Chronologically, this period is the longest of Jesus’ ministry, covering approximately eighteen months
(Autumn A.D. 30 to Spring of A.D. 32). It is marked by vigorous activity, mounting opposition,
important teaching, and the choice of those men who will become the foundation stones of the Church.
The rejection of Jesus as Messiah by the nation of Israel becomes evident as this period reaches its
climax. While He continues to minister to the crowds who come to Him, Jesus turns away from the
synagogue ministry that characterized His earlier days and devotes more and more time to the training of
those who have manifested genuine faith in Him.
The Nature of the Galilean Ministry. Matthew, Mark and Luke devote much space to the period spend
in Galilee. Early stages of the period were marked by increasing popularity which reached its peak
probably at the time of the Sermon on the Mount.
It was an extensive ministry. The nation was blanketed with the good news that God was faithful to His
covenants and had sent David’s Son, the Messiah, to institute the promised Kingdom. See the summary
Matthew 4:17, 23-24; 8:16-17; 12:14-15
Mark 1:14-15, 32-34, 38-39; 3:7-12; 6:6
Luke 4:14-15, 40-44; 8:1-3
He performed many miracles (hundreds . . . thousands?) without a failure.
He placed a strong emphasis on preaching (Matthew 4:17, 23; 9:35; 11:1; Mark 1:14, 38-39; Luke 4:18,
43: 7:22; 9:6) and teaching (Matthew 4:23; 5:2; 7:29; 9:35; 11:1; 13:54; Mark 1:22; 2:13; 4:1-2; 6:2, 6,
34; Luke 4:14, 31; 5:3, 17; 6:6). Preaching emphasizes the proclamation, announcement, or declaration.
Teaching emphasizes instruction or explanation. There is not, however, a sharp distinction between
preaching and teaching in the Bible as sometimes is made in American culture.
It was said of Jesus that “no one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46) and He taught with
authority and not as the teachers of the law (Matthew 7:29: Mark 1:22). Modern Jewish scholars tend to
regard these evaluations as not in Jesus favor. If He expected the nation to rally to Him, He should have
stood in the tradition of its acknowledged teachers, men who built upon the opinions and deliverances of
their predecessors. His very independence was bound to cast suspicion upon Him. More than that, in His
teaching Jesus disregarded the national and cultural aspects of Judaism, generalizing the Law in terms of
human life rather than Jewish. To the contrary, the early church recognized His authority in this unique
sense is clear. His own word and that of the OT stand on equality. After all, it was He who enabled the
disciples to understand their Scriptures (Luke 24:27, 45).
Jesus teaching was noted for wisdom (Mark 6:2). It was radical and such that one could build his life
upon it (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46ff). His words are simple, yet no words could be more profound.
Stripped of all needless accessories, they transmit the truth in boldness and severity such as only an
unheeding familiarity can obscure. His words are filled with destiny. To ignore them means ruin
(Matthew 7:26-27). The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment and condemn the men of Jesus’
generation, for they repented at Jonah’s word, but the Jews rejected One greater than Jonah (Matthew
That His teaching was intended to have abiding significance for the Church is clear from His own
prediction that the Holy Spirit would recall to their remembrance the things He had spoken to the
disciples (John 14:26).
During this time He made three tours of Galilee and one trip to Jerusalem.
The FIRST TOUR with four fisherman (Matthew 4:23-24; Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44).
The TRIP TO JERUSALEM was for a feast (probably Passover) when He healed the man at the pool
of Bethesda (John 5:1-47).
The SECOND TOUR with the Twelve and some women who ministered to them in material things
The THIRD TOUR was at the time He commissioned the Twelve and sent them out two by two
(Matthew 10:1-11:1; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6).
Luke emphasizes the operation of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Christ. This establishes His identity
as the Servant of the Lord of Isaiah 61:1-3. See Luke 4:1, 14, 18.
Opposition and Rejection at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-31). Up to this point there had been wide and ready
acceptance of both the person and word of Christ, both in Judea and in Galilee. Now Luke records the
inception of a response that would eventually culminate in the death of Jesus. The incident took place in
the synagogue of Nazareth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2. Following tradition, He returned the scroll to the
attendant and assumed the role of a Rabbi in that He sat down to teach. He introduced Himself as the
One who fulfilled that great messianic portrait presented by Isaiah. This raised the question of His
eligibility to be the Messiah. They had heard of the miraculous healing of the son of the royal official
from Capernaum. They were asking Him to perform similar miracles in their presence so that they might
accept His word concerning His person.
The response in Nazareth was not like that in Jerusalem, Cana, and Capernaum. These, His neighbors,
were rejecting His word and demanding further demonstrations through miracles to prove His Person. In
response to their unbelief, Jesus reminded His hearers in the synagogue that men have often responded to
God’s prophets in unbelief. Using examples from the lives of Elijah and Elisha to prove His point, Jesus
demonstrates that Gentiles received the prophets while Israelites rejected them. This enrages all in the
synagogue and they take Jesus to a cliff to throw Him off but He walked right through the crowd and
went on His way.
Demonstration of His Power (Luke 4:30-5:26). Immediately following Christ’s presentation and His
rejection at Nazareth, there is a series of His works of power that follow in rapid succession.
1. Power over men; they could not take Him (Luke 4:30)
2. Power in teaching; they were impressed by Him (4:32)
3. Power over demons (4:33-36)
4. Power over simple diseases (4:38-39)
5. Power over many and all infirmities (4:40-41)
6. Power over the natural world (5:1-11)
7. Power over incurable diseases (5:18-26)
The New Headquarters (Matthew 4:13-16). Because of the rejection in Nazareth, Christ left His
hometown and settled in Capernaum, which was located on the border between Zebulun and Naphtali
along the Sea of Galilee. Not, however, for its beauty only, but because of its centrality, and its populous
activity, it was admirably adapted for that fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, that “the land of Zebulun and
the land of Naphtali, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,” should “see a great light;” and that to them
“who sat in the region and shadow of death” should “light spring up.” For Christ was to be, even in His
own lifetime, “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” as well as “the glory of His people Israel.” And people of
many nations dwelt in cities and the area around Capernaum since it was “the way of the sea.”
“The cities,” says Josephus, “lie here very thick; and the very numerous villages are so full of people,
because of the fertility of the land . . . that the very smallest of them contain above 15,000 inhabitants.”
Since Capernaum was more Gentile than Jewish, the rejection in Nazareth was a foreshadowing that Jesus
would extent a gracious ministry to the Gentiles as a result of being rejected as Messiah by Israel (cf. Acts
28:17-31, especially vv. 26-28).
The Call of Four Disciples (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). Four (Peter, Andrew, John and James)
of His six disciples had gone home when He went to Samaria to Galilee. Walking by the Sea of Galilee,
He saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, casting a net into the sea and said to them, “Follow Me, and I
make you fishers of men.” And going on a little farther, He saw two more brothers, James and John, the
sons of Zebedee, who were mending their nets and He called them. Peter and Andrew would be
evangelists, bringing people to Christ, while John and James would be pastors, helping people mend their
“Follow Me!” would be readily understood as implying a call to become the permanent disciple of a
teacher. It was not only the practice of Rabbis, but regarded one of the most sacred duties, for a Master to
gather around him a circle of disciples. Thus, the four understood Christ’s call to abandon their
occupations and earthly ties.
A Sabbath in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-34; Luke 4:31b-41; Matthew 8:14-17). It was the first Sabbath
after He called His first permanent disciples. The warm-hearted Galileans yielded themselves to the
power of His words and works, not discerning hidden blasphemy in what He said, nor yet Sabbath-
desecration in His healing on God’s holy day.
Jesus heals a demonic possessed man. The unclean spirit cried out, “Ha! What do you want with us,
Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” The
unclean spirit’s testimony is the exact opposite of the religious leaders’ evaluation of Jesus. In time, His
words and works would convince some people that He was indeed the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah;
but He did not want any testimony from the evil one. Whenever He encountered demons, they
recognized His authority and power over them.
This miracle showed that Jesus not only came to destroy the works of the Devil, but also to set the
prisoners free. The people debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with
authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” It had been a threefold miracle:
a new doctrine; with authority; and obedience of unclean spirits to His command.
To heal on the Sabbath was a violation of the rabbinical traditions, but Jesus when ahead and delivered
this man anyway. Certainly, He could have waited another day, but the miracle involved more than
rescuing a possessed man. It also involved helping the people to learn the difference between man’s
traditions and God’s truth.
Immediately after the Synagogue service, Jesus goes to the house of Peter and Andrew and heals Peter’s
mother-in-law, who is lying sick with a fever. He rebuked the fever, and it left her, and she immediately
arose and waited on them.
After the Sabbath was over, He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many
demons. All disease, whether demonic or natural, is the outcome of sin and is subject to the Divine
Healer. So ended a Sabbath in Capernaum — a Sabbath of healing, joy, and true rest!
Spread of Opposition and Rejection. A rising opposition, beginning with a series of Sabbath
controversies with Jewish leaders, is also perceived. This culminated in the first public rejection of Jesus
by these leaders. At that point toward the end of the period, Jesus inaugurated His parabolic teaching
ministry so that He might reveal truth to those with receptive hearts while hiding it from the unreceptive.
The timing of God’s programs in history is a major theme in biblical teaching. The first and second
comings of Christ are foundational to God’s schedule for world history. From the time of His arrival in
Galilee, Jesus proclaimed the good news of God and taught in the synagogues and was praised by all.