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.


  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.


  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).