The time of the Gentile begins with the Sacrificed Messiah and the Ministry of God's Affliction of His Messiah to the Gentile; by reason of the fact that the Children of Israel are counted as the Cause of the affliction, the reputation of Israel is spurned. The Children of Israel would be expected to become, through this New Ministry to the Gentile, cursed of God and, like their Messiah, afflicted by God. The prophesy that says God will turn His face to the Gentile and call His Chosen by another name then becomes a source of guidance to the Gentile as receiving of the Inheritance of Israel. We have also seen that the time of the Gentile must end when the Children of Israel are redeemed and restored to their land. This, according to Luke 21.24, seems to have been Jesus's understanding of scripture as well:
Luke 21.23 Woe unto them with child; there shall be great distress and wrath upon the people. (same as Matthew and Mark)
21.24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and shall be led away captive to all the nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentile until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (not understood by Matthew and Mark)
21.25 There shall be signs in the sun and moon and the stars, and upon the earth the distress of nations, with perplexity; the seas and the waves roaring; (same as Matthew & Mark)
21.26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (same as Matthew and Mark)
21.27 And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (Matthew and Mark say clouds)
This perception, in Luke, noted in italics, is an addendum to the gospels of Matthew and Mark. In contrast to Luke, Mark and Matthew leave one with the impression that after the visitation of Jesus the next event is the scattering and desolation of Israel, with little or no consideration for the Promises of the redemption of Israel. We note with emphasis that the Redemption of Israel includes the release of the Curse against all the Gentile (nations). We, in fact, see little discrimination in Matthew between the curse laid on the Gentile and that laid on Israel:
Matthew 24.20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day:
24.21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
24.22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the electÕs sake those days shall be shortened.
24.29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.
24.30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
In the prophesy of Matthew, which is based upon MarkÕs gospel, rendering the thoughts quoted almost word for word, the scattering of Israel blends immediately into the Great Tribulation of the Latter Days. While no time is mentioned, the listener is led to believe that those people to whom Jesus spoke would probably see the world come in tribulation in their own time. The comments about the dark days, the sun and the moon being darkened, with tribulation such has never before been seen nor will be seen again, are epitaphs of the Latter Day event and its Messiah, and therefore could not, and did not, apply to JesusÕs time. Luke, understanding the scriptures much better, shows a large gap between the day Israel is scattered and the day it is redeemed. The phrase, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled, tells us that Luke understood a period of time under which Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles, as so clearly described by the prophets. The Gentile dominion over Jerusalem, to a Jew, would be an abomination and recalls the prophesies in Daniel concerning the AntiMessiah desecrating the altar of God in His Temple. But to Luke the Gentile dominion would come to an end, signifying that the Time of the Jew would then come: surely Redemption would come to Israel. And that too is the time of the Judgment against the nations, involving the Great Tribulation as we have so often described.
Paul and Matthew could not perceive the Judgment against the Gentile in the terms prophesied in the Old Testament. MosesÕs Curse against the Gentile clearly is against anyone who was against Israel. Paul's thesis of disinheriting the Jew and transferal of the inheritance to the Gentile is in opposition to Moses's Curse. Even Paul's thesis that the Old Testament is now Old and passed away is against Moses's Curse. Paul's thesis which propagated the scorning of the Jews, which thing is a common theme in Matthew, was also against Moses's Curse. We see even the impression being offered of the Christian Church, of now being the Chosen People, comparing the Jews as villains, is against the Curse of Moses. In Matthew the villains, the Jews, are all those people who offended the church and Jesus. But the disciples, apostles, and members of Jesus's family, one is led to believe from the context used, are not Jews. Thus, in propagating the disinheritance, the gospels began right away, with Paul following with his clarion cry in their path, to lay firm foundations for persecuting the Jews as a nation. We may mediate this argument with Luke, however, as his position with regard to the Jews was more conservative. He may also, we hesitate to add, have tried to cover up the fact that the other Mary who was a sinner and pharisee, who anointed Jesus's hair and feet, was also Jesus's Aunt Mary, sister of his mother. She was married to a man name Cleopas who, with his son Symeon — the later Bishop of Jerusalem who took the Church throne after his cousin's murder — witnessed the First Resurrection of Jesus after Mary Magdalene saw Jesus resurrected. Does this sound complicated? We will come to learn that most of the important gospel witnesses of Jesus were his own relatives. Symeon, Jesus's cousin, replaced James the Righteous, Jesus's brother, after James was martyred.
The Causes of Persecution
The prophesies of the scorning of Israel, leaving them no country in which to set their feet, as Moses first described it, require the thesis of persecution during the scattering event. In the Gospels Jesus refers to the Persecution as applied to his followers: i.e., you shall be hated for my name's sake. To apply history to both the gospels' prophesy and Old Testament prophesy, we must then determine whether the Christians were persecuted and hated for Jesus's name's sake and also whether the Jews themselves were hated and persecuted as well. The answer to both is clear. First the Christians were persecuted, beginning with the Martyrdom of St. Stephen circa A.D. 33, perhaps the same year of Christ's crucifixion. Stephen, believed to have been of Hellenistic background (probably with Gentile biases) is reported to have blasphemed against the Law of Moses, saying:
Acts 7.13 And set up false witnesses, which said, this man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this Holy Place, and the Law:
7.14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
While Jesus certainly never represented such a stand Himself, of changing the Law of Moses, it is apparent that within a very short time after his crucifixion Gentiles were being exposed to the Word and, because of their previous habits, probably desirous of justifying a relaxation of the Law, from circumcision requirements and food prohibitions. Any attempt to do so would be, changing the Law, reactionary and would be considered blasphemous. Stephen was stoned for such things as these which he taught. Less than thirty years later the Jews found themselves repeating the act: attempting to stone the apostle Paul for the same kinds of blasphemies.
The incidents of Stephen, and later Paul, reflect a growing split in the Christian congregation over the Law of Moses. Peter, James, and the elders (the Hebrews) continued maintaining that the Laws must be obeyed and it is doubtful they would have agreed with Stephen's position that Jesus justifies the abrogation of the Law. It is certain, reviewing the dialogue between Jesus and Peter in the gospels, that Peter would never have believed that Jesus intended to change the Law of Moses. It is further evident from Peter's epistles, as well as the epistles of the Lord's brother, James, that they would neither have believed that Jesus desired to change the Law of Moses. Stephen was sounding his own horn in this regard and probably caused some of the Apostles' eyebrows to rise.
The story of Stephen enables us, in fact, to see a little more clearly this division, and its sources, which was forming in the church between Paul and the Jews: Peter, James, and the Apostles. Acts 6.1 tells us that there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration:
Acts 6.9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
Stephen must have been ministering in their provinces, (it is inconceivable they would complain against him on the basis of hearsay) and what he had been ministering in their synagogues was controversial to the Law. We can suspect that the things he was accused of are pretty close to the truth. We can use Paul as a gauge for this presumption. Paul was one of the zealots who began persecuting the Christians right after the stoning of Stephen. Paul tells us, in fact, that he was standing in the crowd which was stoning Stephen, and Stephen's robes were thrown at or near Paul's feet. Because Paul was in that crowd, it would not be too presumptuous to suspect that Paul had heard Stephen's teachings. What he had heard, we can further suspect, were probably words which undermined the authority of the Law, substituting in its place a new law of Jesus. The essence of these changes to the Law probably was the teaching of uncircumcision and eating anything put before you at the table, using Jesus as an excuse to do so. This teaching would have been a natural outgrowth of accommodating the Gentile into the Salvation Plan of Jesus. And that plan, as we see in Matthew 24, of Jesus's prophesy of the Latter Days, provided for the ministering of the word to the Gentile. We say this with reservation, however, since Jesus also contradicted this statement elsewhere:
Matthew 24.14 And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
This contradicts Jesus's instructions to the disciples at their ordination:
Matthew 10.5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
10.6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The instruction to not go to the gentiles is further supported in Matthew and Mark, where Jesus encountered the Syrophonician woman in Samaria. Jesus tried to avoid her, saying that his mission was not with the Gentile, of whom she was, but to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. We suspect that the Apostles and disciples must have been in a state of consternation over this contradiction recorded in Matthew. But we must keep in mind that the first instruction was given at the ordination of the apostles in the beginning of Jesus's ministry. After these instructions Jesus began to minister in Galilee, even among the Gentile (re: the publican's house). Afterwards he and his disciples would pass through Samaria on the way to Judaea, contradicting his instructions to them. The Gospel of John shows us that Jesus and his disciples crisscrossed back and forth between Galilee and Judaea by way of Samaria several times, perhaps on the occasion of the three major Jewish feasts each year for the years of his ministry. Though Jesus led his disciples into Gentile places, like Tyre, (and not confined to Israel — i.e. Sumaria) it follows that at the first he desired to seek out the Lost Sheep of Israel wheresoever they are scattered. This is probably the attitude he had, since it reflected the mission required in prophesy: God will appear to deliver them, wheresoever His Sheep are scattered, in the Last Days.
We suspect Jesus was applying Latter Day prophesy to himself and may not have understood the separation between his day and the Latter Day, with the Latter Day being a day after Israel had been scattered to all the nations. From our position, looking back, it is easy to see a two thousand year separation between the time Israel was scattered and the time Israel was gathered; those in Jesus's day, being of the generation waiting to be scattered, may have not appreciated this significance. In fact in reviewing the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Oral Torah one readily sees the seemingly favorite pastime of the rabbis to attribute future, prophesied events to their own times, even though there was little justification for the comparison to their own times. We can draw on an illustration in our own day, the Day Israel was gathered, to expand upon this. If the Rabbis were to be awaiting the coming of the Virgin prophesied by Isaiah, they would be tempting God to scatter their nation. Because the Virgin is the sign of the Scattering of Israel. To avoid the argument altogether, clever rabbis might say that Israel has not yet been gathered; therefore, still being scattered it can yet receive the Virgin and her son. But this, you see, would be exacerbating the Truth and the Truth is Israel has just recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary of Restoration to the Promised Land. We wonder now, in pursuing this aside, how God could deny this Truth, though men stretch it?
Mark does not mention the instruction to go only to the Lost Sheep of Israel, except in the later incident concerning the Syrophonecian woman. Prudent Luke is silent about the instruction of where to preach altogether. He neither mentions that the Apostles are restricted to teaching the Lost Sheep of Israel nor the fact that as a sign of the Second Coming the gospel will first be preached to all the nations. Matthew stands alone on this testimony. Luke recognizes the church will be persecuted and he says it will turn to you for a testimony. The persecution appears, as in the case of Matthew and Mark, to come from the synagogues.
We have the historical example of the persecution of the Christians by the High Priests who began with the stoning of Stephen. Paul later joined in the persecution and went to Damascus searching the Christians out and arresting them. But on the road to Damascus Paul saw a vision which caused him to become a Christian himself, deciding thereby to pursue Stephen's peculiar brand of the ministry. After all, Paul thought, no doubt, that the Christians he was persecuting were those who believed the things Stephen taught, of Jesus undermining the Law. No doubt he believed that he was persecuting those who were attempting to undermine the Law, and, being ignorant on the matter altogether, confused the Nazarine Church (Peter, James, and the apostles and their congregations out of Jerusalem) as being opposed to the Law. Because of Stephen's teaching, which could not have been entirely accepted by Peter and James, since Stephen was accused of being against the Law of Moses, Paul mistook the cause of Christianity altogether. He must have thought that all the Christians believed what Stephen taught and that would be adequate justification for persecuting them.
It is doubtful Paul persecuted the Christians because they believed in Jesus as the Messiah. Rabbis maintain this position even to this day and remind us that Jesus was not the first Messiah honored (worshipped) among the Jews, nor was he the last. Many before and after Jesus have claimed Messiahship and created their own followers among the Synagogues; and though every one of the claimants became established as false Messiahs — even Jesus, being considered among the most false — the congregations (the Messianists) which followed them were not persecuted, so it appears. Rabbis maintain that Messianists in the synagogues were common things and were accepted with no problem: as long as they maintained the Law of Moses.
The case of Stephen underlines our expectation of what probably did cause the persecution of the Christian Church. Stephen was stoned because his teachings undermined the Law of Moses. He was not stoned because he taught Jesus. He was stoned because he taught that Jesus justified the breaking of the Law of Moses. Paul, hearing such teachings, would take Stephen at his word, that Jesus is justification to ignore the Law (as if Jesus were in opposition to the Law). Paul's conversion probably involved those teachings of Stephen and pursuing them would then put Paul at odds with Peter and James and the Elders and the other Jews who supported the Law of Moses. This outcome is well described in Acts and in all of Paull's epistles. And in being at odds with the Hebrews (Peter, James, and the elders) Paul was placed in the habit of condemning them. Paul's teaching, in fact, developed a very broad and detailed plan of condemnation against Judaism and the renunciation of the Law. Quite often through the year, even this day, the Christian Ministry dedicate sermons to their congregations on Sunday, explaining why the Law is void. We doubt most hearers of these canned sermons understand the argument or why the argument even exists, except for the reason of putting down the Jews. In any event, the Plan of Condemnation of the Jews—probably first seen in Stephen, was the seed for a significant switch in Paul's behavior, where he transfered the persecution from the Christian to that of the person of the Jews.
The first persecutions came about as a result of Stephen's teaching, and they were sponsored by the High Priests, aided by volunteers like Paul. Paul describes his actions in the persecution as being directed in Damascus. Damascus was a Gentile city and might not otherwise have any significance except the Dead Sea Scrolls have the Sons of Zadok receiving their new Covenant in the Lands of Damascus. One of their main Scriptures is called, in fact, the Damascus Document. From this we suspect that a principal center of the Essenes was in Damascus long before Jesus was born. The Essenes, or Sons of Zadok, as they called themselves, saw themselves as the Protector of the Law. This is how they came to adopt the Sons of Zadok name, for those people are prophesied by Ezekiel to protect the Law and receive the Messiah when He comes. In Ezekiel [44.15] the official welcoming committee is described as the Sons of Zadok.
Zadok was the High Priest of David who protected the Ark and its Mercy Seat during the time when David had been overcome by his son's forces and forced to go into hiding in the mountains. With David being expelled from the city, and recognizing that David was the Chief Protector of the Covenant, the job of being Protector of the Covenant fell upon Zadok. Ezekiel picked up on this thesis in his prophesy and showed the Sons of Zadok as the ones who would be in charge of Protecting the Covenant until the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel come. How they arrived at this conclusion, they say in their scriptures, came from a person called The Teacher of Righteousness, which teaching, it is suspected, was developed by him out of the land of Damascus.
From the Dead Sea Scriptures we see the impression that the Dead Sea Community saw itself as an extension of the Land of Damascus. Its sovereignty seemed to derive from Damascus and not of Israel. Going directly north from that place leads one up the Jordan river towards its source and the Sea of Galilee. Galilee, we recall, was associated with the Syrian provinces. It is possible that the Land of Damascus to which the Sons of Zadok referred may have been Galilee, and it is possible that many Sons of Zadok were based there.
The Sons of Zadok were very much Jews. They were also very much convinced that their Messiahs were yet to come. Even at the destruction of their monastery at the Dead Sea circa 70 A.D., they were still awaiting their Messiahs. We must clarify this precept, however, since the anticipation of one of their Messiahs was for a Second Coming. They had already seen him as the Teacher of Righteousness, a High Priest after the order of Melkizedeck; and it is he who wrote many of their scriptures. They expected Him to return in the Latter Days along with the Lay Messiah, of David. Since they neither referred to Jesus by name or even by any definite identification of his ministry, it is expected that neither he nor they had much to do with each other. There is one circumstance, however, which can tie Jesus's followers to the disciples of the Sons of Zadok. And that tie comes through John the Baptist who baptized a few hours march north of the Dead Sea Monastery of the Sons of Zadok.
Essene Influence on Christianity
We recall that John the Baptist taught repentance of sin, saying, make ye the way of the Lord, and claiming that the Messiah and God's Kingdom is near to come. He is described as a Nazarite would be described, having let his hair grow long, fasting regularly, and avoiding strong drink, plus living in rough clothes in the wilderness. The voice in the wilderness, of whom Isaiah refers preceding the Messiah, in fact ties very well to the epitaph of a Nazarite in the Wilderness. No man or woman is considered closer to God than a Nazarite. They are, by their name, Separated unto God and very Holy. If we tie the Sons of Zadok out of the land of Damascus to Galilee and their creed to the propagation of the ways of a Nazarite, we can see how Nazareth may have become a center of such peoples who came to become known as Sons of Zadok, all of whom would have been defenders of the Covenant (or Law).
John the Baptist, according to apocryphal sources, was born in Bethlehem, Judah of a temple priest named Zecharias, who was a Levite. John's mother was also a Levite but may also have been in part the blood of Judah/David. We say this because the gospels of Luke and Matthew record Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and the Virgin Mary as cousins. We suspect there was a Levite in the blood of Mary, though Mary was also born in Bethlehem, Judah, thus accounting for her blood ties to David.
But Mary and her son Jesus were raised in Nazareth, while John the Baptist seems to have been raised in Bethlehem, Judah. The next scene we have in the gospels — and all of the gospels really begin Jesus's Ministry with that scene — is along the Jordan River, not far from the Dead Sea Monastery of the Sons of Zadok. John is baptizing in the river and many people came out from Jerusalem to be baptized by him. His fame as a voice in the wilderness eventually reached the high priest in Jerusalem who sent out some priests to inquire of John and his practice. Matthew and Luke (not Mark) have John the Baptist chastising the multitude: the priests and scribes from Jerusalem are addressed as a generation of vipers, according to Matthew, whereas Luke has the multitude generically being addressed as a generation of vipers. Matthew here (see Matrix line 115) carries a bias towards the priesthood and the scribes whereas Luke turns the comment into a more generic diatribe against the generation of the Jews. We wonder what John taught which could have caused the priests and scribes to investigate him in the wilderness? We suspect, because he taught nothing against the Law but rather saw himself as a vehicle by which the Law must be enforced (purifying the people from their sins by Baptism), the comment in Matthew was an interpolation of bias against the Jew-priest-villains. Luke has John behaving like all the prophets before him: chastising all the people for their sins. The Paptist's mouth was probably not controlled very much. We see this in the gospel account, again in Luke, of John telling Herod the King that it is unlawful for him to marry his brother's wife (while his brother is still alive). John probably pronounced this complaint so loudly and was so vitriolic in it that all the people of Galilee were talking about Herod's Sin and probably insisting that Herod divorce his brother's wife. The gospel shows Herod faced with the dilemma of dealing with John; first he imprisons him but knows that the people would revolt against him should he harm John. For the people considered John to be a true prophet of God. He finally ends up having John beheaded. He does this on the Second Anniversary of Jesus's ministry.
From the time when John first began baptizing in the River Jordan to the time he was beheaded, Jesus began and ministered —for about a year, according to the Gospel of John — in Galilee. The Second Epistle of Peter says that Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, thereby confirming that from the time Jesus was baptized to the time he began ministering in Galilee very little time had passed. The gospels begin with John Baptizing Jesus and then the next event they describe is the arrest of John by Herod and Jesus departing (fleeing) to Galilee. Luke describes Jesus as returning to Galilee when he hears John is put into prison (probably in Judaea). During the course of these events the disciples of John question The Baptist how it is that Jesus can baptize. Only John the Baptist, they thought, had the blessing of God to Baptize. The event signifies the fact that John the Baptist was not then in prison and that the disciples of Jesus had grown to be a rival group from the point of view of John the Baptist's disciples. But then, concerning the scant history of John which has come down to us, John is beheaded and his disciples flee also to Galilee, fleeing to Jesus according to Matthew 14.12. Mark describes this event of the disciples coming to Jesus in Galilee as "there were many coming and going." Undoubtedly, we see in line 663 of our matrix, there were many disciples of John, perhaps all fearing Herod's wrath, and they had enough identification with Jesus that they went to him for support. In their eyes Jesus may very well have been viewed as Second in Command under the troops of John the Baptist. We say this with caution, however, since we know also that the disciples would not have asked Jesus whether He is the Messiah had they (and John) not had doubts about his authority or relationship to them. Nevertheless, the disciples of John do appear to have joined Jesus and because there were so many of them, together with Jesus's followers, a great multitude began to form. He gave them a sermon, reciting the Beatitudes, and then returned to Capernaum.
As suggested, the gospel testimony is torn with confusion and contradiction. The time Jesus ministered after his baptism along the Jordan river to the time of the Baptist's beheading is extraordinarily confusing. When the baptism of Jesus began many had come from Jerusalem to investigate John the Baptist's actions by the Jordan River. The priests and scribes which were sent to investigate him, the Baptist called, vipers. We suspect that John had already stirred up such a fuss in Jerusalem and Herod's court that it probably was not long after Jesus's baptism that the Baptist was arrested by Herod. The Gospel of John shows Jesus going to Galilee for a wedding at Cana and then, about a week later, returning to Jerusalem for the first passover of his ministry. He then returned to Galilee, according to this gospel, and about six months later, at the Feast of Tabernacles, returned to Jerusalem again. The Synoptic Gospels show Jesus fleeing to Galilee after the Baptist is arrested. It is possible that his arrest was then shortly after the Feast of Tabernacles, in September. The following spring Jesus would celebrate Passover in Galilee, near Bethsaida, on the mount where he fed the five thousand.
When Jesus left Judaea after John the Baptist's imprisonment, he went first to Capernaum; and Matthew 4.17 says, from that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand, which thing is the very thing John the Baptist taught as a voice crying in the wilderness. This event, then, marks the real beginning of Jesus's Ministry and the end of John the Baptist's; it suggests the adoption of John's mission, and it forecasts, because of the multitude of John's disciples later going to Jesus after John's beheading (that following passover), the merger of many of John the Baptists disciples with those of Jesus.
About half of the story of Matthew, concerning Jesus's Ministry, occurs between the time John the Baptist is arrested and the time of his beheading, which time must have been less than a year. During that time we are led to believe Jesus obtained followers in Peter, James, and John and the other disciples, out of whom he appointed twelve apostles. Luke clarifies our confusion as to when Jesus's Ministry actually began by saying that Jesus returned to Capernaum after John was put in prison. Matthew has Jesus returning to Nazareth, his home in Galilee, and then going on to Capernaum to fulfill the prophesy of Jesus being the Messiah, the Light which showed upon the Gentiles. After that, Matthew 4.18 says Jesus met Peter, Andrew and later James and John along the Sea of Galilee fishing. Luke, on the other hand, has Jesus returning from his Baptism on the Jordan to Galilee (but being tempted in the wilderness for forty days, near Jericho, on the way home) and He became famous for his teachings and miracles. Upon his return he read out of the book of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth (the Gspel of John asks how Jesus, being unlearned, could read to the congregation—we believe, by his use of scripture, that he was very well read) and offended the priests there by claiming to fulfill those prophesies of the Messiah from which he read:
Matthew 4.28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath.
Jesus's home town people were so offended that he would claim to be the Messiah of Isaiah 61, they tried to throw him off a cliff near the town. He flew to Capernaum, taught there and impressed those people, then healed a man of his devil. His fame grew and then he entered Peter's mother-in-Law's house, in Capernaum, to cure Peter's mother-in-law. Then Luke describes Jesus developing quite a following around Capernaum and telling the people, over their objections, that he must go to other cities to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. But the people pressed after him (Luke 5.1) and Jesus came to the Lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee) and saw Peter fishing along with James and John, who all were partners in their fishing business. It is this time, then, when they began to follow Jesus; and John the Baptist had not yet been put in prison. Here we have a correction to Matthew and Mark whose gospels suggest that Jesus's ministry began after John was put in prison, which also appeared to be right after he baptized Jesus. Luke, then, focuses upon correction of the record of the events between the time when Jesus was baptized to the imprisonment of John, which must have been about a year, though it is unclear. Because of this significant discrepancy in the story of Jesus's ministry, the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, though they agree in the main on Jesus's teachings, do not agree in the time and place of the teachings. Because Luke did not compress the time from the moment of Jesus's Baptism by John and John's imprisonment, we tend to believe that Luke remembered the details more accurately than Matthew and Mark; thus, a further argument pointing to LukeÕs authenticity and being, perhaps, the official gospel of the Hebrews.
Luke saw John the Baptist as Elijah, agreeing with the Gospel of Matthew, saying:
Matthew 7.27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee.
The Gospel of John did not agree with this perception, however:
John 1.21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he said, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, no.
The Gospel of John was produced after the three synoptic gospels. One of the first things John talks about is the correction of the record to reflect the fact that John the Baptist did not believe he was Elijah resurrected, but he believes John had credibility in bearing witness of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah because John was that voice in the wilderness prophesied by Isaiah to do so. The differentiation may seem insignificant, but to an expert in the prophesies it would be difficult to say that John the Baptist is Elijah, since Elijah comes after Israel is gathered and at the time the world is baptized with fire. The writer of the Gospel of John may have been sensitive to this distinction. Luke also ought to have been sensitive to it, since he was aware of the precept of the Time of the Gentiles and when that time is fulfilled Israel would be redeemed and its Latter Day Messiah, together with Elijah would then appear. Anyone having a decent exposure to the Scriptures would have known this.
Those who did not understand the Time of Elijah and suggested he came before the scattering of Israel, we must sadly say, had not read their Torah. But this anticipation of Elijah Resurrected seems to be a common attitude of the people of the gospels, since the story is riddled with comments of the people who think Jesus is Elijah resurrected. For them to suppose this it means that there had to be then a common expectation of the end of the world, as in the days mentioned by Malachi when God would send fire and brimstone down upon the world. These expectations are even repeated by Josephus in his histories of the Jewish Wars. In reviewing the facts available to us — which are not many — it appears that only the Sons of Zadok seemed to have a grip on the eschatology of the Latter Days, who, along with Luke, recognized that Israel must first be scattered before it could be gathered and restored to is land. This thought is reflected in the voice in the wilderness who appears to a Jerusalem whose warfare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned, and who received double for all her sins. See Isaiah 40.2 and 61.6,7 which focuses the time period of the pardon at the time of the Gathering of the Children of Israel [under the Messiah named Double].
Sorting Out the First Meetings and Relationships
Gathering these precepts together, the fact that John the Baptist could have been affiliated with the Sons of Zadok (baptizing in the river Jordan only a few miles away), that he saw himself as the Voice in the Wilderness but not necessarily Elijah, that Jesus was baptized by him after which Jesus began his ministry, that Jesus taught the same message initially as John: the gospel repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, all tell us that Jesus ought to have been a disciple of John and probably, at first, went about Galilee preaching John's message. Jesus then became known as a healer, casting out evil spirits from people, and a wise teacher. This was probably the first year of his ministry and during that time he attached Peter and the other apostles and disciples to him. The disciples began baptizing, like John the Baptist, and John's disciples became discomforted at that fact, that Jesus was cutting in on John's action. The gospel giving this account clarifies the matter that it was not Jesus who did the baptizing but rather his disciples. Then John the Baptist was arrested.
At that time Jesus and his disciples must have been in Judaea, probably with some of John's disciples, (probably for the Feast of Tabernacles) and Jesus and they flew back to Galilee, perhaps in fear that they might be arrested with John also. Later a few disciples are sent by John to inquire of Jesus whether He is the Messiah. Matthew 11.2 shows John to be in prison at that time. Luke does not mention that John is in prison. Furthermore, Luke then shows Jesus going into a pharisee's house and eating with him and a certain woman, a sinner with an alabaster box, came to him in Galilee — suggesting she owned a housee in Galilee — and anointed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. This same woman, who turns out to be Jesus's Aunt Mary, is mentioned by Matthew and Mark as appearing in her house in Bethany a couple of days before Jesus's crucifixion, obviously at the end of Jesus's ministry. Where Luke places an event, then, in Galilee in the beginning of Jesus's ministry, Matthew has the event near Jerusalem at the end of His ministry. This is strange, since Luke placed the event even before Jesus met Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven devils. This was also before the event of the feeding of the multitude on the mount, after which Jesus was seen walking on the water as the apostles crossed in a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
Thus, we have many conflicts in time and place between Matthew and Luke; as to which of them is more accurate, we suspect it was Luke who, knowing the gospels of Matthew and Mark, sought to correct the record. Some things, it appears, Luke even edited out of the gospels because of the absence of confirmation. Other omissions in Luke which ought not to have been there suggest that Luke may very well have recalled Jesus's Ministry from the days after the anointing of the Seventy Disciples, after the beheading of John the Baptist and the feeding of five thousand on the mount. Matthew, on the other hand, seems to know more about the period prior to the Baptist's Beheading and Jesus's Transfiguration. The Gospel of John, suggesting even an earlier ministry in Judaea, perhaps around the period of the Feast of Tabernacles, in the fall before the feeding on the mount, jumps, in the third chapter, into a relationship with Nicodemus, one of the leaders of the Sanhedrim, as if he had for some time been a secret disciple of Jesus. This is a curiosity, since the gospel writer, John, claims that he is that John, brother of James, the son of Zebedee, who was always with Jesus, from the beginning at his Baptism to the Transfiguration and finally the last scenes in the Garden of Gethsemene. Events, such as the Transfiguration, which played deeply on Peter's mind, ought to have affected John as well. We wonder why he did not confirm this event.
Though the synoptic gospels suggest that Jesus first met Peter and his partners fishing by the Sea of Galilee, Luke tells us that just prior to that event Jesus went into Peter's mother-in-law's house in Capernaum and healed her. Jesus, then, must have already known Peter. The Gospel of John clarifies this in his account of what happened in the beginning of Jesus's ministry. He begins with John at the river Jordan baptizing, with the pharisees coming to John inquiring whether John was the Messiah or Elijah. This suggests that John the Baptist was not only believed to be Elijah raised up but also may possibly have been the Messiah! The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke begin with pharisees, scribes, and priests, etc., even a multitude, coming from Jerusalem to witness what was going on at the river with John the Baptist. The rumors of his activity had obviously gotten to Jerusalem and preferred such amazement that people came from the city to see what was going on, being quite curious of it. Jesus may have been among them that came from Jerusalem, following behind the pharisees the next day, as the Gospel of John describes it. Jesus, to the contrary, may have just come down from Nazareth, invited to witness the event by his friends in Nazareth who had been with John the Baptist. In any event, John the Baptist proclaimed, when he saw Jesus, Behold the Lamb of God! When John said that there were two (of the Baptist's) disciples following Jesus and they heard John speak. Why they were following Jesus is not mentioned, but the reason probably alludes to the fact that several people were lining up on the bank of the river to be baptized and Jesus was standing in line in front of Andrew. Undoubtedly friends in Galilee probably had reported John the Baptist to Jesus and persuaded him that he ought to go there to be Saved through Baptism. We would further suspect that even Jesus's family may have brought Jesus to this place before John the Baptist, for John the Baptist was Jesus's cousin. Anyway, by chance one of the two men following behind Jesus was Andrew, a Galilean, from Bethsaida:
John 2.38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
How did Andrew know that Jesus was a Rabbi? Andrew knew who Jesus was.
John 2.39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
2.40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon PeterÕs brother.
2.41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiahs, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
Andrew, walking behind Jesus, knowing that Jesus is a rabbi, out of the blue asks Jesus where he lives. Obviously from this conversation Jesus and Andrew had been conversing, with Jesus teaching Andrew and his friend enough for Andrew to address him as Rabbi. Furthermore, the Teaching went on long enough for Andrew to feel comfortable in asking Jesus where he lives, and Jesus felt comfortable enough to tell him to come with him. He apparently lived not far from the baptism scene since the next comment shows them staying that day with Jesus at his home. He at that time may have lived in Jericho, not far from the baptism site.
From this account we can gather several other bits of information. When Jesus went into Capernaum and healed PeterÕs mother-in-law and then met Peter and his partners fishing, it was long after Jesus had been baptized and gone back and forth between Jerusalem and Galilee. In JohnÕs account, in fact, we have Peter's brother, Andrew (who was one of the fishermen at Galilee with Peter whom Jesus calls as a disciple) who introduced Simon Peter to Jesus. Andrew appears to have been a disciple of John the Baptist, as he was one of the two men following behind Jesus and one of the two men invited to Jesus's house. After the gathering of Andrew and Peter, Jesus went forth into Galilee and found Philip at Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Then Philip found Nathanael, who asked (John 1.46 ), can there be any good thing come out of Nazareth?
Nathanael believes Jesus is the Son of God instantly because Jesus said he knew him even when he was earlier sitting beneath the fig tree. We recall the perception Paul had of the Messiah-Judge: He shall judge the secrets of men. Because Jesus knew Nathanael's secrets, presumably, he then believed Jesus was the Son of God. The Son of God issue really does not come up (except from devils), until Jesus begins teaching as the Son of Man, in the other gospels. But here, in the Gospel of John, the issue is broached instantly and, in the process, confesses that Jesus knew Andrew and Peter long before the other gospels represent it. And they became introduced to Jesus from the fact that they were disciples of John the Baptist, with him at the river, and saw Jesus then at the baptism. They could not have then been disciples of Jesus because they did not know where he lived. But this does not rule out the possibility that they had known each other in the past as passing acquaintances or, as in the case of John and James, the sons of Zebedee, and the Baptist, as relatives of Jesus.
In the epistle of Peter, when Peter talks about God confirming Jesus as his son, he refers to an event well into JesusÕs ministry, about the time of his transfiguration, which was after Jesus's Second Passover where he fed the five thousand near Bethsaida. Significantly, Peter does not mention the experience at the Jordan river, where God declares Jesus to be His Son, probably because Peter was not there. The other man with Andrew, who walked behind Jesus, must have been John, the favorite apostle of Jesus, the writer of the gospel. We can say this with further confidence when we examine his writings as compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls. For among the Dead Sea Scrolls was a gospel, translated and published by Edmond Boreaux Szekely, entitled The Gospel of the Essenes, The C.W. Daniel Co., Ltd., 1987, Essex, England. In that book is a Book of Revelation which appears—assuming it is authentic — to have been lifted in entirety by John in writing his book of Revelation. Other perceptions of John, the writer of the gospel and Revelation, tend also to point in the direction of the Sons of Zadok, the Essenes along the Dead Sea. The baptisms of John, in fact, seemed to be all along the river, from the Dead Sea, to a place near Jericho, where Jesus had been baptized, to half way up the stretch of the river from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee, in a place where the water was deep, called Aenon, near to Salim.
After Jesus met his new disciples from Bethsaida, on the third day, says the writer of the Gospel of John, Jesus and his mother went to a marriage in Cana, which was a town nearby Nazareth. We assume that the writer is referring to the Third Day of JesusÕs Ministry, after his baptism. It was also the Third Day of following Jesus, from the standpoint of Andrew and his friend (probably John, the son of Zebedee), the writer of the gospel of John. Both Jesus and his disciples were invited to this wedding at Cana. Only three days after his baptism, Jesus had several disciples following him and at least two of them, John and Andrew, had been disciples of John the Baptist! At the wedding in Cana Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.
John 2.12 After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.
2.13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
This tells us that Joseph the carpenter, the husband of Mary, was probably dead by this time and the writer of the gospel had therefore never met him. It was probably the fourth day of Jesus's ministry when he went to Capernaum, and stayed there a few days, after which he went to Jerusalem for the passover. We can suspect that when he was baptized it was about a week before passover. This, of course, conflicts with Luke's rendition of Jesus going into the Wilderness directly after the Baptism for forty days and forty nights, being tempted there by the devil. Incidentally, a tour to Jericho will show you a monastery a few minutes above the town where Jesus is believed to have fasted in the wilderness for the forty days. That place was a high cave in a cliff overlooking a lush garden. It may be the place where Jesus dwelt at the time of his baptism and where he took John and Andrew on the way to Galilee and the wedding in Cana. As concerning the Forty Days in the wilderness, then, Jesus and his friends could not have spent their Third Day in Cana and a few days later the Passover if Jesus had been fasting forty days in the wilderness prior to that, after the baptism.
As concerning these events we know that Luke was not there at the time and only came later with the calling of the disciples. But John, the apostle of Jesus, was there and was probably the one walking with Andrew behind Jesus during the Baptism scene at the river Jordan. John was also at the wedding in Cana and he would have known whether it was the Third Day or the forty-third day of Jesus's Ministry since his baptism.
The next scene the Gospel of John introduces is the conversation between Jesus and his secret disciple who came to him by night, whose name was Nicodemus, who was also one of the priest-leaders of the Sandhedrim.
The gospel says:
John 3.1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
3.2 The same 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.
Suddenly within a week, it would appear, during or after the passover in Jerusalem, Jesus obtained another disciple who came to him in secret during the evenings. It is to him that Jesus said the often quoted passage, "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." What an amazing statement this is, particularly in view of the fact that it was made to a very powerful leader of the Jews. Even more amazing is that the leader of the Jews addressed Jesus as Rabbi, though it appears Jesus had been ministering but a week! Surely the comment was was made in the context that Jesus had known him for some time. Of course he had known Jesus for some time. Every year, at least once a year, the Jews from Galilee would come up to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus had connections to the priest-hood. Elizabeth, his mother's sister, was married to the priest, Zecharias, of the temple. Later Jesus refers to that priest being murdered.
If Andrew had called Jesus rabbi a week before at the Baptism, before Jesus was baptized, it follows that Jesus was known as a rabbi, a priest. Therefore, in the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus we have a conversation between rabbi and rabbi, priest and priest. No doubt in their day one earned the credentials of rabbi just as one does to this day. We cannot be far wrong on this matter, since even the prophets had to earn their credentials which were received through the official prophet's school of the land. One went to school to become a prophet. However, a few prophets, like Ezekiel, did not go to prophet's school and were lay prophets. No doubt Jesus was known as a rabbi, teaching at the temple, and had long since gotten the respect of Nicodemus before his baptism and the official start of his ministry. We may, in fact, conclude that Jesus did not just appear out of the sky and start teaching. He had probably gone through considerable training (which is shown by his knowledge of scripture alone) and had developed his doctrine over a period of time just like everyone else. We can see, in fact, the evolution of his doctrine from the day of his baptism to the day of his transfiguration. What was a relatively conservative ministry, until the Transfiguration, became a full blown Messiahship after that date. Where he might have confused his mission with that of the Gatherer, having the need to find the Lost Sheep of Israel, in the early days of his ministry, he concludes in the latter end of the ministry that he must be put to death and rise after the third day. What begins as a gathering mission in the early part of his ministry, in fact, becomes transformed as a seeding mission, seeding the Kingdom, in the latter part of his ministry, leaving the gathering to His Second Coming. Once he admitted to himself and others that he would be killed by the synagogue, then he also admitted his mission to not be the Gatherer of Israel, postponing that mission to another day: his resurrection.
There is, in fact, a major difference between the declared mission of Jesus in the beginning of his ministry to that of the end. For in the beginning He sets out to save the souls of the Lost Sheep of Israel, presumably to bring them back to God. In the end of his mission he becomes a full fledged Savior of all people and displays the power to forgive sins. This power to forgive sins comes into focus after the Second Passover of his ministry when he chases seven devils out of Mary Magdalene and tells her that her sins are forgiven her. Having done this in public, of course, encouraged the wrath of the priests. For only God himself can forgive sins.
One can be the Gatherer of Israel without being put into the position of blasphemy. One cannot be the basis of Salvation, however, without being guilty of blasphemy. For Salvation, i.e., the blessing of eternal life, is given only by God, just as sins are forgiven only by God. We recall that the Deliverer Messiah is vested with the responsibility of Judgment. The early days of JesusÕs Ministry are not marked by such a presentation of Salvation. Rather, he taught, like John the Baptist before him, that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Repent, he would say, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. This is the voice of a prophet. The Judge-Messiah, on the other hand, comes to judge and not to warn. He judges between cattle and cattle and calls things as he sees them. He judges the secrets of men, as some say. But he is not like Jonah, sent to warn of Judgment. Thus, we draw this comparison in attitude in the formation of Jesus. In the latter part of his ministry he concluded he is not that judge at that moment and that judge is yet to come. In the Gospel of John, Jesus in fact expands upon that judge, calling Him the Comforter. The comforter, incidentally, was a common name used by Rabbis for one of the names of the Messiah(s). This now brings us back to the address of Andrew to Peter, telling him he had seen the Messiah(s).
We do not have the luxury of knowing Hebrew or having the original Greek text before us. But the King James Bible has Andrew telling Peter that he has seen the Messiahs. This is in perfect consonance with the anticipations of the Jews: for they were expecting Two Messiahs. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Oral Torah, even modern teaching of the rabbis, confirms this. So it is in perfect context of the situation, particularly pointing to some familiarity to Essene Scriptures from the Dead Sea, that Andrew would tell his brother that he had seen the Messiahs. The Messiahs, of course, from the suggestions even in the gospels (the people thought John the Baptist to be a Messiah) would have been John the Baptist and Jesus.
The Oral Torah and the Dead Sea Scrolls also name one of the Messiahs with the name of Elijah. They say the Messiah is called by the name of Elijah because he has God's name (El) in Him. Thus, it was perfect exegetical thought to extend John the Baptist, suspected of being Elijah, to the role of Messiah. What, then, was Jesus's relationship to this other Messiah? This became a continuing question throughout the gospels. No one could figure out who John the Baptist was nor who Jesus was and how they related to one another. All agreed that John was a prophet. All believed that Jesus was a prophet and even later John the Baptist resurrected! Somehow, in all the confusion, there had to be a sifting and sorting out of the two. Because of the gospel accounts this could not be easily done. And we see all the contradictions which came out of the confusion.
Suffering Elijah and More Confusion
In Matthew and Mark Jesus argues at the time of his Transfiguration that John the Baptist is Elijah and yet Elijah will come again to restore all things. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist argues that he is not Elijah. In the presentation we see that Jesus needed John the Baptist to be Elijah for him to be the Messiah Deliverer. Sorting through this mess we see Jesus then saying that Elijah came and they have done whatsoever was listed of him; likewise shall the son of man also suffer. Nowhere in scripture is there any allusion to a suffering Elijah, unless of course the oral tradition had arrived at the fact that the Suffering Messiah discussed in the psalms and Isaiah 53 are, in fact, the Messiah-Elijah! There is some basis to suspect this. The Hymns of the Dead Sea Scrolls show the Teacher of Righteousness performing this role, playing out a prophesy of himself in the future which involves, in considerable detail, the prospect of suffering and being rejected. These hymns build upon the Suffering Messiah theme well beyond the developments seen in Isaiah and the Psalms of David. We can say, in fact, that The Teacher of Righteousness quite well understood the Suffering Messiah and what he must encounter and be like. The Oral Torah, on the other hand, is weak in its understanding of this character. The rabbis concluded over time that the Suffering Messiah was, in fact, one Messiah ben Joseph who would be murdered by Gog when he attacks Israel, after it has been gathered in the Latter Days. Messiah ben David then comes along and resurrects the dead Messiah ben Joseph and they rule (together?) in the Kingdom of God from then on. One of them is a priest after the order of Melkizedeck and Elijah. The other is clearly a lay messiah, after the order and lineage of David.
What was commonly understood by the rabbis of Jesus's day, even to this day, was suppressed by Christian doctrine. To avoid the conflict of the Two Messiahs, which are most distinctly revealed in Zechariah 4.14, among other places, the doctrine of the Only Begotten Son had to be established for Jesus to eliminate any competition. Thus, in the scriptures we have not only God saying of Jesus, This is my beloved son, hear ye him, but now, in the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus, Nicodemus reveals that Jesus is God's only begotten son.
This passage involving Nicodemus forms the basis of the creed propagated most effectively by Paul, who insisted that Jesus was the Son of God and not only this, says his gospel, He is the only begotten son of God. He can have no competition.
Why would the Gospel of John address this concern? The answer comes from the fact that we had heard Andrew announce to Peter, his brother, that he had seen the messiahs, which is the Christ (I John 41). Here, the writer has amended the comment to interpret it into the singular form. The gospel writer should have said, Which are the Christs., to be in perfect order to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Oral Torah. Then the gospel says:
John 1.42 And he brought him to Jesus, and when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jonah: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone (Peter in Greek).
The Gospel of Matthew gives a different account of the naming of Peter. At the time of the transfiguration — a year later! — Jesus asked his disciples whom people said he was. Peter responded that he thought him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus responded in answer:
Matthew 16.18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
16.19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom...
John is correcting Matthew and, furthermore, does not mention the anointing of Peter at the time of the transfiguration. This anointing is commonly reported by Matthew, Mark and Luke, with differences of opinion being mentioned between the three as to whether Jesus is the Son of God. Here we have a report taking place one year after Jesus was baptized into his New Ministry laying question as to whether Jesus is the Son of God! This is questioned even though the four gospels begin with John the Baptist recognizing Jesus as the Son of God! This is again questioned when John the Baptist sent his disciples to inquire whether Jesus is he whom he thought he was!
The entrance of Jesus into the Baptism scene at the Jordan river and being identified as the Son of God establishes JesusÕs credibility. The basis of that credibility is in two things: (1) John the Baptist being a confirmed prophet of God and (2) John the Baptist recognizing Jesus as the Son of God. If either one is presented weakly, then Jesus's credibility, on the basis of these issues, breaks down. As concerning the second part of the issue, the fact that John the Baptist thought to question Jesus confirms that John was not convinced of the matter. The voice from the cloud, on the other hand, is presented in such a manner that there is no room for doubt. The fact that John the Baptist doubted at all suggests that the event had a weak impact upon him. John needed more convincing, and if he needed it, then we must look to some other source for the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah or the Son of God. As concerning the first part of the argument, we see that everyone was confused by John the Baptist's part in the affair and basically wrote him off as a prophet of God, concluding he is that Voice in the Wilderness prophesied by God. But this conclusion proves nothing and is dependent, in fact, upon the thing he prophesied to follow him to confirm him. Jesus attempted to confirm that the Baptist is Elijah — not the thing John the Baptist represented himself to be. The entire episode, we see, reflects confusion between the gospel writers between Jesus and Elijah as to who was what. The only thing that seems to establish any basis of agreement between the two men is that they both agreed the Kingdom is coming.
Matthew has Peter saying Jesus is the Son of God (following Scriptural tradition); and, because he recognized the Messiah, he is rewarded with a new name, and Mark and Luke simply mention the fact that Peter believed Jesus to be the Christ and neglect to mention that he is the Son of God. But Peter, in his epistle, used this instance mentioned by Matthew to remind the congregation that Jesus is the Son of God! In this instance Peter confirms not only the fact that Jesus is the Son of God but also the confirmation requires us to recognize that the reward given to Peter, as being the rock of the church and the holder of its keys, most certainly applies. Whereas Mark and Luke give no assurance of Peter's authority, the Gospel of Matthew clearly cites it. John's gospel, on the other hand, reports the naming of Peter under an entirely different circumstance. In any event, through the conversation with Nicodemus, the Gospel of John clarifies for the first time that Jesus is the Son of God and that clarification happened right after Jesus came to Jerusalem, about seven days into his ministry. What the gospel has to be saying is that Jesus spent a good deal of time in Jerusalem, enough time to convert Nicodemus. But we hesitate here, because just prior to this Jesus had come from a wedding in Cana where he, his mother, his disciples, and his brethren had attended. Because his mother and his brothers were in attendance at the wedding, it would appear that one of his relatives had gotten married.
The next scene makes us take a big skip through time to the conversation with Nicodemus. We say this because it takes time for a person to accomplish the part of a secret disciple. How many times during the course of Jesus's ministry must Nicodemus come to him by night to be accounted for a secret disciple by night by the writer of the Gospel of John?
We saw where the gospels of Matthew and Mark seemed to compress Jesus's ministry from the moment of his baptism to the imprisonment of John the Baptist. Luke expanded upon this to show that Jesus returned to Galilee after he heard John was in prison, as opposed to Matthew and Mark saying he departed for Galilee, suggesting the first occurrence in Galilee.
So after the baptism, Jesus went with Andrew (and probably John) to Nazareth, then on to Bethsaida to meet Peter, Philip, and Nathanael, and then to Cana to attend a wedding of one who is probably a relative of Jesus. He is a relative since it would be unnecessary for his brothers to attend a wedding of one of his friends. Leaving the wedding John takes us to the Passover in Jerusalem and then the conversation with Nicodemus. We suspect that Nicodemus is one of Jesus's relatives. After this Jesus and his disciples leave Jerusalem and begin baptizing themselves, according to the Gospel of John. They were probably baptizing in Judaea near the place Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Further north, nearer to Galilee where the waters were deeper, at Aenon, near to Salim, John the Baptist was baptizing his people.
John 3.25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.
3.26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
Enough time had passed for Jesus and his disciples to tarry by the River Jordan to gain a reputation for baptizing more people than John the Baptist. And seeing this the disciples of John must have been concerned that Jesus would take away all of his disciples. For the man complains, For all men come to him. It is like one church congregation suddenly getting alarmed over the fact that all of its flock are leaving to go to hear some other preacher down the street, and taking their tithes and offerings with them. Just as we today have jealousies between two neighboring congregations trying to steal tithers from each other, so too did we have a similar situation from the point of view of John, so it would appear. But John reassures his disciples it is okay, saying that he must decrease while Jesus increases.
John 4.1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
4.2 (though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
4.3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee,
4.4 But he must needs go through Samaria.
After a Samaritan woman perceives that he is a prophet, he then went into Galilee:
John 4.45 Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast, for they also went unto the feast.
Here we have our first gap in the Gospel of John. In Samaria Jesus met the Samaritan woman and revealed her secrets to her, and she responded:
John 4.39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
4.41 And many more believed because of his own word;
4.42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
4.43 Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.
4.44 For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country.
Line 636 — A prophet is not without honor save in his own country. Although Jesus had apparently spent two days in Samaria and convinced many of his Messiahship, something happened which caused Jesus to exclaim that a prophet has no honor in his own country. That incident is explained in Matthew 13.57 where Jesus had gone into the synagogue and preached Isaiah 61, offending all the townspeople so much that they attempted to throw him off the cliff of the town. For he had claimed then and there, in front of all his friends and relatives (he must have known every one in that town) that he was the Messiah. This is not the first instance of inciting a townspeople against him. For earlier, right after the moment of Ordination of the Apostles, in Matthew 10.1, and the Ordination of the Seventy Disciples in Luke 10.1, Jesus taught the disciples to not be concerned about being rejected by a town. By this time he had already been chased out of Nazareth and caused some consternation, it would appear, in Samaria, to cause him to use the illustration of a prophet not being with honor in his own country. John, in his gospel, leads us to believe that the comment in Samaria, after discovering the secrets of the Samaritan Woman, occurred shortly after leaving Jerusalem, which was not long after the Passover. This occured only about a week after Jesus was baptized. The gospels of Matthew and Luke — to the contrary — show us that some time went by by this time; and the time that passed by was sufficient to not only appoint 12 apostles, but also another Seventy Disciples and ordain them. In this time period, according to Matthew and somewhat found in Luke, the Sermon on the mount and the two miracles of feeding thousands, one on a plain near the Sea of Galilee and another on a mount beside the Sea of Galilee, and many other significant events occured. Besides all this, in this time Chorezia, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had gotten sufficiently disturbed over his teachings that Jesus was caused to say, in his ordination of the Seventy:
Luke 10.1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself would come.
10.9 And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
10.10 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,
10.11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
10.12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
10.13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
10.15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.
Shortly after this, according to Luke, Jesus is found teaching in Samaria on his way to Jerusalem. Following the train of events, on to Jericho, and then to Jerusalem we find ourselves now attending Jesus in Jerusalem six days before the Passover and his crucifixion. The Gospel of John has given us good reason to believe about a year had taken place from the time beginning Jesus's Ministry to the time he is passing up through Samaria to Galilee. Luke has Jesus converging in Samaria as well, with the same kinds of comments recalling how a prophet is not received in his own country, and heading for Jerusalem.
Matthew remembers that when Jesus had finished ordaining his twelve apostles John the Baptist is reintroduced to the scene, questioning whether Jesus is the Messiah. Earlier we had seen how Jesus had spent some time baptizing by the river Jordan and it was sufficient time for John the Baptist's disciples to get jealous over Jesus gathering more disciples — in fact pulling away the disciples — of John the Baptist. Furthermore, before that event, even in the beginning of the synoptic gospels, we have:
Line 159 — Jesus heard John is in prison and departed to Galilee. But in line 526, after the ordination of the Twelve (and according to Luke the Seventy Disciples as well) John sent two disciples to Jesus. Matthew says he sent them from his place in prison; Luke is silent on the matter, as to where they came from. Thus:
Matthew 11.1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
11.2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
11.3 And said unto him,
Luke does not acknowledge that the two disciples of John the Baptist came with a message from John's place in prison. Rather, Jesus had ordained the 12 apostles chosen out of his disciples, and when he had ended all of his sayings he went into Capernaum and healed the Centurion's servant. The day after that he went to Nain and made a dead man rise. Rumors spread before him because of this saying:
Luke 7.16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, that a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
7.19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
Luke mentions in the beginning of his gospel, 3.20, how Herod shut John up in prison. But following Matthew's notations Luke does not confirm the disciples came from prison. The time of this event, we learn from Luke, was still relatively early in JesusÕs ministry, for he had yet to cure Mary Magdalene of her seven devils. And this was before Jesus anointed his other Seventy Disciples and sent them forth two by two. This, then, occurred probably concurrent with the ministry of John the Baptist, seeing how Jesus was beginning to eclipse him in numbers of disciples.
We return to the comment how Jesus was thrown out of Nazareth, his home, whilst he declared that a prophet is not without fame except in his own city. We may pick up our review once again at this point, in Matthew, to discover that not long after that moment Herod had remarked, hearing of Jesus's fame, that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. By the time Jesus had gone to Nazareth, according to Matthew, John was dead. In which case we may further argue, using this bit of information, that the disciples of John coming to Jesus probably did come to him from prison. Let us review:
Matthew 13.57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house.
13.58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
14.1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, and said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
Hang onto this comment, he is risenf from the dead, for it does not make sense, except Jesus and John were separated by a generation. According to Matthew 14.12 when the disciples buried the body of John the Baptist they went to Jesus in Galilee:
Matthew 14.13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cites.
14.14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
14.15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
14.16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
14.17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
14.18 He said, Bring them hither to me.
14.19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
14.20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
14.21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
This event occured right after the Ordination of the twelve apostles; and by the time of that event John the Baptist was dead. Because these people that came to Jesus included many disciples of the now dead John the Baptist, they certainly must have felt lost and also feared for their lives because Herod might come after them as well. It also seems that the event of feeding the five thousand was the Second Passover of Jesus's Ministry. Because of John'ss death it is clear that it might not be safe for John's disciples to be in Jerusalem. Jesus, by that time, was also gaining a reputation and had come to the attention of Herod, who according to the gospel, desired to see him. In all this time, however, Jesus had been thrown out of several cities in Galilee, including his home town of Nazareth, which event in Nazareth, we recall, is the about the same time as when the disciples of John went to Jesus from prison.
It would seem strange for five thousand people to follow Jesus into the wilderness so much that when they realized how far they had gone they were too far from town to go home for supper. In Mark the gospel asks:
Mark 6.37 Give them to eat; shall we buy two hundred penny weight of bread?
Why would they be even considering the matter, even with regard to the cost, when there are so many mouths to feed except the Passover grew near and they would be late for Passover if they turned back for town? The scene admits an urgency which ordinarily would not be urgent. So the people might go hungry on the way back to town — what's the problem? The problem is not that they would go hungry but that they would violate the passover [see our discussion, Law & Traditons of the Sabbath, ch. 17]. To avoid the multitude Matthew says Jesus began walking into the wilderness and up a mount by the Sea of Galilee. There he fed five thousand with a few fish and some loaves of bread. Chapter 13 of Matthew had just discussed how Jesus had offended the people in Nazareth. At that time Herod heard of Jesus's fame and thought him to be John the Baptist risen. This is one of the greater mysteries of the gospels, since we might expect many years of separation between Jesus and the time of John the Baptist. Ordinarily we might expect them to be of two separate generations!
Then Matthew shows Jesus taking a ship across the Sea of Galilee to a desert place, but the multitude, including the disciples of John the Baptist, followed on foot. We wondered how Jesus could take a ship from his home in Nazareth across the Sea of Galilee. Luke clears up this problem:
Luke 9. 7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead.
9.9 And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him.
9.10 And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
9.11 And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.
9.12 And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place.
9.16 Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.
9.18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
9.19 They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.
9.20 He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
9.28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James and went up into a mountain to pray.
9.29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.
These passages cover the period from Jesus being chased out of Nazareth and taking refuge, of course, in Peter's house in Bethsaida, where we know Andrew also lived (probably in the same house as Peter). He hears of John the Baptist's death from John's disciples and takes a boat from Bethsaida across the Sea of Galilee towards Capernaum. The desert place where he fed the five thousand could be south of Capernaum, near Gennesaret, or north of Capernaum, the latter of the two being more accessible by those on foot. Considering this, measuring by the map, we suspect that Capernaum was about a day's walking distance from Bethsaida. Comparing Matthew's gospel with Luke's we see that the wilderness place was near to Bethsaida, even though Matthew has Jesus going there by boat. We know this because Lukes says the desert place belonged to the city called Bethsaida.
The fact that a multitude followed him causes us to wonder exactly what was going on. We know that among them were the disciples of John the Baptist, who must have been many. In all probability John drew most of his disciples from Galilee. Why were they following Jesus on foot? If they believed that Jesus was now their leader they would turn to him. They would not necessarily turn to him while John the Baptist is alive, but as he is dead they, being now an organized body, might be disposed to follow Jesus, even believing that Jesus is the Messiah, though moments before, when Jesus was being kicked out of Nazareth, John, then being alive, had sent them to Jesus asking whether he was the Messiah.
At that moment in time Jesus was seen as competition with John from the point of view of his disciples, for He was baptizing more disciples than John. Then the point of view shifts from being competition to the question whether Jesus is the Messiah. Obviously, had they already believed he were the Messiah they would not have complained that he was in competition with them, taking away disciples from John. The next step in their logic seems to be, once John is in prison, a need for direction as to keeping the movement going. Who would be in charge? The two disciples sent to Jesus in Galilee, then, came with the foreknowledge that John was in Prison and there had to be a question in their minds as to who would inherit the leadership of the group. Since Jesus was not considered officially part of the group, but rather competition, one would think that they might not even have thought to inquire of Jesus.
The only thing that causes us to point towards Jesus as being the Leader, from both the disciples' behavior and John's comments to them, is that John and Jesus were cousins through their Mothers, Elizabeth and Mary. When he heard of John's death he reacted as any family member might grieve for his family. While Jesus had gained many disciples up to this time, Luke points out that after the feeding of the five thousand and the transfiguration (and the anointing of Peter for calling Jesus the Christ, the Son of God), Jesus appointed the Seventy Disciples. What had up to the time of John's death been a small group of disciples following Jesus, out of which he had appointed 12 apostles, now, after John's death, became a full fledged movement with now seventy anointed disciples being sent out to all the cities of Galilee to preach the Kingdom of God. Luke gives us the perspective: With John's head being cut off, so was cut off the head of prophesy. After that, say the gospels, is the Kingdom preached. And so the next scene in the gospels is Jesus sending out Seventy Disciples to preach the Kingdom is Come! Now all this began after the multitude were fed near Bethsaida.
To feed that many people ( a small city) they would have to procure wagons in which to haul the food from Bethsaida to the desert place. Matthew's gospel, leaving the desert place undefined, causes us to look at the desperate nature of the situation. Luke doesn't show that place to be altogether that far from town. But he does confirm the multitude of people involved. Again, neither explain why it is important to even consider the necessity of feeding the multitude there. It would have been far easier to send them home. The Gospel of John answers our questions here:
John 6.1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
6.2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
6.3 And Jesus went up into a mountain and there he sat with his disciples.
6.4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
6.7 And Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
6.8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him,
6.9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
John agrees with the Gospel of Mark, referring to the amount of money stated needed to buy food. The issue, rather than being on the physical improbability of obtaining enough food to feed the congregation on the mount, focused upon whether they had enough money among them to buy the food! Because of the focus of attention on the purchasing power of the congregation, and not on the physical improbability of being able to carry out the logistics of the enterprise, we suspect that the number fed on the mount was far less than the figure of five thousand people. The number of people was probably such that a few men could go back to Bethsaida to procure food and return provided they had enough money for the venture. Certainly, given the number of people involved, the main concern would have gone well beyond money, for even if they had the money the number of wagons they would need to line up, the sources of the bread to feed that number, etc., would have been an army provisioning officer's nightmare to solve. We are talking about provisions for the Passover. In provisioning supper our cooks generally allocate 1 pound of meat per person.
There were more than five thousand people, not counting women and children. They had all followed Jesus into the wilderness the day of Passover or the evening before. They had, by measure of the Law of Moses, jeopardized themselves in breaking the Sabbath, perhaps. We note that in the descriptions of Jesus going to Jerusalem for the Passover he does not go up to Jerusalem to arrive on that day. He, according to Luke, arrived at least six days before the Passover. People traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover would arrive in plenty of time for the Passover and would not be expected to be coming into the city whilst others are enjoying the Passover feast. Certainly, there were preparations before the Passover. We recall that Jesus was arrested the day before the Preparation of the Pascal Lamb and over the course of the evening was interrogated by Caiaphas first, then Pilate, then tossed to Herod, who was also in the city that Passover, and then back to Pilate for final sentence. The sentence was pronounced shortly after dawn, after the cock crew, and Jesus was scourged and led out of the city to the hill of Golgotha and then crucified. At the ninth hour he gave up the ghost. Counting from midnight, about when his interrogation started, which is also when the first hour of the day begins, to when the cock crew we have the sixth hour. By 9:00am in the morning he ought to have been hanging on the cross. We are led to believe, however, that he expired in the evening, perhaps 9:00pm and then was taken straight into the tomb and left there untouched from midnight that day, which was a Friday, until Sunday morning, when the tomb was found empty. Jesus, we see, was arrested on the day of preparation before the Passover. That day is an important part of the Passover, for it is the day when the priests prepare the Pascal lamb and offer it in the Temple. Thus we have the gospels making the connection that Jesus was arrested on the day the Pascal Lamb was prepared for offering.
So rather than following Jesus into the desert, one might think that the multitude might have been home preparing their Pascal Lambs for the Passover. John, alone among the gospel writers, thinks to mention that the multitude was getting caught in the desert during Passover. Perhaps Matthew and Luke did not know this; odds are, however, that they knew it but discussing it might create a lot of problems which would require explanation. We would like to know why they ignored the Passover and followed Jesus into the Wilderness. If they were all refugees, which is possible, they would have had no place to go and it would explain their presence. The fact that they had witnessed Jesus performing a lot of miracles and healing their numbers and followed him because of this leans too much on miracles and not enough on logic. But John the Baptistwas to many of them their leader and now they looked to his cousin Jesus for leadership. This is the probable explanation for their quandary. And the Gospel of Matthew shows us that they pressed so much to him that he took flight in a boat to get away from them. This is not the first time he flew away from leadership responsibility. We shall see that Judas Iscariot, who was among these disciples, had turned Jesus over to the Pharisees because he was disappointed that Jesus had not accepted Kingship over Israel and he thought Jesus, being the man of miracles that he is, would respond to the pharisees, perhaps overpowering them, and takethe crown. To his dismay, when Jesus was arrested and then taken to the cross, and did not save himself, Judas took the blood money and threw it back into the temple. Jesus was not a leader as one might have expected him to be. Thus, we have John the Baptist's question to Jesus: Art thou He whom we expect or must we await for another? Jesus was not fulfilling the King Messiah role.
LetÕs look at the situation from the standpoint of prophesy. A well versed prophet, knowing the things we now know (because we have the excellence of hindsight and the proof of history against prophesy), would know that the question asked by John would be the same as asking Jesus whether he were the True Suffering Messiah. But Jesus could not have been that Messiah in JohnÕs eyes, even though it is pointed out in the Gospel of John, Behold the lamb of God, causing Andrew, his disciple, to shift his allegiance to Jesus and bring his brother, Peter, into the picture. The gospel record is clear: it took many repetitious comments from Jesus to make the disciples understand that the Son of Man would suffer at the hands of the Gentile and be laid in a tomb for three days, and then resurrected. Finally, when Peter got the message, he chastised Jesus for having made the declaration. And according to Matthew's gospel we have Jesus telling Peter, Get thee behind me Satan:
Matthew 17.21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
17.22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
17.23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Now this took place after the transfiguration of Jesus, where Jesus took Peter, James, and John upon the mount in Galilee, where they witnessed Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah. This is the moment when a voice came out of the Cloud saying, This is my beloved son, hear ye him. This is the same experience which Peter reminds the congregation in his Epistle, and which proved to him that Jesus is the Son of God. This event, happened after the feeding of the five thousand on the mount, on the Second Passover of Jesus's ministry. We remember that Jesus was baptized, according to the gospels we have reviewed, about a week before Passover and three days after his baptism he was in Cana for a wedding and then went up to Jerusalem to spend the Passover, speaking with Nicodemus afterwards. Another way of remembering the time of this event is by John's Death. His disciples buried his body and then went to Galilee to Jesus and pressed near to him. There were many coming and going, says Mark. Finally Jesus could not handle the pressing crowd and took a boat, either the day of Preparation or the Passover across the Sea of Galilee from Bethsaida. But he could not have gone far, because the people followed him by foot. This was probably the Second Passover of Jesus's Ministry. By this measure, the Third Passover of His Ministry Jesus spent in the tomb. We may say, looking back on these details, that Jesus ministered for three years and a week.
During his first year of ministry, which we have covered heretofore, He baptized along with John (but in separate areas, gaining his own disciples) and spent his time in Jerusalem first — then in Galilee. He went from a place on the river Jordan near Jericho, just a short distance from the Dead Sea Caves and monastery of the Essenes, to Nazareth, then to Bethsaida, then to the wedding in Cana, and then around about, ministering in Nain, Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida. When he last ministered in Nazareth he was chased out of town. He had the audacity to preach in the synagogue that chapter 61 of Isaiah was fulfilled, claiming thereby to be the King-Messiah and blasphemed God. His friends, Peter and Andrew, lived in Bethsaida, so he probably went there to live. From there he roamed around Samaria and the towns around Nain. During the course of this time he aggravated more pharisees who undoubtedly gave him sufficient spite that he cursed Capernaum, Chorazim, and Bethsaida. In spite of the curse we find the disciples of John joining him in Bethsaida, after which he took the boat away from them across the Sea of Galilee. He then fed five thousand. After this, according to Matthew, Jesus sent the multitude away and told his disciples to take the ship back to Bethsaida. This ought to have confused them because that ship was the one Jesus had taken to the site. They ought to have wondered how he might get back. But it could not have been altogether that great of a distance because the multitude did walk it and did return after the dinner — which must have been while it was still light — to the town. We know what time it was because:
Matthew 14.23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
14.24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
14.25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
Line 776 — He saw them toiling and rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. And he almost walks right by them! We recall that Jesus was alone when the evening had come, and that meant that the disciples were in the ship on the sea by evening. But while it was still light Jesus could see them rowing to no avail against the wind in a contrary sea. Since it was Passover, darkness probably fell by 8:00pm. This would be the Fourth Watch. If the watches were then broken into six hour increments we would have:
Not knowing exactly what time it was, the gospel writer said it was in the Fourth watch when Jesus walked to them on the water. 8:00pm, by these calculations, would be in the middle of the watch. Matthew then throws us a curve. He says:
Matthew 6.53 And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.
The little ship of hardy disciples which had been sent back to Bethsaida by Jesus suddenly finds itself going the opposite direction, to Gennesaret, where :
Mark 6.54 And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,
6.55 and ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.
6.56 And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.
Let us make this the end of Jesus's first year of Ministry. Luke does not remember the scene of Jesus walking on the sea, though he does remember the feeding of the five thousand before that. Let us end this chapter of Jesus's life with him doing a remarkable feat of arriving in the land of the Gedarenes before his disciples. The feat was so remarkable it caused the disciples and others to run to him with the diseased of the countryside, hoping that he might cure them. A more fantastic end to this phase of Jesus's ministry would be to write it just as Matthew and Mark understood it: with Jesus walking on the water. Whatever it was which caused the excitement — at the culmination of this phase — it certainly lifted his disciples to a frenzy not seen before in his ministry. Jesus had become transformed from that of a prophet competing for space with John the Baptist to a full fledged God-man. He had been a teacher up to this point and much of his teaching had offended those who knew a little about the Scriptures. He had claimed to be the Messiah and he spoke as if he believed he was the Messiah. He was not just a man sent by God but more than that, for he also claimed, in his representations of God, that God was his father.
Having reached a new point in his ministry, with the people of the Gedarenes responding to his miracles, Jesus now took on a new phase in his Ministry. From here on his importance to the disciples, and man, was no longer as a prophet, but as GodÕs King bringing forth his Kingdom of God. The disciples could say, Repent, for the Kingdom is at hand, and say it with conviction, knowing that Jesus, their King, had begun a New Kingdom on earth. Before His miracles they could not say this; after the feeding of the five thousand, and then walking on the water, the disciples had to believe. For everything he had done to this point had been more localized, with fewer witnesses. These miracles concerning the loaves of bread involved too many people for them to be discounted. We wonder how much bread two hundred pennies would have bought and how many people owned that change...