The Chronological Gospel –

Early Ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist

Luke 3:1-3, Matthew 3:2, Luke 3:4-6, John 1:7-8, Mark 1:6, John the Baptist’s early ministry in the Judean wilderness
Matthew 3:5-10, Luke 3:10-18, John’s baptism of repentance (Judean wilderness)
Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 3:23a, The baptism of Jesus by John (Judean wilderness)
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 58: Matthew 3:1-17, Baptism of Jesus, possibly by Christen Dalsgaard
Matthew 4:1-11, The temptation of Jesus (Judean wilderness)
John 1:19-34, John’s response to a delegation from the priests and his testimony about the Messiah (Bethany in Judea)
John 1:35-51, Jesus’ first meeting with some of his disciples (Bethany)
John 2:1-12, Jesus’ first recorded miracle (Cana in Galilee)

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Luke 3:1-3, Matthew 3:2, Luke 3:4-6, John 1:7-8, Mark 1:6, John the Baptist’s early ministry in the Judean wilderness (2/19/14)

Luke was a careful researcher who gives us exact dates for some of the events that he documents. One of these is the beginning of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist. Tiberius reigned from 14 to 37 AD, so John began preaching right around 29 AD. As we learned from Luke 1:80, John lived in the wilderness, so we are not surprised that the word of God came to him in the desert.

Matthew 3:5-10, Luke 3:10-18, John’s baptism of repentance (Judean wilderness) (2/20/14)

In addition to preparing a highway for the coming of the Lord, John preached a message straight out of the Old Testament prophets: confess, repent, and live a new life! In the case of the religious establishment, he added, “Don’t be fooled into thinking that religious piety will save you!” which of course was also preached by the prophets. John’s message contains sobering words for us, just as it did for his listeners in the desert.

Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 3:23a, The baptism of Jesus by John (Judean wilderness) (2/21/14)

After John had been preaching for a while – we don’t know exactly how long – Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, where he lived, to be baptized by John in the Jordan River.

John Wesley pointed out an interesting fact. Luke dates many events in his book by telling us how far into the reigns of various rulers something happened. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, however, is dated “by the years of his own life, as a more august era.” Even though you should read the Bible for yourself, I encourage you to read commentaries as well; I always learn something or get a new insight when I read commentaries.

Matthew 4:1-11, The temptation of Jesus (Judean wilderness) (2/24/14)

Immediately after Jesus was baptized, he went into the wilderness and was tempted by the Devil for “40” days. “Forty” is one of the Bible’s symbolic numbers. Sometimes it means “40,” but usually it symbolizes “a lot.” “Forty days” symbolizes “a lot of days, like a month.” “Forty years” symbolizes “a lot of years, like a generation.” Of course, sometimes it means, “not 39, not 41, but 40.” The main thing is, it’s one of the numbers I don’t want you to argue about with each other.

Jesus’ temptation was real. He certainly had the power to turn stones into bread – look at the way he later fed a crowd of 15,000 or so with a few loaves and fishes. He was tempted to do flashy miracles that would attract everybody’s attention and get them to follow him. When he fed the crowds, that’s what happened, and Jesus said, “You’re only following me because you got a good lunch!” Jesus decided flashy miracles weren’t a good idea as a normal practice.

Jesus probably could have counted on angels to catch him if he jumped; after all, angels came and ministered to him after the temptations were over. But again Jesus decided that it was not the right way to run his ministry.

Finally, Jesus could certainly have raised a human army and attacked the Romans. Judah was a hotbed of anti-Roman feeling, just waiting for a military Messiah to lead them. No, that’s not right either, Jesus decided.

Jesus countered every one of these temptations with scripture. Study God’s word until you automatically know the right answer to temptation, just as Jesus did, and he will help you resist your own temptations.

John 1:19-34, John’s response to a delegation from the priests and his testimony about the Messiah (Bethany in Judea) (2/25/14)

Jesus’ ministry does not seem to have begun immediately after his temptation in the wilderness. Meantime, John kept on preaching, and he aroused the interest of the religious establishment, who sent a delegation out to ask him just who he thought he was to be baptizing people out there! His answer to them was ambiguous.

Some little time after the temptations (we don’t know how long), Jesus returned to the area where John baptizing. John identified Jesus to some of his own disciples, but on this occasion, he clearly said who Jesus was and why he, John, had been baptizing – “that he (Jesus) may be shown openly in Israel.”

Notice that John says twice in vss. 29-34 that he had not previously known who Jesus was. Much ink has been spilled trying to explain why John didn’t know his own cousin. Most of it boils down to, “Well, he knew him, he just didn’t know he was the Christ.” John Wesley, as usual, gives us a much more sensible explanation: John lived the life of a hermit in the deserts of Judea (Luke 1:80), ninety or more miles from Nazareth. Wesley points out that this effectively prevented an acquaintance that might have cast doubt on John’s testimony about Jesus.

John 1:35-51, Jesus’ first meeting with some of his disciples (Bethany) (2/26/14)

Much ink has been spilled on the topic of why John’s account of the call of Jesus’ disciples differs from that of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It’s actually very simple, as we will discover in the next few days: there are two different accounts because there were two different occasions.

The first time Jesus met two of them was when they were disciples of John the Baptist. John was talking to Andrew and another disciple, probably John (the disciple, not the Baptist). Those two talk to Jesus for the rest of the day. The next day, Andrew brings Simon Peter, Jesus finds Philip, and Philip brings Nathaniel. We’re up to five men, two of whom may still be disciples of John the Baptist at that time, who are excited about Jesus.

John 2:1-12, Jesus’ first recorded miracle (Cana in Galilee) (2/27/14)

I mentioned earlier that I learned some new things while reading A Harmony of the Four Gospels, by Dr. Orville Daniel. We see one of them today.

Jesus’ first recorded miracle was the changing of water into wine at a wedding in Galilee. Some of his disciples were with him, and when they saw this miracle, they “believed in him.” Now, Matthew, Mark, and Luke distinctly say that Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John into active ministry in Galilee, and I always assumed that the wedding was after that. Wrong!

As we will see in a couple weeks, Jesus called them – in Galilee – after John the Baptist was imprisoned. However, John was still actively preaching when Jesus returned to Judea after the wedding, as we will read next Tuesday. So apparently Jesus and the handful of disciples he had met out where John was preaching just popped up to Galilee for the wedding, visited for a couple of days in Capernaum, and then went back south.

It’s important to remember that Matthew, Mark, and Luke concentrate on the Galilean ministry, and John concentrates on the Judean ministry, but Jesus made quite a few trips back and forth. I never saw this so clearly as when I read Dr. Daniel’s book.

More of The Chronological Gospel

Birth Announcements and Early Lives of Jesus and John the Baptist
Early Ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist
Jesus’ Early Ministry
Jesus’ Galilean Ministry
Sabbath Controversies
The Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Plain
John the Baptist
Signs and Parables
Miracles and Mission Trips
Bread of Life
Miracles and Meanings
Transfiguration and Teachings
To Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles
Some Results of Luke’s Research
More of Luke’s Research
On the Road Again
The Raising of Lazarus
Holy Week: Palm Sunday and Monday
Holy Week: Tuesday, Parables and Questions
Holy Week: Wednesday Part 1, Discussions
Holy Week: Wednesday Part 2, Be Ready!
Holy Week: Thursday Part 1, Jesus' Celebration of the Passover
Holy Week: Thursday Part 2, Jesus' Farewell Discourse
Holy Week: Friday Part 1, Jesus' Arrest and Two Informal Trials
Holy Week: Friday Part 2, More Trials
Holy Week: Friday, Part 3, and Saturday, Jesus' Death and Burial
The Empty Tomb
Final Appearances of Jesus Prior to Pentecost

Copyright 2014, 2015, 2016 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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