Hey everyone, Josh Hawkins here, this is episode 85 of Opening Up the Gospels. From Episodes 73 to 84, we looked at span of Jesus’ ministry that took place from about April to August of 28AD. I called this the Late Galilean period. We saw so many significant things happen - the disciples are severely tested, Jesus turns away from Galilee to minister to Gentiles, He predicts His coming suffering for the first time, and Peter, James, and John see Him transfigured on the mountain. While the Twelve had some of their questions answered, undoubtedly the events of this period raised many new ones. In today’s episode I want to give an introduction to the second to the last major time period in Jesus’ two-year ministry. In this period, Jesus will spend a large amount of time in the southern region of Israel east of the Jordan River called Perea as you can see here on the map, and He’ll also take several visits to Jerusalem. Before I get into the details, let me review the periods we’ve covered so far. The first three periods, the early Judean, the early Galilean, and the Middle Galilean, all fit within the first year of Jesus’ public ministry, between the first Passover of John 2 in 27AD and the 2nd Passover of John 6 in 28AD. And as we’ve seen in our look at the Late Galilean period, that period finishes up with the Transfiguration which seems to be sometime in late July or August of 28AD. Now the period we’ll begin to look at, the Late Judean and Perean Ministry, is roughly about 9 months in duration and stretches from here through Jesus’ final journey into Jerusalem before Passion Week in April of 29AD.
As we begin to dive into this Late Perean and Judean period, it’s really important that we understand the relationship that all the Gospels have to one another so that we can understand the meaning of the events and teachings in this period. As I’ve mentioned several times throughout this series, Matthew and Mark are primarily narrating events in Jesus’ Galilean ministry up to this point. John’s Gospel is complimentary, focusing on Jesus’ ministry in and around Jerusalem. It’s in Luke’s Gospel that we discover some unique content that none of the other Gospel writers record - it’s the record of the Late Judean and Perean ministry. I think this is just so intentional on Luke’s part, not just Luke’s but the Holy Spirit’s part. What we have in Luke is a bridge between the other synoptic gospels and John. Let’s look back at the chart so you can understand what I’m saying here.
As we’ve looked at, the feeding of the 5,000 is near the 2nd Passover in 28. It’s John that makes that timing clear. Then, we just talked about the Transfiguration, which seems to have happened sometime in August of that year, though we can’t be exactly sure. Now, Matthew and Mark’s accounts tell us that Jesus goes to Capernaum after the Transfiguration and then the very next thing they tell us that Jesus is doing is heading to Jerusalem to go to the cross. So what about this 8 to 9 month gap?! Well, before I answer that, we can’t forget that John records two of Jesus’ significant trips to Jerusalem that come after His ministry in Galilee has wrapped up - one in John 7 for the Feast of Tabernacles in October, then another in John 10 for the Feast of Dedication in December. Matthew and Mark say nothing about those events. So how do we know what’s going on in this gap? Well that’s where Luke comes in. As I’ve said, Luke is the bridge between the Synoptics and John throughout this period. Do you see that? Maybe this will make it clearer - in Mark 9, we see the Transfiguration and their arrival in Capernaum. Then in Mark 10, we see Jesus meeting the rich young ruler. But in Luke 9, we see the Transfiguration and the arrival in Capernaum, then we don’t see the rich young ruler until Luke 18. Look at all of that unique content! Now to be fair, Matthew does take some of the teaching during this period and includes it in different places in his gospel, but Luke is the only one who records this period chronologically.
So how did Luke get this unique information? Well we can’t be totally sure, but he does give us some clues of who the eyewitnesses of these events were. Just a chapter before, Luke 8 tells us that a number of named women were going with Jesus on His journey. Then at the end of Luke’s Gospel in chapters 23 and 24, we see the women again, having been with Jesus at least through the entire 9 months leading up to the cross. Mark also mentions the women too in Mark 15. Gospel scholars believe this is strong evidence for Luke’s knowledge of this period as he appealed directly to the eyewitnesses themselves who were likely part of the early Christian community.
The narration of this period begins in Luke 9:51 where Luke writes:
"When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem."
(Luke 9:51 ESV)
Jesus’ purpose shifts during this period, and while it can be said that the general aim of the Late Perean and Judean ministry is to prepare for the Cross. But it's so important that we recognize three different time frames in the midst of this final movement towards Jerusalem. First, Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, which as I’ve already mentioned is in September or Early October of 28. We see this as we compare Luke 9:51 and John 7:2. Secondly, Jesus journeys to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, which was in December of 28. We see that in Luke 13:22 and John 10:1. And finally, Jesus journeys to Jerusalem for the Passover, which was in April of 29. We see that in Luke 17:5, and this was Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem where He would be crucified.
Now it’s important to note that, though Luke does not explicitly mention these feasts in his Gospel, he does place Jesus in proximity to Jerusalem at each of these points. Three separate times Luke says that Jesus is journeying towards Jerusalem, and then 3 separate times John says He is actually in Jerusalem. So the inference is that He probably went into the city just like John said. What many people do is just lump all of the events in Luke 9 through Luke 18 together as a “travel narrative”, saying that Luke really has no concern for geography and is just placing all the content together thematically or topically. I don’t think that’s the case at all because Luke gives very specific geographical markers that are around Jerusalem, far more than many people recognize. So the implication again is that Jesus actually went into the city. Does that make sense? Seeing the way the structure and timing line up with the other Gospels, especially John’s, is so important to understanding the overall picture and story of the Gospels.
Alright, so let’s talk about some of the themes and features of this final extended period of Jesus' ministry. First, if I could say one word to sum up Jesus’ tone during this period, it would be "severity”. When I say that, I don’t mean “unkind” or “mean”, I just mean that Jesus is connected to the gravity and importance of what was going on. During this period we will find some of Jesus’ most severe statements, and this portion of the Gospels is a very disruptive portion to read. Why? I think it’s because Jesus knows that His death is only a little more than a half a year away, and the people are completely unaware of who it is that is in their midst. More than just the first sinless man since Adam, it’s Yahweh, the God of Israel made flesh, dwelling among them. Secondly, we see fewer recorded miracles in this period as well as Jesus’ teaching highlighted in a major way. We see long discourses and parables that evoke the crowds and the Twelve to respond to Jesus. Thirdly, we see Jesus pronouncing judgment and condemnation on His nation and the leadership. There are some pretty severe confrontations that He has with the leadership during this period, and we’ll look at some of them. Fourthly, we see Jesus spending time and effort training His disciples before they face the greatest trial of their faith they have ever faced, which of course is Jesus’ capture and death. There are so many parables and discourses that Jesus gives but the disciples don’t seem to ever fully comprehend what He is saying. As a result, Jesus faces profound misunderstanding not just from the crowds but even from those closest to Him right up until His death. Yet we see Him filled with patience in their immaturity and throughout it, He doesn't abandon them at all. Fifthly, the theme of judgment and division that we’ve been seeing throughout the Gospels comes to a head during this period such that there would be no more time for neutrality - bearing the fruits of repentance or hardening their heart would be the only options, and the people would have to choose what side they would be on. Remember, this is one of the main purposes for which Jesus came - to bring division to Israel. Re-watch episodes 36, 37, and 38 for a reminder.
Well, let’s take a look at an overview of the events in this period. These things are exclusively in Luke and John’s Gospels.
We ended the last period with the Transfiguration and the healing of the boy, and so now we’ll see:
- Jesus’ final days in Capernaum, from Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9, and John 7
- then Jesus’ departure for the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and the sending of the seventy,
- then some discourse and the parable of the Good Samaritan
- then the well-known story of Mary of Bethany
- then we see Jesus at the feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem from John 7 - there’s so much discourse and teaching in this portion,
- then Jesus’ teaching on prayer, which we commonly call the Lord’s prayer - we looked at that already in Episodes 64 and 65,
- then Jesus pronounces judgment on His generation and talks about the sign of Jonah
- then we see a meal with the Pharisees and Jesus pronouncing more judgment and woes
- then we see Jesus giving a large discourse including many parables
- then Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath
- then Jesus gives still more discourse and parables
- then we see Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath and eating a meal at a ruler of the Pharisees’ house
- then Jesus is in Jerusalem for the feast of Dedication, this is now December of 28
- then Jesus giving another discourse on discipleship, including the famous parable of the prodigal son
- and finally, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and departs to Ephraim, which is in John 11.
In the next episode we’ll jump right in to this unique period, so be sure to come back next time. As always, you can find all the episodes in this series on my website at www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless you.