Jesus' Early Ministry

By Leland M. Haines


After the temptations Jesus continued to live in full obedience to God's will, testifying that "I do always those things that please him" (John 8:29). He was the perfect man, the last Adam, the life-giving spirit (I Corinthians 15:45; cf. John 5:21; Romans 8:2; Hebrews 9:14). His perfection totally controlled His character and conduct.

Sometime later, Jesus approached John and two of his disciples, and John again bore witness to Him: "Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus" (John 1:36, 37). One of these disciples, Andrew, went and found "his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias [the Christ]" (v. 41). Jesus was the Anointed One the Jews were looking for (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18). Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, who told Simon that he would soon be called Cephas. "Cephas" is Aramaic, which by interpretation is "Peter," and this latter name means stone (John 1:40-42). Later we will see the significance of this change of name.

Then Jesus met Philip on His way to Galilee and "saith unto him, Follow me" (John 1:43). Philip followed. Philip soon found Nathanael and told him, "We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write" (v. 45). Nathanael must have been a student of the Word, since he understood Philip's remarks. After his meeting with Jesus, Nathanael recognized that Jesus was "the Son of God . . . the King of Israel" (v. 49).

Jesus, with His mother and disciples, went to a marriage at Cana in Galilee. During the marriage feast the supply of wine failed. Because she knew that her Son was able to perform miracles, Jesus' mother spoke to Him about the situation. He responded to her request by saying, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come" (John 2:4). To us Jesus' response might seem somewhat disrespectful. In the Jewish culture the response was entirely appropriate. In a sense Jesus was saying, "What have I to do with the shortage of wine?" Jesus may have been mildly displeased with the situation, but He still responded, asking that six stone jars of about twenty or thirty gallons each be filled with water. Then He told the servants to draw some of the liquid and take it to the overseer of the feast. The governor found the sample was good wine. This miracle "manifested forth his glory" (v. 11), and caused His disciples to believe on Him. This was the first of Jesus' miracles, the first of His signs that attested to His deity (cf. 20:30, 31).

Soon after this Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover. There He was shocked to see that the temple, dedicated to God, had become a place where money changers were selling oxen, sheep, and pigeons. Jesus' holy wrath and indignation moved Him to drive the animals out of the temple courts. "Take these things hence," Jesus commanded, and "make not my Father's house an house of merchandise" (John 2:16).

The Jews inquired by what authority Jesus cleansed the temple and asked for a sign from Him. He answered by referring to a coming event: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). Although this would be a most convincing sign, the Jews did not understand the meaning of His words. They thought only of the forty-six years needed to build the temple. They did not realize that Jesus was referring to His body, which He would raise in three days after He gave His life to reconcile man to God.

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, was probably one of those who believed in Jesus because of the signs He did (John 2:23). Nicodemus' faith was weak, so he "came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2). Bypassing the normal greeting, Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about salvation. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (v. 5). No one can see (or comprehend) the kingdom of God unless he has a change of heart. This was hard for Nicodemus to understand. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (v. 6). This rebirth, the regeneration of sinful man, was not a natural but a spiritual matter. Jesus reminded Nicodemus that he does not marvel about natural things he does not understand (for instance, where the wind comes from or goes to). So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. The rebirth would be as real as the wind's effects on a person's life, even though he might not understand how it occurs.

Nicodemus inquired further with this question: "How can these things be?" (John 3:9). Jesus replied,  

Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:10-15 

Next follows a summary of the central truth of the Gospel: 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. John 3:16-21 

After His meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus went into Judea where He continued teaching about the kingdom of God. Then Jesus went to Galilee by way of Samaria. During this journey He rested at a well dug years before by Jacob. While Jesus was there, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. This surprised some of His followers since Jews held Samaritans in contempt. They were of mixed blood because of a forced mingling during the eighth century B.C. Assyrian occupation of Israel, and they had developed a monotheistic religion similar to the Jews.

During her conversation with Jesus, the Samaritan woman raised a point that caused heated arguments between the Jews and the Samaritans. Was Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem the place where men were to worship? The Samaritans had built a temple at Mount Gerizim when the Jews had refused their help to rebuild the temple after the Jews return from the Babylonian captivity. Jesus replied, "The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. . . . the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21-24). Jesus stressed that attitude and spirit were more important than the place of worship.

Passing through Samaria, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:14, 15; see also Matthew 4:23-25). Jesus immediately drew popular support. The people "were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes" (v. 22). He did not follow the Jewish scribes' customary practice of citing various authorities for His statements. Instead, He spoke truth that stood on its own strength; it needed no authorities to support it.

Early in His ministry in Galilee, Jesus returned to the town of "Nazareth, where he had been brought up" (Luke 4:16). During His stay there He attended the Sabbath worship service at the synagogue and addressed the congregation. He  

stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. vv. 16-20; cf. Isaiah 61:1 

He then declared, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21). The Jews first spoke well of him "and wondered at the gracious words," but remembering that He was Joseph's son, they rejected Him. He told them, "Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country" (v. 24). They were "filled with wrath" toward him and "thrust him out of the city" (vv. 28, 29). They took Him to the brow of a hill and would have killed Him, but He miraculously left, and "passing through the midst of them went his way" (Luke 4:30). After the Nazareth Jews rejected Him, Jesus left their town and went to Capernaum, which He made His headquarters for approximately the next eighteen months.

The above is from Redemption Realized through Christ by Leland M. Haines (pp. 46-50), © copyright 1996 by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Find about this book here

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June 22, 2000