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Jesus Christ: Travel Ministry


Departure from Galilee

An interval of two months elapses between John 10:21 and 22--from the Feast of Tabernacles (October) till the Feast of the Dedication (December). This period witnessed the final withdrawal of Jesus from Galilee. Probably while yet in Galilee He sent forth the seventy disciples to prepare His way in the cities to which He should come (Lu 10:1). Repulsed on the borders of Samaria (Lu 9:51-53), He passed over into Peraea ("beyond Jordan"), where he exercised a considerable ministry. The record of this period, till the entry into Jerusalem, belongs in great part to Luke, who seems to have had a rich special source relating to it (9:51-19:27). The discourses in Luke embrace many passages and sections found in other connections in Matthew, and it is difficult, often, to determine their proper chronological place, if, as doubtless sometimes happened, portions were not repeated.

Rejected by Samaria

(Luke 9:51-55)

Conscious that He went to suffer and die, Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. His route was first by Samaria--an opportunity of grace to that people--but here, at a border village, the messengers He sent before Him, probably also He Himself on His arrival, were repulsed, because of His obvious intention to go to Jerusalem (Lu 9:53). James and John wished to imitate Elijah in calling down fire from heaven on the rejecters, but Jesus rebuked them for their thought (the Revised Version (British and American) omits the reference to Elijah, and subsequent clauses, Lu 9:55,56).

Mission of the Seventy

(Luke 10:1-20)

In the present connection Luke inserts the incidents of the three aspirants formerly considered (9:57-62; compare p. 1645). It was suggested that the second and third cases may belong to this period.

The Lawyer’s Question--Parable of Good Samaritan

(Luke 10:25-37)

Jesus had now passed "beyond the Jordan," i.e. into Peraea, and vast crowds waited on His teaching (compare Mt 19:1 f; Mr 10:1; Lu 12:1). At one place a lawyer put what he meant to be a testing question, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus referred him to the great commandments of love to God and one’s neighbor, eliciting the further query, "And who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus spoke to him the immortal parable of the Good Samaritan, and asked who proved neighbor to him who fell among the robbers. The lawyer could give but one answer, "He that showed mercy on him." "Go," said Jesus, "and do thou likewise."

The incident of Martha and Mary, which Luke inserts here (Lu 10:38-42), comes in better later, when Jesus was nearer Bethany.

Discourses, Parables, and Miracles

(Luke 11-14)

a) Original to Luke:

Of matter original to Luke in these chapters may be noted such passages as that on the Friend at Midnight (11:5-8), the incident of the man who wished Jesus to bid his brother divide his inheritance with him, to whom Jesus spoke the parable of the Rich Fool (12:13-21), the parable of the Barren Fig Tree, called forth by the disposition to regard certain Galileans whom Pilate had slain in a tumult at the temple, and eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam had fallen, as sinners above others (13:1-9: "Nay," said Jesus, "but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish"), and most of the teaching in Luke 14, referred to below. In 11:37,38, we have the mention of a Pharisee inviting Jesus to dine, and of his astonishment at the Lord’s neglect of the customary ablutions before eating. Luke 11:53 gives a glimpse of the fury to which the scribes and Pharisees were aroused by the severity of Christ’s denunciations. They "began to press upon him vehemently .... laying wait for him, to catch something out of his mouth." In 13:31 ff it is told how the Pharisees sought to frighten Jesus from the district by telling Him that Herod would fain kill Him. Jesus bade them tell that "fox" that His work would go on uninterruptedly in the brief space that remained ("day" used enigmatically) till He was "perfected" (13:32). The woe on Jerusalem (13:34,35) is given by Matthew in the discourse in chapter 23.

b) The Infirm Woman--the Dropsied Man:

Of the miracles in this section, the casting out of the demon that was mute (Lu 11:14 ) is evidently the same incident as that already noted in Mt 12:22 ff. Two other miracles are connected with the old accusation of Sabbath breaking. One was the healing in a synagogue on the Sabbath day of a woman bowed down for 18 years with "a spirit of infirmity" (Lu 13:10-17); the other was the cure on the Sabbath of a man afflicted with dropsy at a feast in the house of a ruler of the Pharisees to which Jesus had been invited (Lu 14:1-6). The motive of the Pharisee’s invitation, as in most such cases, was hostile (Lu 14:1). In both instances Jesus met the objection in the same way, by appealing to their own acts of humanity to their animals on the Sabbath (Lu 13:15,16; 14:5).

c) Parable of the Great Supper:

This feast at the Pharisee’s house had an interesting sequel in the discourse it led Jesus to utter against vainglory in feasting, and on the spirit of love which would prompt to the table being spread for the helpless and destitute rather than for the selfish enjoyment of the select few, closing, in answer to a pious ejaculation of one of the guests, with the parable of the Great Supper (Lu 14:7-24). The parable, with its climax in the invitation to bring in the poor, and maimed, and blind, and those from the highways and hedges, was a commentary on the counsels He had just been giving, but it had its deeper lesson in picturing the rejection by the Jews of the invitation to the feast God had made for them in His kingdom, and the call that would be given to the Gentiles to take their place.

d) Counting the Cost:

The injunctions to the multitudes as to the sacrifice and cross-bearing involved in discipleship are pointed by the examples of a man building a tower, and a king going to war, who count the cost before entering on their enterprises (Lu 14:25-35).

Martha and Mary

At or about this time--perhaps before the incidents in Lu 14--Jesus paid the visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication described in Joh 10:22-39. This seems the fitting place for the introduction of the episode of Martha and Mary which Luke narrates a little earlier (10:38-42). The "village" into which Jesus entered was no doubt Bethany (Joh 11:1). The picture given by Luke of the contrasted dispositions of the two sisters--Martha active and "serving" (compare Joh 12:2), Mary retiring and contemplative--entirely corresponds with that in John. Martha busied herself with preparations for the meal; Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. To Martha’s complaint, as if her sister were idling, Jesus gave the memorable answer, "One thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part," etc. (Lu 10:42).

Feast of the Dedication

(John 10:22-39)

The Feast of the Dedication, held in December, was in commemoration of the cleansing of the temple and restoration of its worship after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes (164 BC). Great excitement was occasioned by the appearance of Jesus at this feast, and some asked, "How long dost thou hold us in suspense? If thou art the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus said He had told them, and His works attested His claim, but they were not of His true flock, and would not believe. To His own sheep He gave eternal life. The Jews anew wished to stone Him for claiming to be God. Jesus replied that even the law called the judges of Israel "gods" (Ps 82:6, "I said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High") how could it then be blasphemy for Him whom the Father had sanctified and sent into the world to say of Himself, "I am the Son of God"? The Jews sought to take Him, but He passed from their midst.

From the Abode at Bethabara till the Raising of Lazarus

After leaving Jerusalem Jesus went beyond Jordan again to the place where John at first baptized (Joh 10:40; compare Joh 1:28, called in the King James Version "Bethabara," in the Revised Version (British and American) "Bethany," distinct from the Bethany of John 11). There He "abode," implying a prolonged stay, and many resorted to Him. This spot, sacred to Jesus by His own baptism, may be regarded now as His headquarters from which excursions would be made to places in the neighborhood. Several of the incidents recorded by Luke are probably connected with this sojourn. 1. Parables of Lost Sheep, Lost Piece of Silver, Prodigal Son:

(Luke 15)

The stronger the opposition of scribes and Pharisees to Jesus became, the more by natural affinity did the classes regarded as outcast feel drawn to Him. He did not repel them, as the Pharisees did, but ate and drank with them. Publicans and sinners gathered to His teaching, and He associated with them. The complaining was great: "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." The defense of Jesus was in parables, and the Pharisees’ reproach may be thanked for three of the most beautiful parables Jesus ever spoke--the Lost Sheep (compare Mt 18:12-14), the Lost Piece of Silver, and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Why does the shepherd rejoice more over the one lost sheep brought back than over the ninety-nine that have not gone astray? Why does the woman rejoice more over the recovery of her lost drachma than over all the coins safe in her keeping? Why does the father rejoice more over the prodigal son come back in rags and penitence from the far country than over the obedient but austere brother that had never left the home? The stories were gateways into the inmost heart of God. There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety-nine just persons that need no repentance (Lu 15:7).

Parables of the Unjust Steward and the Rich Man and Lazarus

(Luke 16)

In this connection Luke (17:1-10) places exhortations to the disciples on occasions of stumbling, forgiveness, the power of faith, renunciation of merit ("We are unprofitable servants"), some of which are found elsewhere (compare Mt 18:6,7,15,21, etc.).

The Summons to Bethany--Raising of Lazarus

(John 11)

Even this mighty deed did not alter the mind of the Pharisees, who held a council, and decided, on the advice of Caiaphas (Joh 11:50), that for the safety of the nation it was "expedient" that this man should die.

The circumstantiality of this beautiful narrative speaks irresistibly for its historical truth, and the objections raised by critical writers center really in their aversion to the miraculous as such.

From the Retirement to Ephraim till the Arrival at Bethany

Retreat to Ephraim

(John 11:54-57)

The hostility of the ruling classes was now so pronounced that, in the few weeks that remained till Jesus should go up to the Passover, He deemed it advisable to abide in privacy at a city called Ephraim (situation uncertain). That He was in secrecy during this period is implied in the statement (Joh 11:57) that if anyone knew where He was, he was to inform the chief priests and Pharisees. The retirement would be for Jesus a period of preparation for the ordeal before Him, as the wilderness had been for the commencement of His ministry.

The Journey Resumed

On His leaving this retreat to resume His advance to Jerusalem the narratives again become rich in incident and teaching.

Cure of the Lepers

(Luke 17:11-19)

It is not easy to define the route which brought Jesus again to the border line between Samaria and Galilee (Lu 17:11), but, in traversing this region, He was met by ten lepers, who besought Him for a cure. Jesus bade them go and show themselves to the priests, and on the way they were cleansed. Only one of the ten, and he a Samaritan, returned to give thanks and glorify God. Gratitude appeared in the unlikely quarter.

Pharisaic Questionings

At some point in this journey the Pharisees sought to entrap Jesus on the question of divorce.

a) Divorce:

(Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:1-12) Was it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? (Mt 19:3). Jesus in reply admitted the permission to divorce given by Moses (Mr 10:3-5), but declared that this was for the hardness of their hearts, and went back to the original institution of marriage in which the two so joined were declared to be "one flesh." Only one cause is admissible as a ground of separation and remarriage (Mt 19:9; compare Mt 5:31,32; Mark has not even the exception, which is probably, however, implied). Comments follow to the disciples in Mt on the subject of continence (Mt 19:10-12).

See Divorce.

b) Coming of the Kingdom:

(Luke 17:20-37)

Another question asked by the Pharisees of Jesus was as to when the kingdom of God should come. The expectation excited by His own ministry and claims was that it was near; when should it appear? Rebuking their worldly ideas, Jesus warned them that the kingdom did not come "with observation"--was not a "Lo, there! Lo, here!"; it was "within" them, or "in their midst," though they did not perceive it. In the last decisive coming of the Son of Man there would be no dubiety as to His presence (Lu 17:24,25). He adds exhortations as to the suddenness of His coming, and the separations that would ensue (Lu 17:26-37), which Mt gives as part of the great discourse on the Last Things in chapter 24.

c) Parable of the Unjust Judge:

(Luke 18:1-8)

In close connection with the foregoing, as furnishing the ground for the certainty that this day of the Son of Man would come, Jesus spoke the parable of the Unjust Judge. This judge, though heedless of the claims of right, yet yielded to the widow’s importunity, and granted her justice against her adversary. How much more surely will the righteous, long-suffering God avenge His own elect, who cry unto Him day and night (Lu 18:7,8)! Yet men, in that supreme hour, will almost have lost faith in His coming (Lu 18:8).

A series of sayings and incidents at this time throw light upon the spirit of the kingdom.

The Spirit of the Kingdom

The spirit of self-righteousness is rebuked and humble penitence as the condition of acceptance is enforced in the parable of the Pharisee and Publican.

a) Parable of Pharisee and Publican:

(Luke 18:9-14)

The Pharisee posing in his self-complacency at his fastings and tithes, and thanking God for his superiority to others, is set in vivid contrast to the abased publican, standing afar off, and able only to say, "God, be thou merciful to me a sinner" (Lu 18:13). Yet it was he who went down to his house "justified" (Lu 18:14).

b) Blessing of the Babies:

(Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17)

A similar lesson is inculcated in the beautiful incident of the blessing of the babes. The disciples rebuked the mothers for bringing their little ones, but Jesus, "moved with indignation" (Mark), received and blessed the babes, declaring that to such (to them and those of like spirit) belonged the kingdom of heaven. "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me," etc.

c) The Rich Young Ruler:

(Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30)

A third illustration--this time of the peril of covetousness--is afforded by the incident of the rich young ruler. This amiable, blameless, and evidently sincere young man ("Jesus looking upon him loved him," Mr 10:21) knelt, and addressing Jesus as "Good Teacher," asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus first declined the term "good," in the easy, conventional sense in which it was applied, then referred the ruler to the commandments as the standard of doing. All these, however, the young man averred he had observed from his youth up. He did not know himself. Jesus saw the secret hold his riches had upon his soul, and revealed it by the searching word, "If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast," etc. (Mt 19:21; compare Mark, "One thing thou lackest," etc.). This was enough. The young man could not yield up his "great possessions," and went away sorrowing. Jesus bases on his refusal earnest warnings against the love of riches, and points out, in answer to a question of Peter, that loss for His sake in this life is met with overwhelmingly great compensations in the life to come.

Third Announcement of the Passion

(Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; 18:31-33)

Not unconnected with the foregoing teachings is the third solemn announcement to the disciples, so hard to be persuaded that the kingdom was not immediately to be set up in glory, of His approaching sufferings and death, followed by resurrection. The disciples had been "amazed" and "afraid" (Mk) at something strange in the aspect and walk of Jesus as they Lu were on the way, going to Jerusalem (compare Lu 9:51). His words gave the explanation. With them should be taken what is said in a succeeding incident of His baptism of suffering (Mr 10:38,39; compare Lu 12:50).

The Rewards of the Kingdom

The spirit of the kingdom and sacrifice for the kingdom have already been associated with the idea of reward, but the principles underlying this reward are now made the subject of special teaching.

First by the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard the lesson is inculcated that reward in the kingdom is not according to any legal rule, but is governed by a Divine equity, in accordance with which the last may often be equal to, or take precedence of, the first.

a) Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard:

(Matthew 20:1-17)

The laborers were hired at different hours, yet all at the end received the same wage. The murmuring at the generosity of the householder of those who had worked longest betrayed a defectiveness of spirit which may explain why they were not more highly rewarded. In strictness, the kingdom is a gift of grace, in the sum total of its blessings one and the same to all.

b) The Sons of Zebedee:

(Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45)

Still there are distinctions of honor in God’s kingdom, but these are not arbitrarily made. This is the lesson of the reply of Jesus to the plea of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, with, apparently, the concurrence of the apostles themselves, that they might sit one on the right hand and the other on the left hand in His kingdom. It was a bold and ambitious request, and naturally moved the indignation of the other apostles. Still it had its ground in a certain nobility of spirit. For when Jesus asked if they were able to drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism, they answered, "We are able." Jesus told them they should share that lot of suffering, but to sit on His right hand and on His left were not favors that could be arbitrarily bestowed, but would be given to those for whom it had been prepared of His Father--the preparation having regard to character and fitness, of which the Father alone was judge. Jesus went on to rebuke the spirit which led one to seek prominence over another, and laid down the essential law, "Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister," enforcing it by His own never-to-be-forgotten example, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom, for many" (Mt 20:28; Mr 10:45).

Jesus at Jericho

Accompanied by a great throng, possibly of pilgrims to the feast, Jesus drew near to the influential city of Jericho, in the Jordan valley, about 17 miles distant from Jerusalem. Here two notable incidents marked His progress.

a) The Cure of Bartimeus:

(Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-82; Luke 18:35-43)

As they approached the city (Luke) (Matthew and Mark place the incident as they "went out") a blind beggar, Bartimeus, hearing that "Jesus the Nazarene" (Mark) passed by, loudly called on Him as the "Son of David" to have mercy on him. The multitude would have restrained the man, but their rebukes only made him the more urgent in his cries. Jesus stopped in His way, called the blind man to Him, then, when he came, renewing his appeal, healed him. The cry of the beggar shows that the Davidic descent, if not the Messiahship, of Jesus was now known. Matthew varies from the other evangelists in speaking of "two blind men," while Matthew and Mark, as noted, make the cure take place on leaving, not on entering the city. Not improbably there are two healings, one on entering Jericho, the other on going from the city, and Matthew, after his fashion, groups them together (Luke’s language is really indefinite; literally, "as they were near to Jericho").

b) Zaccheus the Publican:

(Luke 19:1-10)

The entrance of Jesus into Jericho was signalized by a yet more striking incident. The chief collector of revenue in the city was Zaccheus, rich, but held in opprobrium ("a sinner") because of his occupation. Being little of stature, Zaccheus had climbed into the branches of a sycomore tree to see Jesus as He passed. To his amazement, and that of the crowd, Jesus stopped on His way, and called Zaccheus by name to hasten to come down, for that day He must abide at his house. Zaccheus joyfully received Him, and, moved to a complete change in his views of duty, declared his purpose of giving half his goods to the poor, and of restoring fourfold anything he might have taken by false accusation. It was a revolution in the man’s soul, wrought by love. "Today," Jesus testified, "is salvation come to this house ..... For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost."

c) Parable of the Pounds:

(Luke 19:11-27)

The expectations of the multitude that the kingdom of God should immediately appear led Jesus to speak the parable of the Pounds, forewarning them that the consummation they looked for might be longer delayed than they thought, and impressing on them the need of loyalty, faithfulness and diligence, if that day, when it came, was not to prove disastrous to them. The nobleman went into a "far country" to receive a kingdom, and his ten servants were to trade with as many pounds (each = 100 drachmas) in his absence. On his return the faithful servants were rewarded in proportion to their diligence; the faithless one lost what he had; the rebellious citizens were destroyed. Thus Jesus fore-shadowed the doom that would overtake those. who were plotting against Him, and checked hopes that disregarded the moral conditions of honor in His kingdom.

Arrival at Bethany.

From Jericho Jesus moved on to Bethany, the abode of Lazarus and his sisters. To His halt here before His public entrance into Jerusalem the next events belong.