Hey I'm Josh Hawkins and this is Episode 53 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 51 and 52, we saw from both John and Matthew's gospel that Jesus was on His way north to Galilee because John the Baptist had been imprisoned. He took the route north through Samaria and stopped outside a city called Sychar where He met a Samaritan woman at the well. I noted in the last episode how His acceptance among the Samaritans stood in contrast to His rejection among the Jewish authorities. We'll see this same thing pop up again several times throughout the rest of Jesus' ministry. As Jesus would go on to say just shortly before His death, the Jews did not know the time of their visitation. Jesus would be the stone that the builders would reject, but God would make Him the chief cornerstone.
So up to this point we've been spending a lot of time in John's Gospel, because he's been narrating what I've called the "Early Judean ministry". The bulk of Matthew, Mark, and Luke though tell us about Jesus up in Galilee, and so we've finally reached that period I'll just call Jesus' "Galilean ministry". Back in Episode 40 I laid out a simple breakdown of the periods of Jesus' public ministry. We started with the:
Early Judean period - which is what we have been looking at so far. This period begins with Jesus' baptism and ends with His return to Galilee.
The next period we're going to look at I'm just calling the "Early Galilean period" which begins with the events following His return to Galilee and will span all the way to the calling of the Twelve disciples.
Before we actually get into some details, I want to preface all of this by saying that we're only going to be looking at a framework from this point forward and not really getting into the details of every single scene. This series would go on for a long long time if I did that. But there's great resources out there that actually get into the individual scenes and flesh them out. One of my favorites is Alfred Edersheim's "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah". I've put a link below for you to grab it if it interests you. Really the best thing I can do for you is to give you a "big picture" framework so you can go and read the Gospels on your own and actually understand what's happening. I'll certainly get into individual scenes as we move forward, but I'm going to have to be a lot more broad overall.
There's something else I want to show you, and for me, this was one of the most significant things that helped me see the cohesive story of Jesus that the Gospels are telling instead of just a random collection of events and sayings. This has to do with the Passover feasts. Back in Episode 31 I talked about the three major feasts that every Jewish male was required to attend. Passover is one of them, and it happens every year in April. So check this out - in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, two different Passover feasts are mentioned. But in John's Gospel, we see three Passovers. The last two Passovers in John - the ones mentioned in John 6 and John 12-13 are the ones that corroborate with the Passovers in the Synoptics. The other one is in John 2, and we looked at that back in Episodes 45 and 46. So, there are 3 Passovers - John 2 - which is the beginning of Jesus' public ministry when He cleansed the temple and met Nicodemus, John 6, and John 12/13 - where His public ministry ended and He was crucified. So according to the timing that I talked about back in Episode 41, our date for the first Passover was 27AD. For the second, 28AD, and for the 3rd, 29AD.
The first thing I want you to notice about this is the number of years that Jesus' ministry lasted. It's just a mainstream assumption in the church that He ministered for 3 and a half years, but I believe that number is mistaken. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say that. It seems like it was probably 2 or perhaps 2 and a half years. Or maybe 2 and a half or three if you include John the Baptist and his ministry. Others say that it might have been around 3 years because the feast in John chapter 5 could have been another Passover, but I don't think that's the case at all. I'll talk about this in a future episode. So, first detail I want you to see - the Passovers in the Gospels help us to begin to see the bookends of Jesus' life and ministry.
So how do we break up the periods of His ministry in these two years? It's pretty simple and pretty easy to remember. In the first year we have the early Judean, early Galilean, and Middle Galilean. And in the second year, we have the late Galilean, the late Perean and Judean, and Passion Week. As you can see, it's 3 periods in the first year and 3 in the second, so it's pretty easy to break down. So you might be asking - "Josh, how can you be that precise?" Well, there's one very important event that brings this all together, and that's the feeding of the five thousand. Aside from the cross, the feeding of the 5000 is one of the only events that all four Gospels record. And why is that important? It's like a hinge that all the other events swing on. John 6 tells us that the feeding of the 5,000 happened right before the Passover feast. Because all four Gospels narrate the feeding of the 5,000, it's like an anchor that gives us clarity on how the story of Jesus from all four Gospels relate to one another. Remember, we're looking at a Person and His story in this series, not just individual texts.
Now, as I've mentioned in the past, a specific chronology of the Gospels - as in exactly ordering all of the events - is just not possible, but a general chronology is more than possible. And this is what I hope you can come away with as we move forward throughout this series. As I've also said in the past, generally Mark and Luke are linearly arranged, Matthew is topically arranged, and John is highly chronological but omits most of Jesus' activity in Galilee. And this is why understanding the feeding of the 5,000 in John and how it intersects with the other Gospels is so critical to understanding a general chronology.
Alright, so for the rest of this episode I want to introduce some of the broad themes we're going to see in the early Galilean ministry. It seems like it's probably summertime in 27AD when Jesus heads north to Galilee. From the beginning of this portion of His ministry, His fame explodes. But at the same time, resistance towards Him increases. This is what we'll see in an increasing measure throughout His ministry. Something else we'll begin to encounter more of is Jesus' teachings. We don't see too much teaching during His early Judean period except for His conversation with Nicodemus, but in the early Galilean period we see the Gospels record much more of what He taught. Another theme we'll see in this period is Jesus' authority and the overwhelming nature of His power. Just put yourself in the story of the Gospels and think about Jesus as a real person. How much of a shock would it be to you to see Jesus doing what He was doing? Think about it. If you were someone who lived in Nazareth when Jesus was a teenager, and now it's 15 years later and the same kid you saw playing in the streets now has crowds following Him and people being healed of blindness and lifelong infirmities, how would you react? Just imagine what His family and friends went through. It all seemingly came out of nowhere too. We'll begin to see this more and more as Jesus' Galilean ministry progresses.
Throughout this early Galilean period, we see Jesus always going back to the same place - the town of Capernaum, on the western shores of the sea of Galilee. Every time Jesus goes out on ministry circuits and then returns, it's always to Capernaum. Why is that? It's where Jesus lived. Somehow we've made the Gospels just a little more than a fairy tale and the question of Jesus possibly living somewhere else other than Nazareth never crosses our mind. Several times in the Gospels, Capernaum is called "His own city". It seems like at some point prior to anything we hear about in His adulthood, Jesus and His family had moved to Capernaum. There's a couple of clues we have from the Gospels - first, after the wedding at Cana in John 2, Jesus goes back to Capernaum. Why? Probably because His family is there. And then in Luke 4, Luke says that Jesus had returned to where He had been brought up, which could imply that He was not living there anymore. The Gospels also often refer to "the house". It seems likely that "the house" was the family home where Jesus' brothers lived together with their families and their widowed mother. It's also possible that "the house" could be referring to Peter's home in Capernaum. We'll talk more about this in future episodes.
This early Galilean period - even the entire Galilean ministry - was such a critical season in the history of Israel. Jesus had already appealed to Jerusalem and to the Jewish authorities, and they had rejected Him and His message. And what was He seeking from the people? The fruits of repentance. Just like John said. Jesus was looking for those hearts who were inclined to God, and that's what His teaching would be focused on. As we know, though a small remnant of people in Israel would bear the fruits of repentance, most would be hardened and would ultimately reject Jesus and thus their inheritance in the promises made to Abraham.
I want to finish this episode with a quick summary of the events of this period in chronological order. You'll notice how Mark and Luke are moving linearly, but Matthew is jumping around, just as we've talked about before.
So from His return to Galilee we see Him:
- then, the first circuit throughout the cities of Galilee
- Rejected in Nazareth and then making His way to Capernaum
- then, a feast of the Jews in Jerusalem (according to John 5)
- then, the calling of His disciples and the miraculous catch of fish
- then, a Sabbath in Capernaum where Jesus heals a demonized man
- then, a second circuit through the cities of Galilee
- then, the healing of a leper
- then, the healing of a paralytic
- then, the calling of Matthew and the feast he held for Jesus
- then, words about fasting and mourning for the bridegroom
- then, a second sabbath where His disciples pluck heads of grain from the grain fields
- then, the healing of the man with the withered hand
- and finally, the calling of the Twelve disciples
Well in the next episode we'll start looking at the events in this early Galilean period. If you've missed any of the episodes, you can find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, and come back next time!