairs of Palestine were relatively quiet for many years. When Coponius, first of the procurators, attempted to levy a direct Roman tax, many Galilean Jews rose in revolt under Judas (Acts 5:37). Abandoning the attempt, the Romans farmed out the collection of taxes to Jews, who are known in the NT as "publicans." These were hated both because they were representatives of a detested foreign government and because they systematically fleeced their own countrymen. The emperor Tiberius himself, according to Josephus (Ant. xviii. 6. 5), observed that the Roman procurators, financial officialsÂ were like flies on a wound, since those already sated with blood did not suck as hard as the newcomers. Most of the procurators proved to be unscrupulous, incompetent men who provoked the Jews to ever greater hatred of Rome. They sat, so to speak, on a volcano, which eventually erupted in the great revolt of a.d. 66-73. Under the procurators the Jews still enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy in the administration of their local civil and religious affairs. The great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem had a measure of civil, as well as religious, jurisdiction. The high priest was its presiding officer, and it had a police force to enforce its authority. In addition, there were 11 regional Sanhedrins in Judea. As the heartland of Judaism the Judea of Jesus' day was ultraconservative. Galilee, on the other handâ€”called "Galilee of the Gentiles"â€”was more cosmopolitan, with a larger admixture of non-Jews in its population. Greek influence prevailed there to a much greater extent than in Judea. There were few large cities, and the region was almost wholly under cultivation.
II. Jewish Religious Life. Jewish religious life revolved, to a great degree, around the local synagogues. However, at the great annual feastsâ€”Passover or Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernaclesâ€”Jewish pilgrims and Gentile proselytes from all parts of the civilised world flocked by the thousands to the Temple in Jerusalem. Upon these occasions the sacred vestments of the high priest, which the Romans ordinarily kept in the Tower of Antonia adjoining the Temple, were released for use.
The two major religious parties were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees, who originated as a political sect in the 2nd cent. b.c., represented the popular, orthodox middle class of the towns and villages. They believed that personal salvation and the welfare of the Jewish nation depended upon strict adherence to the laws of Moses. They were the party of the scribes and theologians, and were usually the ones who challenged Christ in argument. Seeking to keep religion separate from the state, they avoided civic duties themselves and promoted a passive resistance to the Herodian-Roman government. On the other hand, the Sadducees, the practical political party of the day, were made up for the most part of the wealthy, cultured, liberal, progressive, Hellenising segment of the Jewish nation. They were not anti-religious, but saw no point in letting religion dominate other aspects of life. Whereas the Pharisees stressed dependence upon God, the Sadducees depended upon themselves, believing each man to be the arbiter of his own destiny. They took a strong interest in the secular concerns of the nation and co-operatedâ€”actively but reluctantlyâ€”with the Roman authorities. By mutual consent with the Pharisees, the high priest, who was a political appointee in NT times, was always a Sadducee, but on condition that he conduct the duties of his office in harmony with Pharisee tradition.
A 3rd religious group, the Essenes, extreme conservatives, possibly numbered no more than 3,000. Their beliefs were similar to those of the Pharisees, but unlike the Pharisees, they lived apart from society in monastic communities and shunned the Temple and its sacrifices. They advocated purity of life, the strict observance of the Torah, and high ethical standards. The community at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea is thought to have been an Essene community. The now famous Dead Sea scrolls were once a part of the Khirbet Qumran library. At several points, the beliefs and teachings of the Qumran community closely resemble those of John the Baptist and Christ. They claimed to be the "voice â€¦ in the wilderness" of Is 40:3-5, and stressed the coming of the Messiah. Their founder was a "teacher of righteousness" who organised his followers under a "new covenant" or "new testament," in anticipation of the Messianic kingdom they believed would soon be established. They practised ceremonial washings, but taught that these rites were without value unless accompanied by the spiritual cleansing by a holy spirit.
The Zealots, constituting a 4th Jewish party, agreed mainly with the Pharisees, though politics was their chief concern. Josephus (Ant. xviii. 1. 1, 6; War ii. 8. 1) attributes their origin to Judas of Galilee, who led the revolt against direct Roman taxation in a.d. 6 or 7 (Acts 5:37). They seem to be identified with the Sicarii, or "daggermen," of the first Jewish revolt, a.d. 66-73. They were hot-headed enthusiasts, the fanatical extremists of Judaism. One of Christ's disciples, Simon the Zealot, is thought to have been a member.
The Herodians, or "partisans of Herod" (Jos. Ant. xiv. 15. 10), made up a 5th group, with interests solely political.
The scribes, or "lawyers" (Mt 7:29; Lk 7:30), did not constitute a separate group, though most of them were Pharisees. They were the professional interpreters of the civil and religious laws of Moses and made it their business to apply these laws to the affairs of daily life. Their collective interpretation of the Mosaic law, later codified in the Mishnah and the Talmud, constituted the "tradition" against which Christ spoke so positively. It should be remembered, however, that only a small fraction of the population of Palestine belonged to these religious and political sects and that the great masses of the people were uneducated and despised by the leaders on account of their ignorance and lax observance of ritual. It was among these simple folk that Jesus did most of His work and with whom He was classed by the so-called elite of His time. It was the common people, many of whom were God-fearing and took religion seriously, who heard Him gladly (Mk 12:37).
In the days of Christ there were many who earnestly looked for the Messiah (see Mk 15:43; Lk 2:25, 38). Non-Biblical Jewish literature both before and after Christ reflects a great interest in the coming of Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom. The interminable and bloody wars of the Roman-Herodian period, the great earthquake of 31 b.c., in which many thousands were killed, and the disastrous famine of 25-24 b.c. were looked upon by many as signs of the nearness of Messiah's coming. There was also throughout the Gentile world a great expectation of a saviour. When Augustus became emperor in 27 b.c. and centuries of strife gave way to almost universal peace, popular sentiment applied messianic legends and prophecies to him.
In the minds of many his long and tranquil reign seemed to justify this opinion. Of general messianic expectation the Roman historian Seutonius wrote: "There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the emperor of Rome, as afterward appeared from the event, the people of Judaea took to themselves" (The Lives of the Caesars viii. 4; Loeb ed., vol. 2, p. 289). Another Roman historian, Tacitus, attributed the Jewish revolt that ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 to this Messianic hope of the Jews, the belief that one of their race was destined to rule the world.
III. Chronology of the Life of Christ. The exact dates of Christ's birth, ministry, and death are not precisely known but can be determined with reasonable accuracy. By an error of 4 or 5 years in determining the year of Christ's birth, Dionysius Exiguus, a 6th-cent. Roman abbot, misnumbered the years of his new Christian Era. He placed the birth of Christ at least 4 or 5 years too late. That is why the birth date can be 4 or 5 b.c. With reasonable certainty Herod's death can be assigned to the early spring of 4 b.c., and by that time Christ must already have been several weeks or months old (see Mt 2). Accordingly, His birth may doubtless be assigned to the late fall of 5 b.c. or winter of 5/4 b.c. John the Baptist began to preach in "the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius" (Lk 3:1), a short timeâ€”perhaps about 6 months (cf. ch 1:24, 26-31)â€”before Jesus' baptism, from which time Jesus' public ministry is reckoned. Jesus was then approximately "thirty years of age" (ch 3:23) and soon thereafter it was said that the Temple had been "forty and six years â€¦ in building" (Jn 2:20). Since gaps in our present knowledge make the precise co-ordination of these chronological data with one another and the Christian Era difficult if not impossible, only an approximate date can be suggested for the opening of Christ's public ministry. All things considered, the autumn of a.d. 27 seems to harmonise most closely with the known data.
On the basis of the record of the Synoptic Gospels alone (Mt, Mk, and Lk) it might be concluded that Jesus' ministry continued for only a little more than one year, since events at only 2 Passovers are reported. John, however, mentions 3 Passovers (Jn 2:13, 23; 6:4; 13:1) and an unspecified "feast of the Jews" (ch 5:1). The imprisonment and death of John the Baptist, taken in connection with related events in Christ's ministry, help to determine that this unnamed feast was most likely a Passover also. Four Passovers would make the duration of Christ's ministry about 3 1/2 years.
The data for these events can be interpreted thus: According to Mt 4:12 and Mk 1:14, it was the imprisonment of John that led Jesus to transfer His labours from Judea to Galilee, and according to Mt 14:10-21 (cf. Jn 6:4-15), John was beheaded at Passover time one year prior to Jesus' death on the cross (cf. Jn 11:55). Furthermore, the public Galilean ministry closed at Passover time one year before the crucifixion (cf. Jn 5:1; 6:66). The Galilean ministry thus coincides with the period of John's imprisonment. Now, Jesus' Judean ministry began immediately after the Passover in the spring following His baptism, that is, the spring of a.d. 28, and continued for an unspecified but somewhat extended period of time (chs 2:13, 23; 3:22, 26, 30; 4:1). But "John was not yet cast into prison" during the course of Jesus' Judean ministry (ch 3:22, 24). To avoid controversy between His disciples and those of John (see chs 3:25 to 4:3), Jesus temporarily interrupted His ministry in Judea and went to Galilee, going through Samaria on the way (ch 4:3, 4). Therefore the incidents of John 4, in Samaria and Cana of Galilee, took place while John was still at liberty and thus before the formal opening of Jesus' Galilean ministry. Inasmuch as there was probably not sufficient time between the Passover of ch 2:13, 23 and the Feast of Pentecost, 7 weeks later, for the events of chs 3 and 4, the "feast" of ch 5:1 could not be earlier than the Feast of Tabernacles, 6 months after that Passover. But if the feast of ch 5:1 is to be considered the Feast of Tabernacles that year, it is necessary to conclude, on the basis of facts already noted, that all the events and developments recorded in connection with Jesus' Galilean ministry took place within a period of less than 6 months, from this "feast" to the Passover of ch 6:4. But a careful study of all that is told of the Galilean ministry leads to the conclusion that it would be impossible to compress the Galilean ministry leads to the conclusion that it would be impossible to compress the Galilean ministry into a period of 6 months. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the "feast" of Jn 5 was the 2nd Passover of Jesus' ministry (cf. ch 2:13-15), one year after the Passover of ch 2:13, 23, and a year before the Passover of ch 6:4, and that Jesus' ministry extended over a period of 3 1/2 years. With the autumn of a.d. 27 as the time of Jesus' baptism, His ministry would extend to the spring of a.d. 31. On the basis of this chronological pattern about 6 months elapsed between His baptism in the autumn of a.d. 27 and the 1st Passover in the spring of a.d. 28. During this time, Jesus laboured quietly in Judea and Galilee without attracting public attention. Between the 1st and 2nd Passovers, of a.d. 28 and a.d. 29, His efforts were devoted chiefly to Judea. The Galilean ministry occupied the next year, to Passover time in a.d. 30. From the Passover of a.d. 30, His 3rd, to the Feast of Tabernacles the next autumn, Jesus discontinued His public ministry in Galilee and spent considerable time in the Gentile regions to the north and east, and in private conversations with His disciples. From the Feast of Tabernacles to the 4th Passover in the spring of a.d. 31, Jesus laboured principally in Samaria and Perea. Only John (chs 2 to 5) reports the 1 1/2 years of Jesus' ministry from the autumn of a.d. 27 to the Passover of a.d. 29. The Synoptic writers cover the year of Galilean ministry and 6 months in retirement (Passover a.d. 29 to Feast of Tabernacles, a.d. 30), in detail. John relates only 2 or 3 events of this period (ch 6). Luke (chs 9 to 19) is our primary source for what Jesus did during the final 6 months in Samaria and Perea, to Passover a.d. 31. The formal appointment of the Twelve as apostles did not take place till the summer of a.d. 29, about midway of the 3 1/2 years of ministry. The last year of this ministry is clearly marked off by the Passovers mentioned in Jn 6:4 and 11:55, probably the Passovers of a.d. 30 and 31 respectively.
IV. Life and Public Ministry. The outline of events in this section follows the pattern adopted in the Harmony of the Gospels appearing in this dictionary.
1. Infancy to Manhood.â€”Jesus was born in Bethlehem, David's city, in order that He might be identified the more readily as the Son of David, and thus the Messiah of OT prophecy (Lk 2:1-7; cf. Mic 5:2). On the 8th day, He was circumcised (Lk 2:21), circumcision being the sign of the covenant and a pledge of obedience to its requirements. Jesus was born "under the law" of Moses and submitted to its jurisdiction (Gal 4:4). Later, Joseph and Mary took Him to the Temple for the ceremony of the dedication of the first-born (Lk 2:22-38, 39; cf. Lev 12:1-4). From early times, this rite had been followed by the Hebrews in acknowledgement of God's promise to give His first-born to save the lost. In the case of Jesus, it was an acknowledgement of God's act in giving His Son to the world, and of the Son's dedication to the work He had come to do. After the visit of the Magi (Mt 2:1-12), by means of which God called the attention of the leaders of the Jewish nation to the birth of His Son, Joseph and Mary briefly took refuge in Egypt from Herod's fury (Mt 2:13-18). Returning to Palestine, they were divinely instructed to settle in Galilee rather than in Judea, doubtless in order to avoid the state of anarchy that prevailed in Judea during the turbulent reign of Archelaus (Mt 2:19-23; Lk 23:9-40). At the age of 12, a Jewish boy was considered as crossing the threshold from childhood to youth. As a "son of the law," he became personally responsible for fulfilling the requirements of the Jewish religion, and was expected to participate in its sacred services and festivals. Accordingly, at the age of 12, Jesus attended His first Passover, where for the first time He gave evidence of an understanding of His own special relation to the Father and His life mission (Lk 2:41-50).
2. Early Public Ministry.â€”Jesus' baptism and anointing by the Holy Spirit, possibly about the time of the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn of a.d. 27, was for Him an act of consecration to His lifework that set Him apart for His ministry (Mt 3:13-17; cf. Acts 10:38). The Father publicly declared Jesus to be His own Son (Mt 3:17), and John the Baptist recognised the sign given him by which to identify the Lamb of God (Jn 1:31-34). After His baptism, Jesus retired into the wilderness that He might contemplate His mission. There the tempter pressed upon Him temptations designed to appeal to the senses, to pride, and to His own sense of mission. Before He could go forth to men, He Himself must gain victory over the tempter (Mt 4:1-11; cf. Heb 2:18). Later, Jesus returned to the Jordan where John was preaching (Jn 1:28-34), and shortly afterward gathered about Him a small group of followersâ€”John, Andrew, Simon, Philip, and Nathanael (vs. 35-51). His first miracle, at Cana of Galilee (ch 2:1-11), strengthened their faith in Him as the Messiah and gave them an opportunity to testify of their new-found faith to others.
3. Judean Ministry.â€”By the cleansing of the Temple at Passover time the following spring, some 6 months after His baptism, Jesus publicly announced His mission to cleanse men's hearts from the defilement of sin (Jn 2:13-17). Challenged by the Temple authorities for this act, He pointed forward cryptically to His death on the cross as the means by which He proposed to cleanse the soul temple (vs. 18-22). The nocturnal visit of Nicodemus, a chief counsellor, gave Jesus an opportunity, at the very beginning of His ministry, to explain the purpose of His mission to a member of the Sanhedrin (Jn 3:1-21) whose mind was receptive. Later Nicodemus temporarily thwarted the schemes of the priests to destroy Jesus (cf. ch 7:50-53). Leaving Jerusalem, Jesus ministered for a protracted period in Judea (ch 3:22). The people thronged to hear Him, and the tide of popularity gradually turned from John to Jesus (ch 4:1). When dissatisfaction arose among John's disciples because of this (ch 3:25-26), Jesus, wishing to avoid all occasion for misunderstanding and dissension, quietly ceased His labours and withdrew, for a time, to Galilee (ch 4:1-3). He took advantage of this interruption in His Judean ministry to prepare the way for His later successful ministry in Samaria and in Galilee. Returning to Jerusalem for the Passover of a.d. 29, Jesus healed a paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath day, probably the worst, and best-known, case there (ch 5:1-15). The Jewish leaders had a full year to observe Jesus and to evaluate His message, and Jesus doubtlessly designed by this miracle to bring them to an open decision. Accused by the Jews of Sabbath-breaking, Jesus defended Himself by stating: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (vs. 16-18). They had before them various evidences of His Messiahship: (1) They had heard, and professed to accept, the message of John the Baptistâ€”and John had declared Jesus to be the Son of God (vs. 32-35; cf. ch 1:31, 34). (2) The many miracles Jesus had performed during His Judean ministry (see ch 2:23), and particularly the healing of the paralysed man that very Sabbath day, attested His claim (ch 5:36). The very fact that He was doing the works of His Father (v 36; cf. v 17) testified that He had come from the Father. (3) The Father Himself had declared Jesus to be His Son (vs. 37, 38). (4) The supreme evidence of Jesus' Messiahship was to be found in the writings of Moses whom they professed to accept and who would be their judge if they rejected Him (vs. 39-47).
The priests and rulers would doubtless have slain Jesus on the spot had they dared to do so, but popular sentiment was too strong in His favour (cf. Jn 5:16, 18). They did, however, reject His claims and they determined to take His life at some future time (v 18). Henceforth, the Gospel writers frequently mention spies sent to watch and report what Jesus said and did, showing that these priests and rulers were attempting to build up a case against Him (cf. Lk 11:54; 20:20; etc.). Also, about this time, Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist (Lk 3:19, 20). These 2 eventsâ€”the rejection by the Sanhedrin and the imprisonment of John the Baptistâ€”mark the close of Jesus' Judean ministry (Mt 4:12; cf. Jn 7:1). To avoid useless conflict with the teachers of Jerusalem, Jesus henceforth restricted His labours chiefly to Galilee and, in fact, did not revisit Jerusalem until the Feast of Tabernacles about a year and a half later.
4. Galilean Ministry.â€”The Galileans were less sophisticated and less dominated by their leaders than the Jews of Judea, and their minds were thus more open to receive truth. During the Galilean ministry, enthusiasm ran so high that Jesus was, at times, obliged to hide Himself lest the Roman authorities be given occasion to fear insurrection. For a time, it seemed that the Galileans would receive Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus opened His work in Galilee at Nazareth, whose people knew Him best and who should have been best prepared to welcome Him as the Messiah (Lk 4:16-30). In the synagogue on the Sabbath day, Jesus explained to them the nature and purpose of His mission, but they refused to accept Him and set about to take His life.
Turning from Nazareth, Jesus made Capernaum the centre of His Galilean labours (Mt 4:13-17). By the sea one morning, Jesus summoned Peter and Andrew, James and John, to unite themselves fully as colabourers with Him and to follow Him henceforth as full-time disciples (Lk 5:1-11; cf. Mt 4:18-22). Sentiment soon rose to such a pitch that Jesus felt compelled to leave Capernaum for a time and labour elsewhere (Mk 1:28, 33, 37, 38). Thus, Jesus set out on His 1st journey through the towns and villages of Galilee, proclaiming "the kingdom of God" to be "at hand" (Mk 1:14, 15; Lk 4:31, 43). Returning to Capernaum, He healed the paralytic let down through the roof (Mk 2:1-12). Present to witness the miracle were a delegation of "Pharisees and doctors of the law" from all parts of Judea and Galilee and also representatives of the authorities at Jerusalem (Lk 5:17) who had doubtless come to investigate and interfere with His successful labours in Galilee. By forgiving and healing the paralytic, Jesus gave them undeniable evidence that divine power was at work, and that His authority was divine (vs. 18-24). The failure of attempts to discredit Jesus is evidenced by the increasing popularity that marked His work (cf. Mk 3:7, 8).
During the interval between the 1st and 2nd Galilean tours, Jesus ordained 12 of His followers to be apostles (Mk 3:13-19). The same day (see Lk 6:13-20), He delivered the Sermon on the Mount, which was meant chiefly for His disciples, but given in the hearing of a great throng (Mt 5 to 7). In this sermon, which may be thought of as His inaugural address as King of the kingdom of divine grace and as the charter of His kingdom, Jesus set forth its fundamental principles. Soon thereafter He departed on His 2nd Galilean tour (Lk 8:1-3), which is more fully reported than either of the others. During its course, Jesus demonstrated the power of His kingdom and its value to men. It opened (ch 7:11-17) and closed (Mk 5:21-43) with demonstrations of power over death. Jesus also demonstrated His power over nature (Mt 8:23-27) and over demons (Mt 12:22-45; Mk 5:1-20). As King of the kingdom of divine grace, Jesus could set men free from the fear of death, the fear of the elements of nature, and the fear of demonsâ€”which well summarise the popular fears of that day.
During the course of this tour Jesus gave His sermon by the sea (Mt 13:1-53), in a series of parables setting forth the same principles He had taught in a more formal way in the Sermon on the Mount. On the 3rd Galilean tour, Jesus sent out the Twelve, two by two, to gain experience in personal evangelism (chs 9:36 to 11:1). In their absence, in company with other disciples, He revisited Nazareth, where His townsmen rejected Him a second time (Mk 6:1-6). This tour ended about Passover time the spring of a.d. 30. The evidence of divine power in the miracle of the loaves and fishes (vs. 30-44) was taken by the 5,000 men present as crowning evidence that the long-looked-for Deliverer was among them. Here was a man who could supply whole armies with food, who could heal wounded soldiers and raise the dead, and who could conquer the nations, restore the dominion to Israel, and turn Judea into the earthly Paradise foretold by the prophets of old. They endeavoured to crown Him king, but Jesus refused (Jn 6:14, 15). This was the turning point in His ministry. After a stormy night on the sea (Mt 14:22-36), Jesus returned to Capernaum, where He gave the sermon on the Bread of Life (Jn 6:25 to Jn 7:1). The people who had thought of Jesus as ruler of an earthly kingdom now realised that His was spiritual kingdom, and most of them "went back and walked no more with him" (ch 6:66). The current of popular sentiment turned against Jesus in Galilee as it had in Judea the year before.
5. In Retirement.â€”Jesus now discontinued His public labours for the people of Galilee. Rejected by leaders and people alike, He realised that His work was rapidly drawing to a close. Before Him loomed in vivid outline the scenes of His suffering and death, but this even His disciples did not yet realise. Like the people generally, they still conceived of His kingdom as an earthly dominion. Upon repeated occasions Jesus now discussed His Messiahship and mission with them in an endeavour to prepare them for the great disappointment they were to experience. At Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13-28), on the Mount of Transfiguration (ch 17:1-13), and as they journeyed by the way (vs. 22, 23), He explained to them that as the Messiah, He must suffer and die. Also, during this period, Jesus retired to the non-Jewish regions of Phoenicia (ch 15:21-28), Caesarea Philippi (ch 16:13-28), and Decapolis (Mk 7:31 to 8:10), purposing to awaken in His disciples a sense of responsibility for the heathen. The confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13-20) marked an important turning point in the relationship of the disciples to Jesus. Their understanding of His mission had been growing during the time of their association with Him. Now for the first time they gave evidence of a more mature understanding and appreciation of that mission.
6. Samarian-Perean Ministry.â€”In the autumn of the year Jesus, with His disciples, attended the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:2-13). This was His 1st visit to Jerusalem since the healing of the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda and His rejection by the Sanhedrin 18 months earlier. The issue of Christ's Messiahship was now uppermost in people's minds, and they knew also of the plot against His life (Jn 7:25-31). There was a sharp division of opinion as to whether Jesus should be accepted as the Messiah or put to death (vs. 40-44). When an abortive attempt was made to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus silenced the plotters (vs. 45-53). A further attempt was made to ensnare Him (ch 8:3-11). As Jesus was teaching in the Temple, the Jewish authorities again challenged Him, and He in turn openly claimed God as His Father and declared Himself to be the Sent of Godâ€”with the result that they proceeded to stone Him on the spot (vs. 12-59). However, He escaped (v 59) and apparently returned briefly to Galilee before departing thence on His last journey to Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9:51-56).
The next few months, Jesus spent labouring in Samaria and Perea, and during this time sent the Seventy forth on their mission (Lk 10:1-24). Little is known of the exact route Jesus took, but Luke records at length the parables spoken and the experiences encountered during this period (chs 9:51 to 18:34). He now went about in the most public manner and sent messengers ahead to announce His coming (chs 9:52; 10:1). He was going forward to the scene of His great sacrifice, and the attention of the people must be directed toward Him. During His ministry in Perea, the multitude again thronged His steps as during the early days of His ministry in Galilee (see ch 12:1). Some 3 months before the Passover, He went up to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Dedication (Jn 10:22). The authorities again accosted Him in the Temple, demanding, "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly" (v 24). After a brief discussion, the Jews again took up stones to stone Him for making Himself out to be God (vs. 25-33). A little later they sought to arrest Him, but again He escaped out of their hands and returned to Perea (vs. 39, 40). The death of Lazarus a few weeks before the crucifixion later brought Jesus back briefly to the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem for His supreme miracle, which was performed in the presence of a number of the Jewish leaders and which provided evidence the priests could not misinterpret nor deny (see ch 11:1-44). This miracle affixed the seal of God to Jesus' work as the Messiah, but when it was reported to the leaders in Jerusalem (vs. 45, 46), they determined to put Jesus out of the way at the earliest possible opportunity (Jn 11:47-53). This evidence of power over death was the crowning evidence that in the person of Jesus God had, indeed, sent forth His Son into the world for the salvation of men from sin and its penalty, death. The Sadducees, who denied a life after death, were now undoubtedly thoroughly alarmed, and united with the Pharisees in a fixed determination to silence Jesus (cf. v 47). Not desiring to hasten the crisis before its appointed time, Jesus again retired from Jerusalem for a season (v 54).
7. Closing Ministry at Jerusalem.â€”A few weeks after the raising of Lazarus, Jesus once more turned His steps toward Jerusalem. Resting at Bethany over the Sabbath (see Jn 12:1), He was entertained in the home of Simon (Mt 26:6-13; cf. Lk 7:36-50). About that time Judas went to the palace of the high priest with an offer to betray Jesus into their hands (Mt 26:14, 15). On Sunday, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, publicly manifesting Himself to be Messiah-King (ch 21:1-11). The excitement of the people who had come to Jerusalem to attend the Passover was aroused to the highest pitch and they hailed Him as king. Jesus' disciples doubtless took His acceptance of this homage as proof that their glad hopes were about to be fulfilled, and the multitude believed that the hour of their emancipation from the Romans was at hand. Jesus realised that this course of action would bring Him to the cross, but it was His purpose thus publicly to call the attention of all to the sacrifice He was about to make. On Monday, He cleansed the Temple a 2nd time (Mt 21:12-16), thus repeating at the close of His ministry the same act by which He had opened His work 3 years before. This was a direct challenge to the authority of the priests and rulers. When they contested His right to act as He didâ€”"By what authority doest thou these things?" (v 23)â€”Jesus replied in such a way as to reveal their incompetence to weigh His credentials as Messiah (vs. 24-27). By a series of parables (chs 21:28 to 22:14), He pictured the course that the Jewish leaders were then taking in rejecting Him as the Messiah, and in His answers to a series of questions put to Him (ch 22:15-46) confuted His critics to the extent that none of them dared to question Him further (v 46).
After publicly exposing the corrupt character of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus departed from the Temple forever (Mt 23), declaring, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (v 38), whereas only the day before He had referred to the Temple as "my house" (ch 21:13). By this declaration Jesus disinherited the Jewish nation from the covenant relationship. He took "the kingdom of God" away from the Jews in order that He might give it "to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (v 43). That night Jesus retired with 4 of His disciples (Mk 13:3) to the Mount of Olives, where He outlined what must yet take place before the establishment of His visible kingdom upon earth (Mt 24; 25). Wednesday of Passion Week, Jesus spent in retirement with His disciples. On Thursday night, He celebrated the Passover with them, at the same time instituting the ordinance of the Lord's Supper (Lk 22:14-30; Mt 26:26-29; Jn 13:1-20). After the supper, He counselled them at length concerning the future and His eventual return (Jn 14 to 16). As He entered the Garden of Gethsemane, the weight of the sins of the world fell upon Him (Mt 26:37) and He seemed shut out from the light of His Father's presence, experiencing the sinner's fate of eternal separation from God. Tortured by the fear that He was to be shut out forever from the Father's love, that in His humanity He could not endure the suffering that lay ahead, and that He was to be rejected by the very ones He had come to save, He was tempted to turn from His mission and let the human race bear the consequences (cf. Mt 26:39, 42). But He drank the cup of suffering to the dregs. As He fell dying to the ground, having the sufferings of death for every man, an angel from heaven strengthened Him to endure the hours of torture ahead (Mt 26:30-56; Lk 22:43).
That night, Jesus was arrested, and the following morning He appeared 1st before the Jewish authorities (Jn 18:13-24; Mt 26:57-75; Lk 22:66-71), and later before Pilate (Jn 18:28 to Jn 19:16) and before Herod (Lk 23:6-12). Jesus was condemned to death by the Jews, and the sentence received the reluctant ratification of the Roman procurator. That same day, Jesus was led forth to be crucified (Jn 19:17-37). By His death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for sin and vindicated the justice and mercy of God. At the foot of the cross, the selfishness and hatred of a created being who aspired to be equal with God but cared so little about God that he was willing to slay God's Son, came face to face with the selfless love of the Creator, who cared so much for the beings He had created that He was willing to take the nature of a slave and to die the death of a criminal in order to save them from their own evil ways (see ch 3:16). The cross demonstrated that God could be both merciful and just when He forgave men their sins (cf. Rom 3:21-26). Jesus died on the cross at about the time of the evening sacrifice on Friday afternoon, and rose from the dead the following Sunday morning (Mt 27:45-56; 28:1-15). After His resurrection, Jesus tarried on earth for a season in order that His disciples might become familiar with Him as a risen, glorified Being, His repeated appearances (Lk 24:13-45; Jn 20:19-21, 25; etc.) authenticating the resurrection. Forty days later, He ascended to the Father, thus bringing His earthly ministry to a close (Lk 24:50-53). "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father," He said (Jn 20:17). His parting instruction to His followers was that they were to proclaim the good news of the gospel to all the world (Mt 28:19, 20). Confidence that Jesus had truly come forth from the tomb and had ascended to the Father (Lk 24:50-53) gave dynamic power to the gospel as the apostles went forth to proclaim it to all the known world in their generation (see Acts 4:10; 2 Pe 1:16-18; 1 Jn 1:1-3) -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.