Jesus’s First Visit Into Galilee
Written by Pastor James Dorman
1. Thoughts by Matthew, Mark, and Luke:
Matthew 4:23–25 (NIV84) “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”
Mark 1:35–39 (NIV84) “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”
Luke 4:42–44 (NIV84) “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.”
2. Passage Outline
Jesus’ First Visit into Galilee
Matt. 4:23-25; Mk. 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44
I. After Praying in Solitude, Jesus embarked into Galilee from Capernaum (Mk 1:35-38; Lk. 4:42-43)
II. The Ministry in Galilee consisted of preaching in synagogues, casting out demons, and healings ( 4:23; Mk. 1:39; Lk. 4:44)
III. The Results of the Galilean Ministry was seen in the Great Crowds and Jesus’ Area Wide Fame ( 4:24-25)
3. Information to Consider
This section introduces Jesus’ public ministry with a focus on teaching in the synagogues. Jesus is presented as a charismatic itinerant whose expanding ministry is stopped neither by the murderous rage of the Nazareth synagogue (vv 29–30), nor by the attempt by the crowds of Capernaum to gain exclusive possession of him (vv 42–43). The Nazareth and Capernaum ministries are offered as exemplifying a ministry that begins in Galilee (v 14) and expands throughout Palestine (v 44).
The importance of this theme is evident both by its frequency of occurrence (some forty times in Luke and thirty-two specifically as the “kingdom of God”) and its centrality in the Gospel. It occurs in the birth narratives (1:33) and is the main theme of Jesus’ (4:43) and the disciples’ preaching (9:2). The kingdom is the inheritance of the righteous (6:20), the most important petition of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples (11:20), and the future hope of the believer (13:28–29). In Acts this theme also plays an important role. At times salvation is portrayed as entering the kingdom.53
According to Luke the kingdom of God has come, i.e., it has been “realized” in history with Jesus’ coming. When Jesus announced that the OT prophecies were fulfilled in his coming (4:16–21), he announced that God’s kingdom had come (4:43; 8:1; Acts 28:31). His overcoming of Satan (11:20) witnesses to this. Thus Jesus did not announce simply the nearness of the kingdom but its arrival. It was in their midst, i.e., in their presence (17:20–21). Salvation history consists of two stages: the period of promise and the period of fulfillment when the kingdom comes. With John the Baptist the period of fulfillment began (16:16; Acts 13:32–33). God’s kingdom has come, for in Jesus’ coming God “has come and has redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68; cf. 7:16; 19:44; Acts 15:14).
The kingdom’s presence is seen in Luke’s Gospel primarily in Jesus’ ministry. Prophecies are fulfilled (4:16–21; 7:22–23; 10:23–24); the oppressed are delivered from demons (10:17; 11:20); Satan is defeated (10:18; 11:21–22); the poor and outcast have the gospel preached to them (1:52–53; 7:22). Salvation has come upon God’s people (1:68–71, 77; 2:30; 3:6; 19:9–10). Yet it is above all in the Spirit’s coming that this realized eschatological dimension of God’s kingdom is seen. He who anointed the Son of God at his baptism (3:21–22) is promised to every believer as well. This baptism of the Spirit, which distinguishes the members of the kingdom from the OT devout as represented by John the Baptist’s followers, is prophesied by John as coming upon Jesus’ followers (3:16), is promised by Jesus at the end of Luke (24:49) and the beginning of Acts (1:5, 8), and comes upon every believer at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–2). See Introduction 8 (3). To use Pauline terminology, the Spirit was for Luke the “firstfruits” (Rom 8:23) and “guarantee” (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14, RSV), or better yet the “earnest,” of God’s kingdom.
Whereas for Luke God’s kingdom already was realized, it also possessed a future, not-yet-realized dimension. The consummation of the kingdom in all its fullness is still future. The general resurrection of the believer has not yet begun (20:27–38). Sin, death, and disease are still present. The final judgment has not yet occurred (Acts 17:31). Faith has not yet turned to sight. Thus believers pray for the kingdom to come (Luke 11:2) and look for the time when they will sit at table and eat in God’s kingdom (13:28–29; 22:18), when the hungry will be fed and the weeping will laugh (6:21). The church therefore lives in the joy of the already now but still awaits our Lord’s coming with anticipation and hope (18:1–8; 21:27–28; Acts 1:11).
4. Questions to Ponder
a. What were Synagogues? (Matt. 4:23)
b. What were Syria and Decapolis? (Matt. 4:24-25)
c. What is the meaning of “come forth”? (Mk. 1:38)
5. Author’s Comments
Within these passages, we see Jesus initiating His earthly ministry. It will be a ministry declaring the reality of God’s Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven. Even after His instructions have had the opportunity to permeate the minds of His followers, many did not grasp God’s promised Kingdom had come with the entrance of Jesus into human history. Yet, John the Baptist had prepared the way and Jesus was now entering the season of His earthly ministry.
It is a ministry initiated during Jesus’ itinerant travels and it is one carried out through the Church and its leaders today. Every day and every night since the initiation of Jesus’ ministry and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God’s promised Kingdom has continued to grow in number and influence throughout the world.
While not every aspect of God’s Kingdom is being experienced by the Church today, God has fulfilled enough promises to date to affirm to every Christian He will fulfill every promise in a season of the Church yet to come.
A confidence many of us will take to our graves until the day Jesus returns and ushers into existence the final era of the Christian community. An era which will last for all eternity and will be spent in the presence of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the members of God’s eternal adopted family!
6. Closing Prayer
What a blessing it is to be able to review Your Word and discover the elements of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. What a privilege it is to be able to discover the insights He shared as He began His earthly ministry.
As we go through His journeys, please keep our minds alert, sharpen our ability to learn, and empower us to integrate these truths into our lives. Thank you Father for Your guidance and Your presence in our lives.
In Jesus’ Name,
7. Answers to “Questions to Ponder”
a. The synagogue served two purposes: (1) worship of God; and, (2) study of the Scriptures. Their services combined our prayer meetings, worship services, and Sunday Schools into one service.
To form a synagogue, there had to be 10 Jewish families in the area. The Ruler of the Synagogue had charge of the worship service. Three of the ten elders had jurisdiction over the civil cases in their district.
In addition, three deacons were appointed to meet the needs of their congregation. (Shepard)
b. First century Syria would have encompassed the area bounded by Amanus and Taurus to the north, by the Euphrates and the Arabian Desert to the east, by Palestine to the south, by the Mediterranean near the mouth of the Orontes and by Phoenicia to the west. (Unger)
Decapolis refers to the part of Syria lying east, southeast, and south of the Lake of Galilee. These were 10 city states and the land immediately surrounding them.
c. Jesus’ purpose was not for healing the physical problems of the people. He had come forth from the Father to make and preach the Christian Gospel. The disciples at first failed to understand, but later it would become their primary function (The Four-fold Gospel)