August 26, 2005

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Jesus in the Gospels: He leaves Galilee

See Matthew 19:1-20:34, Mark 10:1-45

This is probably as good a time as any, in this series, to state that it is impossible to combine the four Gospels in such a way as to be sure when Jesus did all that he did. The evangelists simply were not concerned about dates or the order of events. Matthew, Mark and Luke give the impression that everything happened within a year while John mentions three Passovers. Jesus’ baptism was a couple months before the first Passover, and he was crucified just before the third, so that adds up to slightly more than two years for his public ministry.

At the point in Jesus’ life that we’ve reached now, the first three Gospels say that he left Galilee. Luke says four times that Jesus set out for Jerusalem but he arrives there only after the fourth.

Meanwhile, Luke tells us about a great many other things that Jesus did, many of them recounted earlier by Matthew and Mark. As for John, we will return to his Gospel next week, and we’ll get back to Luke eventually.

It’s Luke, though, who gives us a hint about why Jesus left Galilee. In Luke’s chapter 13, verse 31, some Pharisees warned Jesus, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.” Jesus replied that he must continue on his way because “it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem.”

With Luke supplying the reason, Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus “went to the district of Judea across the Jordan,” an inexact place indeed. For one thing, Judea didn’t extend across the Jordan River. Perhaps he went to Perea, in modern Jordan, but that territory, too, was ruled by Herod Antipas. It was there, in fact, that Herod had arrested John the Baptist. It’s most likely that Jesus went to Batanea, just east of the Sea of Galilee, ruled by Herod’s brother Philip. We know that a settlement of Jews lived there.

Jesus probably spent the winter of 29-30 there. It was a fairly peaceful time for him and his Apostles, but not uneventful. Great crowds continued to follow him and he continued to teach. It’s during that time, for example, that we get Jesus’ teachings about marriage: “Whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

Here, too, the rich young man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered that he must keep the commandments but that, if he wished to be perfect, he should sell his possessions and give to the poor then follow Jesus. The man went away sad because he was wealthy. This prompted Jesus to say that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The peaceful days, though, were about to end, as Jesus made his way to Jerusalem. †  


Local site Links: