“JESUS CHRIST: THE BEGINNING OF HIS MINISTRY”
Read Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3-4, John 1, and this article to prepare for this week
Beginnings of Jesus’ ministry – Jesus began His public ministry when He sought baptism at the hands of John the Baptist. John preached between A.D. 27 and 28 in the lower Jordan Valley and baptized those who wished to give expression to their repentance (Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34). The descent of the dove as Jesus came up out of the water was a sign that He was the One anointed by the Spirit of God as the Servant-Messiah of His people (Isa 11:2; 42:1; 61:1).
A voice from heaven declared, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). This indicated that He was Israel’s anointed King, destined to fulfill His kingship as the Servant of the Lord described centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah (Isa 42:1; 52:13).
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus’ baptism is followed immediately by His temptation in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). This testing confirmed His understanding of the heavenly voice and His acceptance of the path which it marked out for Him. He refused to use His power as God’s Son to fulfill His personal desires, to amaze the people, or to dominate the world by political and military force.
Apparently, Jesus ministered for a short time in southern and central Palestine, while John the Baptist was still preaching (John 3:22-4:42). But the main phase of Jesus’ ministry began in Galilee after John’s imprisonment by Herod Antipas. This was the signal, according to Mark 1:14-15, for Jesus to proclaim God’s Good News in Galilee: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” What is the character of this kingdom? How was it to be established?
A popular view was that the kingdom of God meant throwing off the oppressive yoke of Rome and establishing an independent state of Israel. JUDAS MACCABAEUS and his brothers and followers had won independence for the Jewish people in the second century B.C. by guerrilla warfare and diplomatic skill. Many of the Jewish people believed that with God’s help, the same thing could happen again. Other efforts had failed, but the spirit of revolt remained. If Jesus had consented to become the military leader, which the people wanted, many would gladly have followed Him. But in spite of His temptation, Jesus resisted taking this path.
Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God was accompanied by works of mercy and power, including the healing of the sick, particularly those who were demon-possessed. These works also proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom of God. The demons that caused such distress to men and women were signs of the kingdom of Satan. When they were cast out, this proved the superior strength of the kingdom of God.
For a time, Jesus’ healing aroused great popular enthusiasm throughout Galilee. But the religious leaders and teachers found much of Jesus’ activity disturbing. He refused to be bound by their religious ideas. He befriended social outcasts. He insisted on understanding and applying the law of God in the light of its original intention, not according to the popular interpretation of the religious establishment. He insisted on healing sick people on the Sabbath day. He believed that healing people did not profane the Sabbath but honored it, because it was established by God for the rest and relief of human beings (Luke 6:6-11).
This attitude brought Jesus into conflict with the scribes, the official teachers of the law. Because of their influence, He was soon barred from preaching in the synagogues. But this was no great inconvenience. He simply gathered larger congregations to listen to Him on the hillside or by the lakeshore. He regularly illustrated the main themes of His preaching by parables. These were simple stories from daily life which would drive home some special point and make it stick in the hearer’s understanding.
(from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)_
RESEARCH PROJECT FOR THIS WEEK:
Who was Judas Maccabaeus?