Jesus’ ministry in Galilee
[Matt 4:13-13:58; Jn 1:35-4:54]
The beginnings of Jesus’ ministry
When Jesus returns from being tempted in the desert, John points him out to two of his disciples, Andrew and John, who
are later to become Jesus’ first disciples. Andrew tells his brother Simon Peter, who will also later become a disciple of
Jesus. The next day, Jesus decides to leave for Galilee and two more disciples are selected, Philip and Nathanael
Jesus’ mother is at a wedding in Cana to which Jesus and his disciples have been invited. When there is no more wine for
the guests, Jesus’ mother mentions this to him and he reluctantly performs his first miracle by turning water into wine.
After this, Jesus goes to Capernaum with his mother, brothers and disciples and stays there for a few days. When it’s
almost time for Passover, Jesus goes to Jerusalem and finds men in the temple courts selling cattle, sheep and doves for
sacrifices, and others serving as money changers. He makes a whip out of cords, drives out the animals from the temple
area and overturns the money changers’ tables. Jesus is asked with what authority he id this and to give a sign of that
authority, to which he replies, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. But they do not understand he is
referring to his body.
While Jesus is in Jerusalem, he performs miracles and many people begin to believe in him. A Pharisee named Nicodemus
approaches Jesus, acknowledging that he must be sent from God because of the miracles he performs. Jesus teaches him
that people must be born again to enter the kingdom of God, and speaks those familiar words: For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life [Jn 3:16].
Jesus now begins his journey back to Galilee and passes through Samaria. Here he meets a woman at Jacob’s well and
asks her for a drink. This surprises the woman because of the known animosity between Jews and Samaritans, but Jesus
uses the opportunity to teach that people will never thirst from the water he gives, declaring himself as the ‘living water’.
He also teaches that God is spirit and his worshippers must worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is during this encounter
that he declares for the first time that he is the Messiah [Jn 4:26]. The woman tells of her meeting with Jesus and the
Samaritans urge him to stay with them. Jesus remains there for two days, during which time many become believers.
Having already gained respect by his miracles and teachings, Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth. As is his custom, he
goes to the synagogue where he is invited to read from Isaiah. The congregation is impressed by his reading, recalling that
he is Joseph’s son. However, when his teaching reflects on scripture that favours the Gentiles, implying they are being
compared with the Jews of their time, they are offended. They become so angry that they take him out of the city to the
brow of a hill with intent to kill him, but he is able to slip away from them [Lk 4:14–30].
Jesus leaves Nazareth and again goes to Cana where he previously turned water into wine. Here he is approached by a
nobleman whose son is dying. Jesus tells him to return home as his son will live. He believes Jesus, and onthe way home is
met by his servants and told his son is well. Enquiring when his son became well, he realises it was the exact time that
Jesus had said to him, Thy son liveth, and he and his whole household become believers.
Jesus now goes to Capernaum, which is to become his base whilst ministering in Galilee. On the shore he meets Simon
Peter and Andrew, who now become his full-time disciples. A little farther on he calls two more fishermen to join him,
James and John, sons of Zebedee.
At the first opportunity, they all go to the synagogue where Jesus is able to read from the scriptures and teach. In the
synagogue there is a demon- possessed man from whom the demon cries out to Jesus, calling him by name and
recognising him as being the Holy one of God. Jesus rebukes the demon, telling him to keep quiet and to leave the man.
The incident becomes known and Jesus’ fame spreads throughout Galilee.
The next morning, Jesus rises early to pray before taking his disciples with him to preach in the synagogues throughout
Galilee. It is around this time that Jesus selects other disciples who are to be amongst his twelve.
Jesus’ fame spreads throughout Syria with multitudes coming to seek and follow him. They come from Galilee, Decapolis,
Jerusalem, Judea and beyond the Jordan.
The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus goes up a mountain with the crowds following him. His disciples gather around and Jesus, specifically addressing his
disciples, teaches them what it means to be a true follower of Christ.
He begins by telling them the attitude they should have in their hearts, their inner selves (these verses are known as the
Beatitudes) and how they are to be an example to all men. Jesus then tells how the law should be understood, not as the
Pharisees teach it, but how God intended it to be, not simply as a law concerning outward behaviour, but concerning the
inner thoughts of the heart. Examples are given concerning murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, the true meaning of ‘an eye
for an eye’ and of love.
Jesus then tells how important it is that their motivation should be such that they are seeking respect from God, and not
from men. In this he gives examples of the Pharisees who seek the admiration of men by their public displays in their
giving, praying and fasting. These things are best done privately, otherwise the only reward might be that received at the
time: the admiration of others. They are to seek rewards in heaven, to trust in God rather than worry about the cares of
this world, and to first seek the kingdom of heaven and righteousness; then all else will follow.
Jesus then warns them not to judge others hypocritically, as they will also be judged by the same measure. Also, to be
cautious about whom they judge and minister to, as there are those who are unapproachable and would simply turn on
They are to look to God in prayer for their needs as disciples, to treat others as they would want to be treated themselves,
and ensure they keep to the teachings He has given them, being aware there will be false teachers and prophets
attempting to influence them.
Jesus finishes this teaching with a short story that emphasises the importance of knowing him, and hence the importance
of acting on his words, not simply remembering them.
A collection of miracles
As they are coming down from the mountainside, a man with leprosy kneels before Jesus and asks to be healed. Jesus
obliges, but instructs him not to tell anyone.
When Jesus enters Capernaum, a Roman centurion comes to him and asks for his servant to be healed. When Jesus offers
to go to his house, the centurion declines, knowing Jesus only has to speak and his servant will be healed. Jesus points out
to those following him that this centurion’s faith is greater than any he has found in Israel. The centurion’s servant is
healed that very hour.
Jesus and his disciples then go to Peter and Andrew’s house where Jesus cures their mother-in-law of a fever. That
evening, crowds gather outside and Jesus heals many, casting out demons, and so suffered not the devils to speak,
because they knew him [Mk 1:34].
At some point, Jesus gets into a boat with his disciples and begins to cross the lake. As they are crossing, a storm comes
that is so furious it frightens the disciples. To their amazement, Jesus is able to calm the storm by rebuking the winds and
waves. When they arrive at the other side, they are met by two demon-possessed men who are known to be very violent.
Following an exchange with Jesus, the demons are permitted to enter some pigs that then rush into the water and drown.
The whole town becomes aware of this and comes out to meet Jesus, pleading with him to leave their region, for the pigs
were their livelihood.
They then return across the sea and go to Capernaum where a paralytic man is brought to Jesus. He is first told by Jesus
his sins are forgiven. Some scribes nearby consider Jesus to be blaspheming by forgiving sins, but Jesus knows their
thoughts and asks them which iseasier to do, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’. He then demonstrates his
authority by healing the paralytic, and the crowd gives praise to God.
It is after this that Matthew leaves his job as a tax collector to become one of Jesus’ disciples. They are all eating at
Matthew’s house where other tax collectors and sinners join them. This is seen by the Pharisees who question Jesus’
disciples, asking why their teacher mixes with these people who are not normally acceptable to Jews. On hearing this,
Jesus admonishes them saying that he desires mercy, not sacrifice, and tells them to go and learn from scripture what he
means by this. He also tells them that he has come to call sinners, not the righteous.
Later, John the Baptist’s disciples come to ask Jesus why his disciples do not fast like them and the Pharisees. Jesus
responds using a parable concerning old and new garments and wineskins, a covert criticism of the self-righteousness of
the Pharisees. (His ways do not fit their ways.)
At that time, a ruler comes and kneels before Jesus, asking him to come and lay hands on his daughter who had just died.
Jesus agrees, and as he and his disciples are on their way to the ruler’s house, a woman, who has been suffering from
bleeding for twelve years, touches Jesus’ cloak and is immediately healed. They then go on to the ruler’s house where
Jesus raises his daughter back to life. After this, two blind men’s sight is restored by Jesus, and later, a demon possessed
mute is healed and is able to speak again. It is at this point the Pharisees claim that Jesus is driving out demons with the
authority of the Devil.
The commissioning of the twelve disciples
Jesus next goes through all the towns and villages of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the
kingdom, and healing people of all kinds of diseases and sickness. There are now a great number of people in need of his
ministering, so Jesus gathers his chosen twelve disciples to prepare them for the task. They are Simon (who is called
Peter), his brother Andrew, James and John, sons of Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James (son of
Alphaeus, not Jesus’ brother), Lebbaeus, Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot. Jesus commissions them to go and
preach the kingdom of heaven is at hand, but commands them not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans, but to go only to
the lost sheep of Israel. They are given instructions on how they are to go about their task, and given authority to heal the
sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons.
Ministering throughout Galilee
Now John the Baptist, who has been imprisoned, sends two of his disciples to Jesus to get confirmation that he is the
Messiah. Jesus tells them to go back to John and report the things they have witnessed and heard concerning his healing
works, knowing that John would recognise these as having been prophesied by Isaiah. Turning to the crowd, Jesus talks to
them about John the Baptist, commending him. He then speaks against the cities, where most of his good works had been
done, for not repenting, mentioning Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum by name.
Sometime later, on the Sabbath, Jesus is walking through the cornfields with his disciples who are feeling hungry and so
pluck and eat ears of corn. The Pharisees see this and question Jesus because they view this act as work, which is not
lawful on the Sabbath. Jesus rebukes them citing David eating the shewbread when he was hungry, and how priests by the
law work in the temple on the Sabbath. Jesus then questions their understanding of the scripture that says, For I desire
mercy and not sacrifice [Hos 6:6], having stated he is greater than the temple and that the Son of man is Lord even of the
Jesus leaves them and goes to the synagogue. There he finds a man with a withered hand and seizes the opportunity to
confront the Pharisees by healing him. The Pharisees then begin to plot against Jesus and discuss how they might destroy
him, but Jesus, knowing their thoughts, slips away.
Later, a blind and dumb man, possessed with a demon, is brought to Jesus and is completely healed by him. The people,
amazed at what they have witnessed, begin to recognise that this man might be the son of David. When the Pharisees hear
this they again accuse Jesus of casting out demons in the name of the Devil. Jesus is offended by this accusation and tells
them that he casts out demons by the Spirit of God. He explains the fault in their kind of logic and warns them that
blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. The Pharisees, despite what they have witnessed, ask Jesus for a
sign. He again rebukes them and, referring to Jonah, covertly prophesies his death and resurrection.
Later, his mother and brethren come to speak with Jesus. When Jesus is told they are waiting to see him, he gestures
towards his disciples saying, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in
heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
The Kingdom Parables
The same day Jesus goes and sits by the sea and a large crowd gathers around him. The crowd grows so great that Jesus
gets into a boat and sits a little way off from the shore. He then speaks to them in parables, the first being the parable of
the sower who sows seeds on various types of ground. When his disciples ask why he speaks in parables, Jesus explains
that it is so that only the spiritually discerning can understand and receive the benefits. Jesus then explains the parable of
the sower, providing a key to understanding further parables. He then goes on to tell the parable of the tares that the
enemy sows amongst the wheat. The next two parables are given, the first telling of the mustard seed that grows
unnaturally large so that birds (representing the Devil, from the parable of the sower) are able to lodge in its branches. The
next tells of leaven (idiomatic of sin) hidden in three measures of meal, contaminating the whole.
Jesus then sends the crowd away and returns to the house where his disciples ask for an explanation of the parable of the
tares. This Jesus does and tells them three more parables likening the kingdom of heaven to treasure hidden in a field, a
pearl of great price and a net cast into the sea gathering good and bad, the bad being eventually cast away. Jesus asks his
disciples if they understood these parables, to which they reply they did.
Jesus then leaves the house and returns to Nazareth to teach in the synagogue. The people are so astonished at his
teaching, his words of wisdom and the mighty works they know he has done that they question how the son of a carpenter,
whose brethren they knew and still live amongst them, could possibly attain such abilities. Jesus tells them, A prophet is
not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. Because of their unbelief, Jesus no longer ministers in
Jesus withdraws from Galilee
Herod’s reaction to Jesus’ ministry
A while back, Herod the tetrarch had beheaded John the Baptist on the occasion of Herod’s birthday. John had been
imprisoned for speaking against the marriage of Herod to Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because it was unlawful.
Herodias had her daughter dance for Herod and he was so aroused that he rashly promised her up to half his kingdom.
Having been coached by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. The request dismayed Herod,
but his promise was made in front of all his guests, so John was executed. Now, when the fame of Jesus reaches Herod’s
ears, he fears that Jesus might be John the Baptist risen from the dead.
Feeding the 5000 on the eastern shore of Galilee
After burying John, his disciples come to Jesus and tell him of all that had happened. Jesus, wanting to spend some time
alone, crosses the sea by ship to a quiet place. But the people, hearing of this, gather and go around the coast to meet
him. When Jesus reaches the shore and sees all these people, he is filled with compassion and heals their sick. When
evening comes, the disciples become concerned the crowd will not have time to get to a town to buy food. The disciples
have just five loaves and two fishes between them. Jesus asks the people to sit; he looks to heaven, blesses and breaks
the food, then gives it to his disciples to distribute amongst the people. When they have finished eating, there are still
twelve baskets of fragments remaining, having amply fed five thousand men plus women and children.
The crowd is dispersed and Jesus sends his disciples back across the sea while he goes up the mountain to be alone and
pray. During the night, when the disciples’ boat is in the middle of the sea, the weather changes and a strong wind begins
to toss the boat around. Jesus is now coming to join them and is walking across the sea, but they do not recognise him
and, thinking they are seeing a spirit, they become fearful. When Jesus calls out to them, Peter asks if he can walk on the
water to meet him. When he does he is distracted by the waves, begins to sink and calls out to Jesus to save him. Jesus
reaches out to Peter, telling him that he started to sink through lack of faith. When the two get into the ship, the wind
ceases and the disciples worship Jesus, acknowledging he is the Son of God.
Later, the Pharisees again challenge Jesus, this time asking why his disciples ignore the tradition of the elders by not going
through the elaborate ritual required when washing their hands before they eat. Jesus rebukes them, telling them that they
disobey God’s law of Honour thy father and mother by their tradition through which, in declaring their actions towards their
parents as a gift by which their parents will profit (called ‘Corban’), they avoid any commitment. Jesus tells them, and later
explains to his disciples, that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth,
which is from the heart.
Jesus then goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon. From there a woman comes to him begging for mercy and help with her
daughter who is suffering badly from possession by the Devil. He initially ignores her but draws out a confession of faith
whereby she, as a Gentile, likens herself to a puppy being given food from its master’s table. Jesus acknowledges her great
faith and her daughter is healed.
Jesus feeds the 4000 at Decapolis
Jesus then moves on and comes to a mountainside by the Sea of Galilee, where great multitudes come with many sick
people requiring healing. After three days, Jesus has compassion for them and seeks to feed them. As with the five
thousand before, the people are all fed by the multiplication of food. This time it is from seven loaves and a few little
fishes, feeding four thousand men besides women and children, and having seven baskets left over when all are fed.
The people are then all sent away and Jesus goes by boat to the coast of Magdala. Here the Pharisees and Sadducees
approach Jesus asking for a sign from heaven, but they are rebuked for not recognising the signs of the times from
scripture. He then turns to his disciples warning them to take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the
Sadducees. At first, they don’t understand, confusing the warning with their lack of bread. Jesus reminds them of the
feeding of the five thousand, then four thousand, emphasising that lack of food isn’t a problem and that his warning is
specifically against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The penny drops and they realise Jesus is warning them
against their doctrine.
To Caesarea Philippi
They then travel on to the region of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asks them who they think he is, to which Peter
acknowledges him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus tells Peter (whose name means a rock or stone, that is, a
little rock) that this was revealed to him by the Spirit and that his church would be built on this rock (that is a ‘mass of
rock’, meaning Jesus himself). They are told not to reveal to anyone that he is the Messiah. From this point on, Jesus
begins to explain that he must go to Jerusalem where he will suffer at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes, be
killed and will rise again on the third day. Peter rebukes Jesus for thinking this way, but is told that his thoughts are from
Satan, contrasting with his earlier revelation from God.
Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain where they witness his transfiguration and meeting with
Moses and Elijah. The three are told not to mention what they have seen to anyone until after his resurrection.
Soon after, they join a multitude of people amongst whom is a man whose son is possessed, and whom the disciples were
not previously able to heal. Jesus rebukes the Devil, and the child is cured. When asked by his disciples why they were
unable to cure him, he tells them that their faith was not strong enough, but, in any event, this kind of exorcism would
have required prayer and fasting.
Jesus last ministry in Galiliee
Jesus discusses his death
Whilst still in Galilee, Jesus again tells his disciples how he will be betrayed and killed, but will rise again on the third day.
When they then arrive at Capernaum, Peter is approached by the tax collectors asking if Jesus pays his tribute. He replies
yes, but Jesus later explains to Peter how he, Jesus, shouldn’t be obliged to pay tribute, being the ‘heir to the kingdom’.
But to avoid offence, the tribute money is miraculously provided from the mouth of a fish caught by Peter.
His disciples had been disputing which of them should be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and put the question to
Jesus. He doesn’t answer their question as asked, but draws a child to him and tells them that anyone with the faith of a
little child will enter the kingdom, and anyone who humbles himself as a little child will be among the greatest in the
kingdom of heaven. Then, using children as a metaphor for those who are truly humble in their faith, Jesus warns of the
consequences of anyone who offends such a person, for he came to save the lost, and it is the will of the Father that none
of those saved should perish.
Whilst speaking of offences, Jesus provides a three-stage approach for dealing with unrepentant sinners within the church
community: to approach the offender on a one-to-one basis; to then take one or more witnesses to convict the sinner; and
finally to bring the matter before the church. If none of these actions bears fruit, then the offender is to be treated as an
Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive the same sin committed against him – till seven times? – to which Jesus
replies seventy times seven. Jesus then relates the parable of the unforgiving servant, representing the extent of God’s
forgiveness and the forgiveness we are consequently expected to extend to others.