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.


  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.


  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).