24 Jesus Ministers in the Region of Judea

Dr. Doug Bookman

Note: This period is often called “The Later Judean Ministry” of Jesus. That works because Jesus had previously ministered for a time in this basic region – several months at the very beginning of His ministry He had spent gathering John the Baptist’s disciples to Himself (John 1). But though Jesus had visited the region briefly on several occasions, He had not spent any extended time here concentrating on the effort to saturate the area with His claims concerning Himself. He does that now. It’s important to understand that by now the nation has made it clear (to Jesus alone) that they were determined to disbelieve. Besides that, this region is very much under the dominion of the rabbinic and Pharisaic leadership centered in Jerusalem. So, Jesus’s intent here is not to set His claims before the villages of Judea in the hope they would acknowledge Him. Rather, Jesus seems to be confronting this strategic region with His claims – and with miraculous demonstration of those claims – in order that “every mouth may be stopped,” that this generation would have no excuse for their rejection of Jesus.

A. Jesus Sends Out the Seventy/Seventy-Two

Scripture: Luke 10:1-24

Notes: This is similar to when He sent out the 12 late in His Galilean ministry, and the intent is the same – to get the message out quickly and dramatically, given that the time is short because of the anger of Jesus’s very powerful enemies.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice that there is a textual issue with reference to the number. Some manuscripts of Luke say “seventy,” while others say “seventy-two.”
  2. Mark the purpose for which these were sent out, expressed by Jesus in Luke 10:1 – to go into every place where He was about to go. These 70 were not so much independent preaching teams as “set-up” teams, preparing the ground so that when Jesus came to a village He could quickly confront the place and be on to the next city. This is all a function of the sense of urgency born of the fact that Jesus’s time was so short.
  3. Notice that the commission which Jesus gave these emissaries (Luke 10:2-12) is very similar to that spoken to the 12 when they were sent out in Galilee (Matthew 10:5-42).

B. Eternal Life and the Good Samaritan

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

Notes: Jesus was asked by a scribe (student of the Law) what had to be done to be saved. The parable was spoken in response to the conversation which ensued, and specifically to the question of the lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?”

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice the way the lawyer summarizes the Mosaic law? Where else do we encounter this summary? What does this suggest as to whether this man had been attending Jesus’s teachings before this point?
  2. There is some speculation as to the identity of this man. Do you know what identity is often conjectured?

C. Jesus Visits the Village of Bethany, Home of Lazarus and His Sisters

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

Notes: This home will become very strategic to Jesus during the week of His passion; He seems to be preparing for that week in making this visit.

Questions/Observations: Note that Bethany is a suburb of Jerusalem; it lies on the east of the city, on the backside of the Mount of Olives, about 1.25 miles away.

D. Jesus Instructs His Disciples Concerning Prayer

Scripture: Luke 11:1-13

Notes: The “Lord’s Prayer” is, in fact, a model prayer, spoken by Jesus in response to His disciples’ request, “Teach us to pray.”

Questions/Observations: Note the reference to John’s instruction of his disciples concerning prayer; this is the only reference of this in the New Testament.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

23 In Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. The Jewish Leaders Watch for Jesus

Scripture: John 7:11-13

Notes: Notice that by this time Jesus is very much the center of thought among the Jews, both the leadership and the common man.

B. Jesus Appears, Begins Teaching, and Creates a Stir

Scripture: John 7:14-36

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice that Jesus’s teaching in the temple at this Feast produced a great deal of skeptical and/or hostile reaction on the part of the multitudes who heard Him teach. In that regard, notice especially the opposite opinions discussed in John 7:28-31.
  2. Note that as a result of the excitement produced by Jesus’s preaching at the Feast, the “chief priests and Pharisees sent officers (temple guards supplied by the Romans) to arrest Him” (John 7:32). That sub-plot concludes later in the narrative.

C. On the Last Day of the Feast, Jesus Offers “Living Water”

Scripture: John 7:37-44

Notes: Notice especially the response of the multitudes to this remarkable offer made by Jesus.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Why was the offer of “living water” especially meaningful at the feast of Tabernacles?
  2. Notice the very interesting point of confusion regarding Jesus’s messianic credentials as recorded in the discussion of those who heard Him (John 7:41-42).

D. The Roman Officers Sent to Arrest Jesus Return Empty-Handed

Scripture: John 7:45-52

Notes: The Jewish authorities have determined to be rid of Jesus, as reflected in the fact that they had sent officers to arrest Him, and in their deliberations recorded in this section.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Compare John 7:45-49 with John 7:32. Evidently, the Roman officers sent to arrest Jesus were so impressed as they heard His words and confronted His person that they refused to do the bidding of the Jewish authorities.
  2. Who rises briefly (timidly?) to defend Jesus when the Jewish authorities are going about to condemn Him without any legal process? Again, this is reflective of a very important role this man plays in the narrative as crafted by John.

E. A Woman Caught in Adultery Is Brought to Jesus

Scripture: John 7:53

Notes: The strategy of Jesus’s enemies was very clever here, but Jesus’s counter-strategy was magisterial.

Questions/Observations:

  1. There is much discussion as to whether this account is authentic. What are the reasons it is denied authenticity by many? Do you have any strong opinion?
  2. Notice that the account begins with an indication of the remarkable fascination of the city for Jesus, and the anger of the Jewish leadership as a result of that.

F. Great Confrontation with the Jewish Leaders

Scripture: John 8:12-59

Notes: This is one of the more remarkable scenes in the ministry of Jesus. Trace well the claims made by Jesus, the angry response of the Jewish leadership, and the heated exchanges between them and Jesus.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice how Jesus argues for the validity and credibility of His claims.
  2. Mark well Jesus’s reference to being “lifted up” in John 8:28. What do you understand Jesus to mean by “lifted up”?
  3. John states in John 8:30 that “many believed in Him,” but he goes on to narrate Jesus’s interaction with those who had confessed belief (John 8:31-47). Given that subsequent discussion, how do you understand John’s statement in John 8:30?
  4. Notice the conversation that resulted in Jesus’s words, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). What was the significance of that strangely worded claim? Why did that claim so enrage Jesus’s detractors (cf. John 8:59)?

G. Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind; the Pharisees “Put Him Out”

Scripture: John 9:1-41

Notes: Remember that this occurs about six months before the Passover at which Jesus will die.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Note that this account commences with a very important insight offered by Jesus concerning God’s purposes in human suffering.
  2. Follow carefully the physical travels of the man who is healed. Why do you think Jesus sent him to wash in the Pool of Siloam? Notice in that regard that after he has been healed, he does not know Jesus by sight until Jesus introduces Himself to him.
  3. The stubborn and entirely irrational unbelief of the Pharisees in this incident is very important to an understanding of the way in which Jesus’s ministry is unfolding – and to the literary purposes of the apostle John.
  4. Note the repeated threat of the Pharisees to put a recalcitrant person “out of the synagogue”; this was a dire threat, and the capacity of the Pharisees to do this is very important to the drama unfolding during these last months of Jesus’s ministry.

H. Jesus Claims to Be the Good Shepherd and Divides the Crowd

Scripture: John 10:1-21

Notes: Given the chronological note of John 10:22, it seems best to attach this account to those preceding – that is, to see this discourse as part of Jesus’s extensive (and extensively recorded) ministry at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Questions/Observations: Notice that Jesus is speaking rather openly of His death by this point in His ministry.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

22 Jesus and the 12 Travel to Jerusalem

Dr. Doug Bookman

Note: Notice that Matthew and Mark omit the last half year of Jesus’s ministry before the events leading to the passion, and thus we follow these months only in Luke and John. Harmonization is a bit difficult for this period, because there are only a few places where those two Gospels both record the same event (which is key to the harmonizing effort). On the other hand, the two narratives fit together nicely when this reality is recognized: Luke narrates Jesus’s travels beyond Jerusalem, as well as the times when He sets out to go to Jerusalem (or its immediate environs); John, on the other hand, picks up the narrative when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem (or it immediate environs) and relates His ministry in that place. Further, John’s account is built around two feasts which occurred during these last six months: the Feast of Tabernacles (Sept/Oct of 32 AD, about 6 months before Jesus’s death) and the Feast of Dedication (or Hanukah, in late Dec). Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for each of these. Luke has Him leaving for Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles (Luke 9:51; John narrates His ministry at that feast in John 7), and then again for the feast of Dedication (Luke 13:22; cf. John 10:22-39). Finally, Jesus goes to the village of Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-54; Luke makes no mention of this journey).

A. In Capernaum, Jesus Receives Bitter Counsel from His Unbelieving Brothers

Scripture: John 7:1-9

Notes: Note carefully the foreboding summary statement with which John begins his narrative of this period of Jesus’s ministry (John 7:1).

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice that the record is clear that as of this time, within months of Jesus’s death, His (half-)brothers did not believe on Him. Contemplate how difficult it would have been to accept Jesus’s claims if He were your brother!
  2. Did Jesus’s siblings ever come to faith? How do we know?
  3. Note well that in all this, given the very real danger He was in, Jesus was “wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove,” and in that spirit He conducted Himself very circumspectly through these months.

B. Jesus and the 12 Set out from Galilee

Scripture: Luke 9:51-61; John 7:10; and Matthew 8:19-22

Notes: This is the first of three times that Luke describes Jesus as setting out for or on the road to Jerusalem. Again, these are best harmonized with the times that Jesus arrives in Jerusalem in the narrative of John’s gospel.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice that Jesus determines to travel through Samaria, but He takes precautions in that regard (Luke 9:52-56). Understand the careful strategy involved in this route.
  2. John’s comment that Jesus “went up not publicly, but privately” is best understood in terms of the strategically chosen Samaritan route narrated in Luke 9.
  3. Notice the stern demands of discipleship laid down by Jesus along the way. (Matthew’s account of this challenge by Jesus seems to be recorded anachronistically, which is not unusual, as Matthew often arranges material more thematically than chronologically.)

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

21 Last Efforts in Galilee

Dr. Doug Bookman

Note: Almost three years of Jesus’s ministry have passed. Having struggled to find opportunity to confront His apostles with the truth that He was soon to die, and the apostles having resisted the teaching when Jesus set it before them, there are a few days or weeks in Galilee before Jesus sets out for the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (John 7:2).

A. At Capernaum, Jesus Miraculously Pays the Temple Tax

Scripture: Matthew 17:24-27

Questions/Observations: What do you think is the significance of the way in which Jesus provided the money to pay this tax?

B. The 12 Argue over Who Should Be the Greatest in the Kingdom

Scripture: Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; and Luke 9:46-48

Notes: This episode makes clear that the disciples have refused to accept Jesus’s words concerning His own death, as well as His insistence that they too must be ready to take up a cross and prepare for death.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice in Mark’s account the way this conversation began.
  2. Notice the object lesson of humility and simple faith which Jesus employs in response to the apostles’ argument concerning who would be greatest?
  3. Why do you think the apostles were thinking about this issue?

C. The Apostle John Is Rebuked for His Selfish Spirit

Scripture: Matthew 18:6-14; Mark 9:38-50; and Luke 9:49-50

Notes: The confrontation began when John rebuked one who was casting out demons in Jesus’s name, but was not among the 12.

Questions/Observations: Mark’s account places Jesus’s warning about causing “one of these little ones to sin,” as well as the injunction to sever the body part that causes you to sin, as part of His response to John. It seems best to take the parable concerning the shepherd seeking his one lost sheep as part of this same discourse of Jesus.

D. Instruction on Dealing with a Sinning Brother

Scripture: Matthew 18:15-35

Questions/Observations: This is the only other place in the Gospels (besides Matthew 16:18) where Jesus makes mention of the “church.”

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

20 The Transfiguration

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. On the Mountain with Jesus

Scripture: Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; and Luke 9:28-36

Notes: It is imperative that this remarkable event be understood against the backdrop of Jesus’s prophecy and the apostles’ response. In short, Jesus’ prophecy of His own death so staggered the apostles – it was so foreign and so offensive to them – that they began to doubt Jesus’s messianic identity. The transfiguration was a gracious and spectacular strategy to reinforce the staggering faith of three of those apostles.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Matthew says this happened “six days” after the conversation above; Mark says “about eight days.” How would you reconcile those two?
  2. Can you think of other times in the New Testament when Jesus was seen in the effulgent and glorious form that He appears at this time?
  3. According to Luke, what is Jesus doing when He is suddenly transfigured?
  4. What two Old Testament figures appear with Jesus? What are they talking with Him about?
  5. When Peter sees Jesus transfigured, he offers to build three booths. Why?
  6. Given the rebuke spoken from heaven against Peter’s suggestion, how do you understand what Peter was thinking in making the offer?
  7. Why do you think Jesus took only Peter, James, and John to this event?

B. Jesus Instructs the Three Apostles Not to Tell Anyone What They Saw

Scripture: Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9-10; and Luke 9:36

Questions/Observations:

  1. This is a very important moment, but the significance of the moment is sometimes lost in the discussion of the conversation that follows. Understand that the truth confessed by Peter here is precisely what Jesus has claimed concerning Himself throughout His ministry. By the same token, it is a truth not easily or hastily embraced. Jesus’s delight with the confession is born of the fact that that two-fold truth was so difficult to believe, but the apostles have confessed (11 of them honestly) that they have bowed the knee to those claims.
  2. Why do you think Jesus commanded those three not to tell anyone of what they had seen until after the resurrection?
  3. Notice carefully the point of Jesus’s command which proved confusing to these apostles (Matthew 17:9).

C. The Three Ask about the Coming of Elijah

Scripture: Matthew 17:10-13 and Mark 9:11-14

Notes: Evidently the experience of the transfiguration had reinforced these men’s faith in Jesus’s messianic claims. But there was one other matter that confused them in that regard, and so they put the question to Jesus at this strategic time.

Questions/Observations: How do you understand the relationship between John the Baptist and the Elijah prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6, especially given this passage?

D. The Nine Apostles Left Behind Are Unable to Drive out a Demon

Scripture: Luke 9:37-43; Mark 9:14-29; and Matthew 17:14-21

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice that Luke is explicit that this occurred the day after the Transfiguration (Luke 9:37), and Mark that it was the other disciples who were unable to do this (Mark 9:14).
  2. Why do you think these men were unable to deliver this boy? (Compare Mark 9:29.)
  3. Note carefully Mark’s account; it is the fullest of the three and it includes very interesting and important details.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

19 Jesus Finds Solitude with His Apostles Far North in Galilee

Dr. Doug Bookman

Note: Having been several times frustrated in His attempt to get alone with His apostles, Jesus decides to take them to the region of Caesarea-Philippi, a very remote place in the foothills of Mt Hermon, and a place to which Jews did not go.

A. Jesus Carefully Heals a Blind Man in Bethsaida (Men Like Trees)

Scripture: Mark 8:22-26

Notes: Bethsaida was a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and the 12 dock there and pass through the city as they make their way to Caesarea-Philippi. Once again, Jesus is asked to do a miracle of healing, and He cautiously consents.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Compare the steps taken here by Jesus to those He took when healing the man in the Decapolis. What additional steps does Jesus take here?
  2. Why do you think Jesus healed this man in two stages?
  3. Notice that Jesus seems to have got out of Bethsaida without attracting great crowds – something He had been unable to do in other cities on this journey.

B. Jesus Tests the 12 in the Region of Caesarea-Philippi

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; and Luke 9:18-21

Notes: This event is the “final exam” of the apostles. Jesus asks specifically what they believe concerning Him, and Peter – speaking for the 12 – confesses that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

  1. This is a very important moment, but the significance of the moment is sometimes lost in the discussion of the conversation that follows. Understand that the truth confessed by Peter here is precisely what Jesus has claimed concerning Himself throughout His ministry. By the same token, it is a truth not easily or hastily embraced. Jesus’s delight with the confession is born of the fact that that two-fold truth was so difficult to believe, but the apostles have confessed (11 of them honestly) that they have bowed the knee to those claims.
  2. How do you understand Jesus’s statement to Peter in Matthew 16:17 – “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”?
  3. With regard to the ensuing conversation, how do you understand Jesus’s reference to “this rock” (i.e., “on this rock I will build my church”)?
  4. How do you think the apostles understood Jesus’s reference here to His “church”?
  5. How do you understand the concept of the “keys of the kingdom” spoken of here?
  6. Notice the command Jesus gives in Matthew 16:20; why do you think this was important?

C. Jesus’s First Distinct Prophecy of His Rejection, Trial, Death, and Resurrection

Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28; Mark 8:31; and Luke 9:22-27

Notes: This is a most important development in the ministry of Jesus – and specifically in His relationship with His apostles. Understand that the text is explicit that Jesus had not spoken of dying before this (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31). Notice as well that when Jesus did begin to speak of His death, His apostles were scandalized.

Questions/Observations:

  1. When Peter rejects Jesus’s statement concerning His death, Jesus responds by saying to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Why do you think Jesus refers to Peter in that way?
  2. How do you understand Jesus’s further words of rebuke: “You are an offense to Me, because you are not mindful of the things of God, but of man”?
  3. Compare Luke 18:31-33, which records a later time when Jesus again speaks explicitly and directly of His coming death; and then note Luke’s assessment of the response of the apostles at that time (Luke 18:34).

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

16 Calming the Storm and Driving Demons into Pigs

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Jesus Stills a Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Scripture: Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25

Notes: This miracle occurred late on the same day as the “unpardonable sin” and the teaching of the Kingdom parables (Mark 4:35).

B. Jesus Delivers a Demon-Possessed Gadarene

Scripture: Mark 5:1-20 and Mark 8:28-34

Notes: As the boat carrying the apostles and Jesus arrived on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus encountered this Gadarene man, delivered him of his demon possession.

Questions/Observations: There is a perceived contradiction between Mark’s geographic reference (the country of the Gadarenes) and that of Matthew (country of the Gergesenes). Can you propose a way to reconcile these accounts?

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

17 The Collapse of the Galilean Campaign

Dr. Doug Bookman

Note: Jesus’s ministry of public presentation, which He had pursued so carefully and so persistently in Galilee for some 18 months, is deliberately suspended for a strategic season; this is because the nation has demonstrated its commitment to disbelief, irrespective of evidence. There are two great “moments of disbelief” – the unpardonable sin (discussed earlier) and the feeding of the 5000. The latter and climactic event will be considered here.

A. Jesus Withdraws from Galilee after the Death of John the Baptist

Scripture: Matthew 14:1-13

Notes: The only record of the death of Jesus’s forerunner, John the Baptist, is told here in terms of a report brought to Jesus.

Questions/Observations: Notice that Matthew 14:13 is explicit that it was in response to this report that Jesus decided to depart from Galilee.

B. Great Crowds Pursue Jesus; He Miraculously Feeds 5000

Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-13

Notes: This is the only miracle (save the resurrection of Jesus) that is recorded in all four gospels.

Questions/Observations: Why is this miracle recorded in all four gospels? That is, what part does it play in the narrative of Jesus’s ministry that makes it so strategic to our understanding of that ministry?

C. The Response of the Multitudes to the Miracle

Scripture: John 6:14-15

Questions/Observations: What do you think it looked like when the masses tried to “take Him by force and make Him king”?

D. Jesus Prays Alone; the Disciples Caught in a Storm; Jesus Walks on Water

Scripture: Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 6:47-52; and John 6:16-21

Notes: This event happened the night of the Feeding of 5000.

Questions/Observations: Notice the amazement of the disciples, in spite of the fact that just a few hours earlier they had participated in the remarkable miracle of the feeding. Notice as well Mark’s (i.e., Peter’s) assessment as to why they were so amazed (John 6:52).

E. Jesus Arrives on the Eastern Shore of the Sea of Galilee

Scripture: Matthew 14:34-36 and Mark 6:53-56

Notes: This occurred on the day following the Feeding of the 5000.

Questions/Observations: Notice that this is very late in the Galilean ministry, and Jesus (alone) has discerned that the nation is determined to reject His claims. But that does not mean that Jesus is no longer the wildly popular folk hero of the masses. This remarkable scene is clear evidence that the common man was still fascinated with this wonder Worker, even though that fascination was self-serving and shallow, as demonstrated by the way this event was yet to unfold.

F. The Crowds Go Looking for Jesus

Scripture: John 6:22-25

Notes: Only John tells of the mad dashing about that ensued on this following day; the crowds that had eaten the lunch produced by Jesus, and who had wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him king, were anxious for the excitement to continue. Thus, the frenetic scurrying about of these verses.

G. Jesus Speaks “Hard Sayings” to Test the Crowd

Scripture: John 6:26-59

Notes: This very important teaching was spoken by Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum (John 6:59). It was intended by Jesus to test the reality of this people to “make Jesus king,” and it was effective to that end.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice the stern and telling rebuke with which Jesus introduces His conversation with these people who were ostensibly so anxious to have Him as king (John 6:26-27).
  2. John 6:53-56 are widely regarded as difficult verses, and they have often been so misconstrued as to be put to ignoble purposes. However, those verses must be understood in the context of the illustration to which Jesus appealed earlier (John 6:32-40), as well as the specific and straightforward application of that illustration He had made in John 6:48-51. The point has been made explicitly that the only “work” demanded by the Father is that men “believe in [i.e., depend entirely upon] Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). The reference to “eating in His flesh/drinking His blood” calls to mind sacrificial death and must be understood in its context: just as the Israelites had no food or drink other than the bread which fell from heaven and the water flowing from a rock, so men have no hope of eternal life unless they utterly depend upon the sacrifice to be made by Jesus – as it were, eat His flesh (as the Israelites ate manna) and drink His blood (as the Israelites depended on the water provided by God).

H. The Masses Are Offended

Scripture: John 6:60-71

Notes: Notice especially John 6:66.

Questions/Observations: Although there are brief events to follow before Jesus actually abandons Galilee and sets out on His mission of private preparation, it is this event that functionally brings to an end the Galilean ministry and thus causes the effort at public presentation to be suspended for a strategic season.

I. Jesus Confronted Once Again by Pharisees from Jerusalem

Scripture: Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23

Notes: In both Matthew and Mark, this incident is narrated as the last in Jesus’s ministry of public presentation in Galilee.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Note that the Pharisees who confronted Jesus had come from Jerusalem. This is strong indication that Jesus’s enemies were growing more committed to silence Him.
  2. Why do you think the parable spoken by Jesus in response to those Pharisees (Matthew 15:10-11) was so offensive to them (Matthew 15:12)?

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

18 Unsuccessful Attempts to Find Solitude with His Apostles

Dr. Doug Bookman

Note: At this point in His ministry Jesus’s death is about one year away. (That is, 2 1/2 years of the 3 1/2 years of His ministry have been accomplished.) It is here that Jesus’s purpose – and consequently His tactics – change dramatically. Jesus has discerned that the hardness of this generation is full, that they have determined to disbelieve no matter the evidence set before them that Jesus is who He claims to be. Thus, Jesus sets out to find the solitude necessary to share with His apostles instruction which is unspeakably important and just as difficult – a task which will prove logistically difficult because Jesus the miracle Worker is still so wildly popular with the common man, even beyond the borders of Judea. The specific instruction He is seeking opportunity to give is that He is going to die at the hands of His enemies. In that connection, remember that to this point Jesus has never openly spoken of dying. Notice in the passages to follow the sudden and radical change in tactics employed by the Lord Jesus.

A. Jesus Encounters Syro-Phoenecian Woman with Demon-Possessed Daughter

Scripture: Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28

Notes: Here, Jesus takes the 12 to Phoenecia, a difficult journey to a place where there were few Jews among the populace. Notice that Jesus is reluctant to do a miracle of healing in this place.

Questions/Observations:

  1. As you read these passages, how many particular ways can you find in which Jesus’s tactics change from that which has characterized His ministry for the years past.
  2. Why do you think Jesus was reluctant to do the miracle of healing requested by the Syro-Phoenecian woman for her daughter?
  3. Notice the response of this woman to Jesus’s remarkably harsh reply to her request. In what ways might her response be regarded as a model?

B. Jesus Heals Many and Feeds 4000 at Decapolis

Scripture: Mark 7:31 and Matthew 15:29-38

Notes: Jesus leads the 12 on a long journey around the Sea of Galilee into the very Gentile region of Decapolis.

  1. Notice the special steps Jesus employs in healing this man brought to Him. Why do you think He healed the man in this manner?
  2. Notice Jesus commanded the man and his companions to tell no one of the healing. Why did Jesus make this demand? How did the man who had been healed respond? What was the result of his response?

C. Back Across the Sea to Galilee; Jesus confronted by Pharisees; Sets out Again

Scripture: Matthew 15:39 and Mark 8:10-21

Notes: This seems to be an attempt by Jesus to return to Galilee – His home and that of 11 of His apostles – unobtrusively. But the attempt is aborted when a Pharisee confronts Jesus as soon as He alights from the boat.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Where is Dalmanutha (Mark)/Magdala (Matthew)?
  2. How do you understand Jesus’s reference to the “leaven of the Pharisees” (Matthew: “and the Sadducees”)?
  3. A very important element of this episode – the (almost comical) dullness of Jesus’s apostles.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

15 The “Unpardonable Sin” and a Shift to Parables

Dr. Doug Bookman

Note: By harmonizing the Synoptic accounts, it is possible to trace the events of one remarkable day late on the second tour through Galilee – remarkable primarily for the spirit of rejection which manifested itself on this day. This day is clearly a turning point in Jesus’s ministry; indeed, it marks the beginning of the end of that ministry – and thus of an extended period during which Jesus’s focus has been public presentation of Himself to the nation.

A. The “Unpardonable Sin” and Jesus’s Response

Scripture: Matthew 12:22-37 and Mark 3:20-30

Notes: Most basic to this day was the wickedness remembered as the “unpardonable sin.” It is widely acknowledged that this event functions as a basic turning point in Jesus’s ministry, and it is essential to understand why that is so.

Questions/Observations:

  1. This event is precipitated by a miracle done by Jesus, a miracle specifically foretold of Messiah (cf. Isaiah 42:7, Isaiah 35:6).
  2. Notice very carefully the question asked by the people who witnessed the miracle in Matthew 12:23.
  3. There is much discussion as to the specific character of the sin of “blaspheming the Holy Spirit”; it is an important discussion, but don’t miss the undeniable emphasis of this passage – in committing that sin, the masses have chosen to believe the lying excuse of the Pharisees and thus to reject Jesus’s claims concerning Himself, in spite of the unimpeachable evidence He has just given them in this remarkable miracle.

B. The Reaction of the Pharisees

Scripture: Matthew 12:38-45

Notes: The Pharisees again demand a sign, but Jesus refuses and speaks even greater condemnation upon them.

Questions/Observations: This is the first of at least three times that Jesus refuses any sign but that of Jonah (cf. Matthew 16:4; Luke 11:30).

C. The Reaction of Jesus’s Family

Scripture: Mark 3:31-35 and Matthew 12:46-50

Notes: This is a remarkably difficult time for Jesus, as His own family – including His mother – come to take Him home, thinking Him to be out of His mind (cf. Mark 3:21)

Questions/Observations:

  1. Contemplate the travail of soul Jesus must have felt as word came that His own family thought Him crazy.
  2. Understand that in Mark 3:34-35, Jesus is living up to a very difficult but very clear Old Testament ethic.
  3. An interesting question: could the perception that Jesus was “out of his mind” have anything to do with the strategy He was employing at this time? (See below.)

D. Jesus Begins Teaching in Parables

Scripture: Matthew 13:1-52 and Mark 4:1-34

Notes: As you read these passages, note carefully the movements of Jesus and His apostles – and the consequent audience of the various portions of the text.

E. Jesus Selects 12 from among His Disciples to be His Apostles

Scripture: Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16

Notes: This is rather late in His Galilean ministry, and Jesus does this because His enemies are growing sufficiently enraged and emboldened that Jesus knows the time He will have to move about freely in Galilee is short.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice the astonishment of the apostles when Jesus began teaching in this fashion and the words of Jesus in response to that astonishment. Give special attention to what Jesus said was the purpose of His speaking in this way.
  2. As you ponder the significance of these parables, measure that against the backdrop of the situation in which they were spoken. (The great key to understanding Matthew 13: it comes right after Matthew 12!) Clearly, something previously understood regarding the Kingdom (i.e., a mystery) is made (cryptically) known here; the issue is, what is that mysterious insight never before understood, but now made known?
  3. Notice carefully the concluding parable (Matthew 13:51-52) intended to give instruction as to how the truth of the former parables is to be received.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).