The name Jesus (IÄ“sous) is the Greek form for the Hebrew “Yeshua” (“Yahweh saves”). Jesus is the realisation/fulfilment of the prophecies of God’s Messiah for his people. While on earth He spoke as no-one ever spoke and has done deeds no-one has done (John 3:2).
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In this assignment a broad chronological overview is presented of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ with some focus on his words and works. A chronological overview of His ministry of three years is undertaken with special attention to the first six months, the last six months and the last week.
BEFORE THE FIRST YEAR
The Gospel writers’ account of Jesus’ infant/childhood years vary. The Synoptic Gospels (Matt-Luke) contain some data (although Mark does not have anything on Jesus’ childhood) but the Gospel of John speaks only about the Logos who became a man (John 1:14).
The conception of Christ was kept secret by Mary who “â€¦kept all thingsâ€¦in her heart” (Luke 2:19). In the Synoptic Gospels Matthew gives particulars about Jesus’ birth and his earliest childhood (Matt. 2) but Luke also has some information about Jesus’ twelfth year (Luke 2:41-52).
Jesus’s infancy is narrated in four incidents in Luke 2:8-40 and Matthew 2:1-23. (Anon., n.d.). Luke wrote about two events where an angel declared the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14) and then the shepherds’ visit to Bethlehem (2:15-20). In the second event, the presentation of Jesus in Jerusalem (Luke 2:21-39) following the circumcision and the purification of his mother (2:22).
Simeon had a revelation about Jesus, that he would see the Christ before his death (Luke 2:26), and by proclaiming it, the prophetess Anna overheard it and she praised God 2:38). Luke takes trouble to confirm that Joseph and Mary did everything required by the Law (circumcision, purification).
Matthew recorded the visit of the Magi (wise men) (Matt. 2:1-12) who believed that the Deliverer was born. This is a dramatic narrative wherein Herod’s falsity and cruelty come to the fore (Matt. 2:7-18). It ends with the family’s flight to Egypt to escape Herod’s command that in that region all boys up to the age of 2 must be killed.
Luke recorded one incident from Jesus’s childhood (Luke 2:40-52) in which His spiritual development is clear. During their visit to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-50) for the Passover Jesus proved his proficiency in the Law. At age twelve He would have been bar-mitzvah and was responsible before the law for himself (Pentecost, 1984:76). At this occasion Jesus actively participated in the temple, listening and asking questions, which was customary for all Jews (Tenney, 1975)
Before Jesus’ ministry started, several significant events took place: the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-17), the Baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21, 22) which was the ultimate purpose of John’s work. The most important event in Christ’s preparation period that revealed His true character was the temptation (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1-13). That concluded Christ’s life before the commencement of the first year of His earthly ministry (Tenney, 1975).
THE FIRST YEAR
The start of Jesus’ Judean ministry was recorded by John (John 1:35-4:42) although there is some historical uncertainty concerning this period (bron). Jesus and John entered Jerusalem for the Passover, marking the beginning of the first year of Jesus’s ministry. During this visit, Jesus made contact with disciples to be.
In John’s Gospel a selection (John 20:30-31) of Jesus’ signs (sÄ“meia) are told. The first of these that revealed His glory was at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12). Through this sign Jesus began to move the disciples to put their faith in Him (John 1:11).
Two significant other things Jesus did was the cleansing of the temple (John 2:13f), establishing the righteousness that belongs to the Lord and the conversation He had with Nicodemus (John 3). This very important discussion went over the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3, 5) and God’s standard for eternal life.
John also recorded Jesus performing other miracles and signs (John 2:23-25) that revealed Him as the Messiah. Since Jesus started His public ministry, John the Baptist’s ministry waned and his followers began to follow Jesus. After Jesus’ baptism, He separated Himself from John, engaging in a countermovement. John’s intention was not to draw men to him, but to be a servant of God.
Leaving Judea for Galilee, Jesus had to go through Samaria (John 4:4), and at Sichar he had a watershed conversation with a Samaritan woman, during which he presented Himself as “the gift of God” (John 4:10) ending in ministering to the Samaritans for two days (4:30f). Christ revealed Himself as the gift to the Jew and the gentile. Also during this conversation, Christ’s insight into man’s nature was revealed, setting the pattern for personal evangelism.
Christ’s first year of ministering ended with His withdrawal from Judea (Matt. 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:19-20; 4:14; John 4:1-4). The reason why Christ withdrew from Judea was to start His widespread ministry in Galilee. He was fully aware of the rising conflict the Pharisees wanted between His own and John’s disciples and to bring disunity amongst them.
Another reason why Christ went to Galilee was the imprisonment of John by Herod. Luke recorded a third reason for Christ to leave Judea – he was under the guidance of the Spirit of God (Luke 4:14). Since it was not Jesus time to die, He moved His ministry from Judea to Galilee.
THE SECOND YEAR
John recorded this period (John 4:43-54) as the second time of Jesus performing signs in Galilee. Knowing the miracle works Jesus did “â€¦the Galileans welcomed Him” (John 4:45), hoping to see and hear a repeat of the same signs. Yet, Jesus knew the rejection of Himself and His message lurking in them by telling them that a prophet has no honour in his own country (John 4:44).
The Galileans believed in His name, but not in Himself. Christ then started a new way of ministering in Galilee by proclaiming a word of God, validating the message by accompanying numerous miracles and signs. About these signs Tenney fittingly wrote “[t]he healing of the official’s son at Capernaum serves as a fitting prelude for the whole Galilean ministry” (Tenney, 1975).
After Jesus pronounced Himself as the Messiah who came to fulfil Scripture (Isaiah 6:1-2a) He was rejected by the Nazarenes (Matt. 13;54-58; Mark 6;1-6a). Jesus then moved to Capernaum, starting His main message “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 4:17). The first four disciples Peter and Andrew, James and John were called (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). Their mission was to be “fishers of men.”
Jesus conducted the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), teaching the people of ethics in a manner that even a child could understand it. Matthew summarised Jesus’s words (teachings) and works (miracles) (Smith, 2012). During this period Jesus did many works of healing and feeding that Matthew grouped together (Matt. 8:1-9:8). Most of these healings were also recorded in Mark and Luke, but in different order (owing to each writer’s context).
These miracles had two main effects, to draw crowds of people after Him and ensuing conflict between Himself and the Pharisees. Jesus criticised them of hypocrisy (Matt. 23) and they viewed him as a ‘law breaker’. There were many Sabbath controversies mainly due to Jesus healing on that day. Healing marks an important aspect of Jesus’s ministry.
All four gospels recorded Jesus’s choosing the twelve disciples. They were people from all walks of life with specific instructions, not only for themselves but also for the Church of Christ. Christ was preparing them His crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus was based for 2½ years in Capernaum, conducting the ministry Himself and later by His disciples.
Jesus used the Kingdom parables to explain His ministry, but also protecting it and introducing something new (Heb. 8:13). In the miracle of feeding the 5,000 the beginning of Christ’s third year of ministry ensued.
THE THIRD YEAR
The First Six Months
Christ withdrew from Galilee arriving at Caesarea Philippi, where He asked them (the twelve) “â€¦who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13). Although the recording of these words differ slightly, the effect thereof was the turning point in the Gospel of Christ (Smith, 2012). Simon Peter grasping the identity of Christ replied “You are the Christ, The Son of the Living God” (Matt 16:16).
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Christ was finally revealed and accepted by the twelve as the Son of God. Jesus revealed to the Apostles His mission (Matt. 16:21). Going to Jerusalem (appointed place of sacrifice) to suffer much from the elders, chief priests and teachers of law, eventually to die (Matt 1:21; Mark 10:45). But, He conquered death (John 11:25) and both person and work rose on the third day (Pentecost, 1984).
Christ established instructions concerning discipleship, the cost thereof and demands to become a true disciple (Luke 9:23) (Pentecost, 1984). After Jesus separated Peter, James and John (Mark 9:2) coming down the mountain after a glorious experience of God’s glory, Jesus commanded them to tell no-one until Christ’s rising from the dead (Mark 9:9). The reason for this being entrusting the ministry to man and the fact that the people were already rejecting Him (Pentecost, 1984).
No miracles and signs were performed and Christ was teaching them about Faith (Matt 17:20) and the fact that prayer is essentially an attitude of utter dependence on God (Pentecost, 1984). Nazareth was characterized by unbelief (John 7:5) and Jesus knew the plot of the Jews, His approaching death as the Feast of Tabernacles had arrived. Not only did Jesus foretell His death but revealed God’s plan. He remained and sent the twelve alone to the Feast of Tabernacles.
The people hated Christ for exposing their sins (7:7), His condemnation of Pharisaism, rejecting His judgment of their unrighteousness and their denial of God (Pentecost, 1984). The Feast of Tabernacles marked an important turning point in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus turned to Jerusalem, facing His opposition that would culminate in His death and resurrection. Christ was rejected by the Samaritans and went to another village, not allowing to be defiled by circumstances, obeying God’s will, plan and timetable (Luke 9:53) (Pentecost, 1984). During this period, Christ taught the disciples about life in the Church, their role and in Matthew 18 establishing relationships in the Kingdom of God (Smith, 2012).
The Last Six Months
Jesus started His ministry in Jerusalem, evangelizing Judea and surrounding areas (Luke 10:1-13; 21) between the Feast of Tabernacles (Luke 9:51-61; John 7:1-10) and the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-42) (Smith, 2012).
When Jesus’s life was endangered when the crowd wanted to stone Him, Jesus withdrew to Bethany beyond the Jordan, starting to teach in Perea until He was called to the home of Mary and Martha where He raised Lazarus from the dead (Pentecost, 1984). Due to the indication by the leaders of Israel to reject Jesus, Christ appointed seventy-two (Luke 10:1) as His representatives to deliver the message throughout Judea.
Although His works and Words openly declared Him as the Christ, the Jews still tried to seize Him at the Feast of Dedication for not admitting and Jesus had to withdraw again (John 10:22-42) (Smith, 2012), continuing His Judean ministry. The second part of the Perean ministry stretches from the Feast of Dedication in December 32 A.D. to the last journey to Jerusalem in the spring of 33.
Jesus was pressing towards the excruciating purpose for which He came to earth, and on the way His teachings was done on Discipleship (Luke 14), evangelism (Luke 15), stewardship (Luke 16) and servant hood (Luke 17) (Smith, 2012). Christ again demonstrated His status as the Son of God, the manner in which he handled the raising of Lazarus (John 11:4), not revealing this miracle publicly as with the sign of Jonah (Matt. 12:38-40).
Jesus finally approached Jerusalem; still ministering on the way, with teachings on divorce (Matt. 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12), children (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17), conversion (Matt. 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30) and leadership (Matt. 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45).
During this six months Jesus continued to His final destiny, Jerusalem. He knew His end would be crucifixion, but he went on teaching, revealing Him as the Son of God and equipping His disciples for ministry and after His departure to continue.
Jesus taught them much regarding moral, ethical and spiritual topics. To establish His Kingdom was His final call and purpose. He then finally returned, knowing that the Jews wanted to kill him, also revealing this fact to His disciples, but they did not understand. The last week of Jesus’s life concludes the last six months starting at the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem.
The Last Week
Finally the time came that Jesus was preparing His disciples for – to witness the slaying of the lamb at the Passover (John 11:55). These events began on the Sunday morning when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Through the triumphal entry Christ, fulfilling scripture (Zech. 9:9; Is. 62:11), was met with a mixed response. Some people saw Him as the King, who came to deliver them from the Roman oppression (Smith, 2012), and realizing Christ’s intention, turned against Him. Conflict arose and Christ had to leave, spending the night in Bethany.
The Monday, on returning to Jerusalem, Christ cursed the fig tree (Mark 11:14), thereby revealing His authority. He proceeds on His journey and at the temple, finding the people trading there, He again cleansed the temple. He established Himself as the guardian of His Father’s House (John 12:20-50) (Pentecost, 1984).
Tuesday was a day of controversy and various people tried to entrap Him, to silence and finally kill Him. During this time Christ gave His disciples His most comprehensive end-time teaching, the Olivet Discourse (Smith, 2012). The Wednesday was spent with His disciples (no recording in scripture) and the Thursday the Last Supper was held.
At this event Jesus enacted what he said in Mark 10:45 that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve when he washes His disciples’ feet (John 13:1). He revealed the betrayal (John 13:18) and encouraged the disciples with the farewell discourse (John 14-16).
After the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane He was handed over for crucifixion. There were several stages up to the cross: an examining at the High Priest Anna’s house (John 18:12-14; 19-24) where Peter denied Christ three times before cockcrow (John 18:12). Before the Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:57) charges of a threatened destruction of the temple linked with blasphemy were brought in (Tenney, 1975).
He was then brought before Pilate’s but he, finding no guilt in Him, handed Him back to Herod. Again Jesus was sent to Pilate who had him scourged and crucified. A dispute developed between the Jews and Pilate regarding the notice on the cross. The gospels record Jesus’ time on the cross, crowned with His last words “it is finished” (John 19:30).
These terrible occurrences were overturned in the resurrection on the third day. Evidence about Jesus’ statement in John 11:25 (that He is the resurrection and life) was given on occasions where over 500 saw Him. Therefore, the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28 has its basis in Christ, His command and promise (Smith, 2012).
Christ came and offered Himself as Saviour, but His own did not acknowledge His revelation of the Father and King therefore rejected Him to be crucified. Jesus came to give us new life-everlasting life, revealing the nature of “God the Father” and “God the Spirit” and who wants to be worshipped, any place and any time.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry He suffered rejection but in the end the triumph of the resurrection is the basis of faith, God showing the divine approval for Christ’s work upon the cross. That is the basis of the Gospel.