Outlines Of New Testament History -Rev. Francis E. Gigot D.D.




              “A Festival Day of the Jews” (John 5:1).


                            Probably a Second Pasch.




              Prominent Features (John 5:2–47).






              1. The Twelve selected: Where? How? Why? Who they were?




              2. Their Temporary Mission:

              Why sent forth?


                            With what instructions and powers?






              1. The Sermon on the Mount: Place, Audience, General Object.


              2. The Parables: Nature, Principal Teachings.


              3. The Discourse in the Synagogue of Capharnaum (John 6).






              1. Principal Causes.


              2. Climax towards the End of Second Year’s Ministry.


§ 1. Short Sojourn in Jerusalem (March–April, A.D. 28)

1. Occasion of Our Lord’s Sojourn in Jerusalem. The second year of Our Lord’s public ministry is marked, like the first, by a short sojourn in Jerusalem. St. John, who alone makes us acquainted with this event, states that it was occasioned by the desire of Jesus to celebrate in the Holy City “a festival day of the Jews,” but as he does not say which Jewish festival this was, biblical scholars are divided between four important feasts which Our Saviour might have celebrated in Jerusalem after His return from Judæa in December of the preceding year.

These festivals are (1) that of Purim, falling in March, and instituted to commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish exiles from the cruel designs of Aman; (2) that of the Passover, in April; (3) the feast of Pentecost, occurring this year on the 19th of May; (4) the feast of Tabernacles, falling on the 23d of September. Strong arguments point to the Paschal festival as the one referred to by St. John, and indeed the Passover was pre-eminently the “festival day of the Jews.”

2. Prominent Features of Our Lord’s Sojourn in Jerusalem. This visit of Jesus to the Holy City has a special importance in the public life of Our Lord, for on the occasion of the miracle at the pool of Bethsaida, which He wrought at this time, He manifested His Messianic and divine character more openly than before, and in consequence the official classes of Judæa showed themselves more hostile to Him.

The pool of Bethsaida was most likely situated on the northeast side of Jerusalem, a little northwest of the present church of St. Anne and not far from St. Stephen’s gate. It had five porches, and was much resorted to for the miraculous power of its waters. Among the crowd of sufferers who had gathered there Our Saviour took notice of one who had been disabled by disease for thirty-eight years; and as he had no friend to immerse him in the waters of the pool “when they were troubled,” Jesus took pity on him, healed him by His word, and sent him away carrying his bed (a thin mattress or blanket) with him.

This happened on a Sabbath, and the carrying of any burden on such a day was looked upon as one of the most heinous offences against the Law, so that the sight of a man thus violating the statute in a public place naturally excited the greatest attention. The clamor of the official classes was raised at once against the man, and when they learned that Jesus was the author both of the cure and of the violation of the Sabbath, they resolved on putting Our Saviour to death, and summoned Him before the Sanhedrim.

Our Lord availed Himself of this trial to declare more openly than on His first visit to Jerusalem His equality with the Father, His Messianic character, His right to divine honor, and to prove to His judges that His claims, however astonishing they might appear to them, rested not on His own assertion alone, but also on the unquestionable testimony of John the Baptist, of His own miraculous works, and even of the writings of Moses, their great law-giver.

These assertions appeared blasphemous in the eyes of “the Jews,” and they determined to press more earnestly against Jesus the capital charge. The sacred narrative does not state whether any sentence was passed against Him on this occasion. Yet it may be gathered from other passages of the fourth Gospel that a sentence was actually passed, that Jesus was publicly banished from Judæa, and that He would be seized and put to death if found in that province.

§ 2. Jesus and the Twelve

1. The Twelve Selected. Banished from Judæa, Our Lord withdrew to the safer province of Galilee, but His actions were henceforth closely watched by His enemies, especially on Sabbath days. The miracles of healing which He performed at this time secured to Him, however, such popularity that His enemies could not carry out their criminal designs against Him.

Thus freed from open opposition, yet knowing that He should continue to labor but a short time, Our Lord made provision for carrying on His work in a more extensive manner during His mortal life, and for pursuing it after His departure by the selection of faithful assistants in His ministry. With this object in view St. Luke tells us that “He went out into a mountain to pray, and that He passed the whole night in the prayer of God.” When it was morning He called His disciples and out of them He chose twelve—a number which occurs with significant frequency in Holy Writ—and named them His apostles. Seven of them He had already especially called to be His followers, namely, Andrew and Simon his brother; James and John, the sons of Zebedee; Philip and Nathanael or Bartholomew; and Levi or Matthew the publican. To these He now added Thomas or Didymus (a twin); James and Jude, the sons of Alpheus; Simon Chananeus (zelotes); and finally, the only apostle from Judæa proper, the traitor Judas Iscariot (the man from Kerioth).

These are the men whom Jesus especially called to witness His miracles, to profit by His teachings, to help Him in His ministry, and to preserve and spread His religion. Apparently they had little to recommend them to His choice, for they were almost all uneducated, without wealth, social rank, and personal influence; but in selecting them Jesus was laying the basis of one of the best arguments for the divine origin of Christianity, namely, that the world should have been converted by means of so few and so humble instruments.

2. Temporary Mission of the Twelve. It was during one of His missionary journeys through Galilee that Our Lord sent His chosen twelve on a temporary mission. As He went about the towns and villages, He was moved with compassion at the forlorn condition of their inhabitants, who “were distressed and lying like sheep that have no shepherd.” He therefore resolved to send to them in the person of His apostles, men entirely devoted to their temporal and spiritual welfare. A further reason for this sending forth of the twelve is to be found in Christ’s desire to prepare for the ministry in a more practical manner than heretofore, those who were soon to be the continuators of His work. For more than a year the apostles had contemplated in the Saviour a model of zeal and disinterestedness which they were to reproduce in their own lives. They had seen Him work the most convincing miracles in proof of His divine mission, and it was now to be their privilege to wield the same miraculous powers for the conversion of their brethren. In a word, the sending forth of the twelve towards the end of Our Lord’s second year’s ministry was to be for the apostles a real initiation into their future ministry, and to prove beneficial both to themselves and to the sheep of the house of Israel to whom they were sent.

Great indeed must have been the joy of the twelve when Jesus gave them a mission practically identical with His own, sending them “to preach the kingdom of God”; when He imparted to them powers co-extensive with His own, “giving them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases and all manner of infirmities.” True, in sending them forth He gave them directions as to the places where they should go, the manner in which they should use their powers, etc., which under other circumstances might have appeared rather severe; but at that moment they were only too willing to accept them, and they set off, “going about through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.”

§ 3. Christ’s Public Teaching

1. The Sermon on the Mount. The place pointed out by tradition as the scene of the selection of the twelve is a hill on the road from Tiberias to Nazareth, and called from its peculiar shape “the Horns of Hattin.” After having chosen His apostles Our Saviour descended with them from the mountain peak to a more level spot, and sitting down in the formal attitude of a teacher, He delivered His discourse so well known under the name of the Sermon on the Mount. His immediate audience was indeed made up of His apostles and disciples, and of the great multitudes that had gathered around Him. But He also spoke for future generations, describing a kingdom and a blessedness very different from those which His contemporaries expected, and laying down the Christian form of life for all ages.

This discourse of Jesus, so exalted in its teachings and so authoritative in its tone, filled the multitude with admiration, and will ever exercise the deepest influence upon the readers of the Gospel.

2. Teaching in Parables. Instead of this formal manner of teaching the people at large, Our Lord substituted soon afterwards another no less in harmony with the Oriental mind of His hearers, which has ever been fond of mystic and figurative language. Parables, to which He now resorted as a means of conveying His doctrine, were stories describing events of common occurrence in such a manner as to suggest to reflecting and well-disposed minds truths of the spiritual order. Jesus used them freely henceforward, because on the one hand the time had come when He should make known to the Jews the true nature and principal features of the kingdom of God, and on the other hand their national prejudices and Messianic misconceptions did not allow Him to speak too plainly.

There is hardly any doubt that in delivering His parables Christ intended to correct gradually the false notions of His hearers respecting the kingdom of God, and that in each parable He suggested mainly one feature of this same kingdom. His principal teachings in this respect may be briefly summed up as follows:

The kingdom which the Jews should expect is the kingdom of God in its modest, secret, and as it were, insignificant origin. It is submitted to the laws of organic growth as all living things are, and hence its planting and early developments do not attract much attention; but it is not so with its further extension, destined as it is to pervade and transform the whole world.

The real worth of this kingdom is that of a hidden treasure and of a precious pearl, which if even accidentally found must be preferred to all things else. This kingdom is indeed rejected by those who, like the men invited to the marriage feast, or the two sons spoken of in the parable in St. Matthew (21:28–32), had the first claim to its possession and apparently were best qualified for entering into it; but all those who earnestly avail themselves of the invitation of the Gospel will be admitted. As long as God’s kingdom exists in this world it is necessarily composed of good and bad men, so that the certain separation between them must be postponed to the end of time.

This is really a new kingdom of God with a new nation and a new set of rulers (as is taught in the parable of the wicked husbandmen),| although it is no less truly the continuation of the kingdom of God under the Old Covenant. Once this kingdom is organized upon earth, the King goes to a far country, relying upon His representatives to be more faithful than the rulers of the old kingdom, and expecting that all His servants shall bear fruits proportionate to their several trusts, else each and all will be visited, as were the unfaithful rulers and subjects of the old kingdom, with meet punishment.

At the return of this King this kingdom of grace will be transformed into a kingdom of glory, when all trials here below will be at an end, but as the day and hour of this second coming of the Son of Man remains one of the divine secrets, the duty most pressing upon all is that of constant watchfulness. Finally, the duration of this kingdom on earth will outlive the ruin of the Holy City and of its Temple. It will be coextensive with the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, and this, when accomplished, will be an unquestionable sign of its near approach.

3. The Discourse in the Synagogue of Capharnaum. Of course, it should not be supposed that Jesus never addressed His hearers otherwise than in parables. Although this formed His chief means of teaching the people during the second year—as well as during the last year—of His public ministry, yet He did at times deliver public addresses, one of which has been preserved to us in the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.

It was in the synagogue of Capharnaum and under peculiar circumstances that Jesus addressed this important discourse to the Galilean multitudes. For a full year their devotion to Him had been steadily growing, and they had recently wished “to take Him by force and make Him King.” Their hopes of a temporal kingdom had now reached their highest point, and when Our Lord entered the synagogue of Capharnaum on this memorable occasion, they were confident that He was at length to proclaim Himself the Messias and start at once His glorious rule. In the midst of such high-strung but mistaken hopes, Jesus saw that the time had come when He should make known in explicit terms the true nature of the kingdom He had come to found. He therefore declared openly that the object of His mission was not to confer temporal, but rather spiritual, benefits, and that to secure to themselves these invaluable blessings, His hearers should believe in Him and in His heavenly descent.

Great was the astonishment of the Jews at words so unexpected. Many among them even murmured, saying, “Is not this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then saith He, I came down from heaven?” This, however, was but a prelude both to the announcement which Jesus proceeded to make, and to the scandal it occasioned. He declared repeatedly to His hearers the necessity under which they all were “to eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life in them,” and this statement so greatly shocked several of those who had up to this time faithfully followed Him, that they exclaimed: “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” In vain did Jesus insist upon the necessity of faith in His words; His endeavors to banish from their minds the unbearable thought that He required of them the inhuman practice of cannibalism were likewise fruitless. “Many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” But the twelve remained faithful through all, and Peter undoubtedly gave expression to their unflinching loyalty to their Master when he exclaimed: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”

§ 4. Christ’s Growing Influence in Galilee

1. Principal Causes of Christ’s Influence in Galilee. The second year of Our Lord’s public ministry has justly been called the year of “public favor.” Hardly had He returned to Galilee from the Passover when He performed miracles of healing which won for Him the admiration and gratitude of multitudes from all parts of the country, and throughout the year wonders of the most stupendous kind kept the attention of the people fixed upon Him. For centuries no miraculous deeds had been wrought in Israel, and the Galileans naturally felt proud that the wonder-worker was their fellow countryman. Further, in the eyes of many, both in and out of Galilee, miracles so numerous, so easily performed, denoted not only the prophetical, but even the Messianic, character of their author.

Besides this first—and indeed greatest—cause of the growing influence of Jesus in Galilee, several others may be mentioned here. There was, for instance, His power of speech, His words having ever a special grace and authority. There were also His well-known compassion for the weak, the poor, the sinners, and His constant readiness to relieve the misery and sufferings of all around Him; He was meek and lowly of heart, and this attracted powerfully the affection of all those who had hitherto been looked upon with contempt by their teachers. Again, the slanderous reports, artfully started and studiously spread about by Christ’s enemies, contributed in their manner to increase His favor with the people at large. The real character of many of these calumnious charges was at times so evident that no one was deceived, while at other times those who had been first misled soon recognized their error; with the final result in both cases that through a reaction against the malice of His enemies, the popular attachment to Jesus grew gradually stronger and deeper. Finally, it should be borne in mind that the Jews of Galilee were, much less than those of the south, under the direct and all-powerful sway of the Pharisees and other enemies of Christ, while many of the leading men and women, especially of Capharnaum were His declared friends.

2. Christ’s Influence at its Climax towards the End of Second Year’s Ministry. These and other such causes contributed powerfully towards securing to Jesus an ever-growing influence in the northern province of Galilee. This steady growth of His favor with the people during His second year’s ministry is particularly noticeable in the Gospel narrative in connection with the miracles recorded. At first His miracles of healing attracted to Our Lord large multitudes, not only from Galilee and Judæa, but also from Idumæa, Decapolis, and the region about Tyre and Sidon. The raising, a little later, of the widow’s son at Naim—a town on the northwestern slope of Little Hermon and about 25 miles southwest of Capharnaum—produced the deepest impression upon the spectators, who proclaimed and spread far and wide their belief that Jesus was “a great prophet” truly sent by God. Other miracles, hardly less astonishing, gradually led the multitudes to wonder whether He was not “the Son of David,” and next to proclaim Him as such, regardless of the well-known opposition of the Pharisees. A little later the twelve were sent on a temporary mission. Being endowed with miraculous powers similar to those of their Master, and going two by two through the different towns of Galilee, they spread His doctrine very rapidly in remote places, and secured for it such publicity that Our Lord’s fame now reached Herod for the first time. Finally, at the approach of the Paschal festival, two great events carried to its climax the hitherto growing influence of Christ in Galilee. The first was His feeding of 5000 men with five loaves and two fishes; this miracle aroused the grateful enthusiasm of the multitudes to such an extent that they strove “to make Him king.” The second, which became known to them the next morning, was His miraculous walking upon the sea. The news of this last miracle caused the people to be so fully persuaded of a very near establishment of a worldly kingdom by Jesus, that He deemed it necessary to deal a death-blow to all their earthly expectations by His public discourse in the synagogue of Capharnaum, a summary of which has been given above.

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