Episode 61 - Introduction to the Middle Galilean Ministry - Opening Up the Gospels

In the last eight episodes we looked at the events in what I’ve called Jesus’ Early Galilean Ministry, stretching from his return to Galilee to the calling of the Twelve disciples. Jesus’ fame and popularity grew tremendously, but so did his rejection among the Pharisees and the Jewish authorities. And now here we are sometime in the Spring of 28AD, just a little over a year before Jesus is put to death in Jerusalem. There are still so many things that Jesus will say and do that I can’t wait to talk about with you. This next block of time we’re going to look at I’m just calling the “Middle Galilean” period. The events of this period are so significant and so important to how we understand Jesus and His first coming. Let’s take a look at the chart where I break down the periods of Jesus’ ministry for a second. We spent a good amount of time talking about the early Judean ministry and how it all began in Jerusalem, specifically with the cleansing of the Temple, and we just walked through the events of the early Galilean ministry, and now we’re going to spend some time looking at the Middle Galilean ministry. As you can see, the early Galilean ministry ends with the calling of the Twelve. And now the middle Galilean period we will see ends with the sending of the Twelve. We still have three more periods left to cover, all which vary significantly in length – the Late Galilean, the Late Perean and Judean, and then Passion Week. And as we talked about back in Episode 53, these three first periods – the early Judean, early Galilean, and Middle Galilean – they all fit in 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. It seems like this Middle Galilean period we’re going to look at lasts several months and will stretch through the Spring of 28. And as I mentioned before, the biggest event that all four Gospels record that acts as like a “hinge” between these periods of Jesus’ ministry is the feeding of the 5,000. That event is what helps us significantly in developing a general chronology of the Gospels. Let’s talk about the major themes of this Middle Galilean period for a second. The first big thing you’ll notice is how Jesus’ teaching is recorded a lot more, and how much deeper it is than the teaching in the early Galilean period. We’ll see not only the Sermon on the Mount but also many parables that Jesus gives. And the increase and the depth applies not only His teaching, but His miracles too, which we will see surge in their magnitude. The other thing we will see is that Jesus exclusively stays in Galilee during this period – at least that’s an assumption we can make from the Gospels because they make no mention of anything outside of Galilee. Jesus makes two significant circuits throughout the region, and then this period ends by sending out the Twelve. So we see Jesus purposely spreading His message to the Galileans as much as possible. The other theme we’ll see is how tension continues to mount between Jesus and the Jews. Remember, the theme of division is a major theme of Jesus’ ministry. I set the foundation for that back in Episodes 36, 37, and 38 when I talked about the message of John the Baptist. Throughout this Middle Galilean period, we will see the tension mounting so that in later periods the theme of division comes forth even more than before. As we’re looking through the details of these scenes, we can’t lose sight of who Jesus is and the overarching, grand mission that He came for. Remember, through His miracles and through His teaching, He is seeking a righteous remnant of Israel who would bear the fruits of repentance and who would not trust in their ethnicity to give them inheritance in the promises God made to Abraham. Again, just as John the Baptist said, Jesus is the very God of Israel, and His coming would divide between the wheat and the chaff, between the stump and the tree. And one of the first ways we see Jesus doing this in the Middle Galilean period is through the Sermon on the Mount. In context, what Jesus was teaching is extremely divisive. Remember the context – there are many Jews in Israel thinking that they will inherit the coming kingdom simply because of their ethnic descent from Abraham. Jesus comes in the Sermon on the Mount, opening up with the Beatitudes, and says “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom”. Now, when we understand the larger context of Jesus’ mission, what He is saying there is so divisive! We’ll talk much more about the Sermon on the Mount – but suffice it to say now that through the sermon and through this period Jesus is simply clarifying even more who is the true seed of Abraham, and who was not. Something else we’ll see in this period is Jesus training the Twelve. We see them going wherever Jesus goes being apprised of and connected with everything that Jesus said and did. Their rigorous training culminates in them being sent out with power to appeal to the people. They go out with the same message John the Baptist had proclaimed – that Israel’s urgent repentance was required if they wanted to inherit the promises God had made. Through this period we can see that God was having mercy on Galilee, seeking their repentance time and time again. I want to take a minute to talk about how the Gospels themselves narrate this portion of Jesus’ ministry. First, we see Matthew’s Gospel continuing thematically, though he occasionally moves in chronological order through some of the events. Of course the most significant thing that I’ve already mentioned in a past episode before is how Matthew places the Sermon on the Mount in the early chapters of his gospel, near the start of Jesus’ public ministry. Again, when we remember that Matthew is being thematic and not chronological, we can better appreciate the timing of the Sermon on the Mount in the way that the other Gospels place it. As I mentioned back in Episode 7, Matthew arranged his gospel in sections of narrative and discourse. Luke is the one who narrates the Sermon on the Mount chronologically, and more broadly narrates this entire Middle Galilean section chronologically. Luke also includes more of Jesus’ teaching and a few more scenes during this section than Mark does. John’s Gospel does not record any of the events in this period at all. Like I talked about back in episode 10, John is “filling in the gaps” of the things that Mark and Luke do not narrate. And now looking at our map briefly, John mostly focuses on the events in the south, in Jerusalem and Judea. So the events we’ll be looking at in this Middle Galilean period of course all take place up in Galilee, and so they fit between John 5 and John 6. In John 5 we see Jesus in Jerusalem for the feast of Wood Offering, and then in John 6 we see Jesus in Jerusalem again for the Passover feast. Just remembering what John is doing in his gospel has helped me get a much clearer picture of the chronology of the Gospels in general. So let’s take a look at an overview of the events in this period. These things span just a few chapters in Luke’s Gospel. We ended the last period with the calling of the Twelve, and so now we’ll see: – The Sermon on the Mount – The healing of the Centurion’s servant – The raising of the Widow’s son in Nain and the Third Circuit throughout Galilee – Jesus’ words about John the Baptist – The sinful woman at Jesus’ feet – Return to Capernaum and the encounter with Jesus’ mother and brothers – Jesus’ teaching in parables – Jesus calms the storm – Deliverance of a demonized man in the region of the Gerasenes – Jesus returns to Capernaum, Jairus’ daughter healed – Woman with the issue of blood healed – Jesus leaves Capernaum and completes a fourth circuit throughout Galilee – Jesus is rejected a second time in Nazareth – The sending of the Twelve In the next several episodes we’ll work through the Sermon on the Mount together. The words of Jesus in Matthew 5-7 are probably some of the most well known passages in Jesus’ teachings. So I want to spend some time on it and bring a little bit of a different perspective on it that is not quite as well known.