Chapter 1

Jesus begins his public ministry by being baptized by John the Baptist and being tempted by Satan in the wilderness for forty days. He chooses me as one of his first disciples and begins preaching in Galilee, healing people along the way.

Here is how the story of my friend Jesus begins. I call the story, “The Good News.” In the three years we were together I came to realize that he was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the very Son of God. (1:1)

More than 700 years ago God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, saying: “Before I send my Son to earth, I am going to send a messenger who will prepare the way for him. This forerunner will show up in the desert crying out, “Get ready for the Lord. Make the road on which he will come level and smooth.” The messenger turned out to be a man by the name of John the Baptizer. He lived in the uninhabited area just north of the Dead Sea. People flocked to him to hear his message (“Repent and God will forgive your sin”) and be baptized. People from all over the land of Judea came, even from the capital city of Jerusalem. When they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan river. (2-5)

John wore a rustic garment woven out of camel’s hair and held together at the waist with a leather strap. For food he lived on grasshoppers and the honey he found in the desert. As he preached to the people, he kept reminding them that someone far greater that he was on his way. John said, “The coming one is so much better than I, that I‘m not fit even to get down and take off his sandals. I baptize you with water from this river, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (6-8)

At that time Jesus was living in the little town of Nazareth near the Sea of Galilee. One day he went to John and was baptized in the Jordan river. As he was coming up out of the water, the heavens suddenly split wide open and God’s Spirit, like a dove, came down and settled on him. From heaven God declared, “You are my dear Son, the one I cherish. I am pleased with what you have just done.” Then the Spirit made Jesus go into a wilderness area to be tested by Satan. Jesus was there for forty days where wild animals lived, but God’s angels took good care of him. (9-13)

Before long John was put in prison for his preaching, so Jesus began to proclaim the same message throughout Galilee. This “Good News” that God wanted people to hear was that the promised time had arrived and that God was about to establish his reign on earth. As John had said, “Repent!” It was crucial that people believe what Jesus was telling them. (14-15)

One day Jesus was walking along the shore of the Lake of Galilee when he saw me, Peter, and my brother Andrew casting a net into the sea (we were fishermen). He called to us, “Come with me and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Without hesitation we put down our nets and went with him. We hadn’t gone very far until Jesus saw two more brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were in their boat repairing some nets that had been torn. When Jesus called they got up, left their father in the boat with his hired men, and came with us. (16-20)

Before long we arrived at the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the local synagogue and began to teach. The people were astonished at his teaching because, unlike the teachers of religious law, he taught with authority; he didn’t merely quote what others had said. All of a sudden a man possessed by an evil spirit jumped up and yelled, “You, Jesus from Nazareth! What are you trying to do? Have you come to destroy us? I know about you — you’re a messenger from God.”

Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, saying, “That’s enough out of you! Come out of that man!” The evil spirit threw the man into convulsions; then, screaming at the top of its voice, came out of the man.

Everyone who saw it was amazed. They began to ask one another “What’s this all about? It has to be something brand new! With what authority he orders the evil spirits and they obey without questioning!”

So the news about Jesus spread quickly throughout Galilee. (21-28)

Jesus, along with James and John, left the synagogue and went straight to where my brother Andrew and I lived. When we arrived, Jesus was told that my mother-in-law couldn't get out of bed because of a high fever. Jesus went to where she was lying, took her hand in his and raised her to a sitting position. The fever suddenly disappeared and, as the lady of the house, she began to serve refreshments to her guests. (29-31)

That evening after sunset, when the Sabbath was over, the villagers began to bring to Jesus everyone who was sick, even some who were possessed by demons. The whole town crowded around the door to see what was going on. Jesus cured a great number of those who were sick with various kinds of diseases. He also cast out many demons, but he wouldn’t allow them to say a word, because they knew who he really was. (32-34)

Very early the next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went out where he could be by himself and pray. Later, I and some others went to look for him. When we found him we said, “Everybody is looking for you.”

Jesus answered, “We need to move on to other towns in the area so they can hear the Good News as well. You know of course, that’s why I came. So he went everywhere throughout Galilee, proclaiming the Good News in their synagogues and casting out demons.” (35-39)

One day a man with a terrible skin disease came to Jesus for help. Falling on his knees, he exclaimed, “If only you were willing you could make this leprosy go away.”

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “May your skin be like new.” At once the leprosy disappeared and his skin was like new. Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning that he not tell others what had happened. “Don’t tell anyone about this,” Jesus said. “Instead, go to Jerusalem and there you can be examined by a priest. Offer the sacrifice prescribed by Moses that officially declares those who have been healed, then everyone will know you no longer have leprosy. But instead of following Jesus’ instructions, the man went out and began to tell everyone everywhere what had happened. As a result, Jesus could no longer go openly into any town. Rather he had to stay out where he would less likely attract attention. However, people kept coming out to him from everywhere. (40-45)