Unit 06 – The Ministry Of Jesus Accelerates

Unit 06- The Ministry Of Jesus Accelerates

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 Unit 06

The Ministry Of Jesus Accelerates

06.01 The Ministry Of Jesus Begins In Galilee

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Chapter 01

The Ministry Of Jesus Begins In Galilee




06.01.00.A. JESUS HEALS THE SICK. This image, also known as “The Healing of the Paralytic,” is dated to about 230 and the oldest known image of Jesus. It was discovered in the ancient city of Dura Europos, in modern Syria.

06.01.01 Introduction

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06.01.01 Introduction

Since His miracle in Cana, the whole province of Galilee was talking about Him. Unlike today where cultural and technological changes are expected, in the ancient world, change happened so slowly it was hardly noticeable.  The only exception was related to warfare, and that was never good.  Therefore, when a certain Man from Nazareth began performing miracles, He was the subject of every conversation – on the boats, in the synagogues, in the marketplace, wherever people met. The news spread throughout all of the Jewish provinces, to Sidon far to the north, Idumea far to the south, throughout the cities of the Decapolis, and beyond. But the bulk of His ministry was in Galilee for these four reasons:

  1. Galilee had a higher concentration of Jews then did Judea and Jerusalem. Since Jesus came to present Himself to the Jewish nation, He obviously came to where most Jewish people lived, and in doing so He fulfilled Isaiah 9:1.
  2. The Galilean Jews were not as theologically rigid or prideful as their Jerusalem counterpart. Consequently, they were more open to receive His message of the Kingdom of God.
  3. The Sanhedrin had no arresting authority in Galilee.
  4. The Via Maris went through Capernaum. It was an international highway used by travelers going between Africa and Asia or Europe. When they stopped by the Sea of Galilee area, they heard of Jesus who performed many miracles and was wonderful teacher. When they continued on their way, the took the good news with them.

It appears that the significance of the Via Maris has all too often been overlooked. This important road was the great international coastal highway that connected Egypt with Galilee, Phoenicia, Syria and eventually went on to Mesopotamia. From there the Spice Route went to China. Its importance is underscored by the thirty-seven local connecting roads within Israel.[1]  An amazing feature of Isaiah 1:9 that is often missed is that the prophet called the road by a name – the Way of the Sea.  But that name did not exist in the days of Isaiah (about 700 B.C.), rather, it was known as the Way of the Philistines, or technically, the way of the land of the Philistines (Ex. 13:17; Num. 20:17).[2]  However, in 63 B.C., the Roman General Pompey took control of Israel and renamed the highway the Via Maris, which is Latin meaning, the Way of the Sea, precisely what Isaiah called it.[3]     

06.01.01a (2)


[1]. Dorsey, Roads and Highways. 57; Cosby, Interpreting Biblical Literature. 45.


[2]. It was also known as The Great Trunk Route (as in “tree trunk”) because it connected to so many secondary roads.


[3]. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 68-69.   



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06.01.02 Jn. 4:1-3 Judea to Galilee



 1 When Jesus knew that the Pharisees heard He was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were),   3 He left Judea and went again to Galilee.


06.01.02.A. THE ROAD INTO SABASTE, SAMARIA. The ancient road is still lined with the pillars that formed the Cardo Maximus (Main Street) of Sabaste. Between these columns merchants had their shops. Since modern roads are often paved over ancient ones, there is little doubt that Jesus and Peter walked down this road many times during their ministry. Photograph by the author.


Jesus left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee by taking a short-cut through Samaria, and of course, opposition was expected. The Samaritans considered the temple at Jerusalem to be part of an apostate religion.[1] So whenever the Jews traveled through Samaria to go to Jerusalem, the Samaritans assumed they were going to worship at the Jerusalem Temple and would attack, beat, rob, and sometimes kill them.  To avoid the dangers, some Jews bypassed Samaria by taking the longer route south along the eastern side of the Jordan River through the province of Perea.  Eventually they crossed the Jordan at Jericho and hiked the long uphill climb westward on the Jericho to Jerusalem Road.  Yet in spite of the great animosity, it was safe for them to go through Samaria when leaving Jerusalem, because symbolically, that was seen as “leaving” the Jewish temple and its apostate religion. That may not make sense in the modern world, but it was common thinking in the first century.

By this time the leading Pharisees were discussing the possible execution of both John and Jesus. In fact, John 4:1-3 suggests they may have had an influence on the imprisonment of John the Baptist. However, the Pharisees, in their vain attempt to remain pure, avoided Samaria, so Jesus forged ahead and had a divine encounter with the Samaritan woman in Sychar. Today, the village is known as Nablus, and is located a few miles southeast of the city of Samaria.

Even though Jesus had previously performed His first miracle in Cana, it was the first of several miracles that caught everyone’s attention and let them know He was One to watch.  Galilee was out of reach of the long arm of the Sanhedrin authority, so Jesus could minister freely without the threat of the temple police. However, He still had two challenges:

  1. The Pharisees and the Herodians were constantly spying on Him.
  1. More importantly, He had to change preconceived ideas of the Jewish people, because their expectations of the messiah were different than His purpose and identity.

Crowds began to gather around Him and soon there was an audience to teach and declare the coming of the Kingdom of God. However, the Romans, Sadducees, Herodians and the Pharisee elitists were less than delighted. They kept a careful eye on Jesus to see if He would initiate a revolt or threaten the temple.

 06.01.02.Z Map Depicting The Ancient Tribal Areas Of Zebulun And Naphtali

06.01.02.Z Map Depicting The Ancient Tribal Areas Of Zebulun And Naphtali. Throughout history, these two tribal areas suffered horribly by the invading armies that traveled along the Via Maris. By the first century, Zebulun and the lower half of Naphtali became known as Galilee where Jesus preached peace and performed healing miracles, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy (9:1). Courtesy of International Mapping and Dan Przywara.

[1]. See 02.01.17 “Samaritans” and  03.05.07 “135-104 B.C. Rule of John Hyrcanus, Samaritan Temple Destroyed.”

06.01.03 The Village of Sychar; The Samaritan Woman

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06.01.03 Jn. 4:4-26 The Village of Sychar; The Samaritan Woman




4 He had to travel through Samaria, 5 so He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening.

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. “Give Me a drink,” Jesus said to her, 8 for His disciples had gone into town to buy food.

9 “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

11 “Sir,” said the woman, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this ‘living water’? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock.”

13 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. 14 But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again — ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”

15 “Sir,” the woman said to Him, “give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and come here to draw water.”

16 “Go call your husband,” He told her, “and come back here.”

17 “I don’t have a husband,” she answered.

“You have correctly said, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus said. 18 “For you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman replied, “I see that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, yet you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will explain everything to us.”

26 I am He,” Jesus told her, “the One speaking to you.”


Jesus went through Samaria about 4 months prior to the Samaritan Passover, at the Festival of Zimmuth Pesah (or Pesach) which would have been in January A.D. 27 or 28.[1]  There He stopped for a rest around 12:00 noon at a well in the small village of Sychar that has historic significance. It was in ancient Shechem where Jacob, the ancestor common to both Samaritans and Jews, purchased a plot of land (Gen. 33:19). On the day Jesus came by, a Samaritan woman of “poor reputation”[2] came to draw water from the traditional well of Jacob and met Jesus. Even though there was legendary hatred between the two ethnic groups,[3] in this encounter Jesus demonstrated that divine love and forgiveness could destroy four major taboos that were present at the time.

  1. Religious discrimination (Jew vs. Samaritan),
  1. Racial-ethnic discrimination (also Jew vs. Samaritan),
  1. Social discrimination (man to woman in public),[4] The rabbinic rules of the Oral Law strictly forbade a man from having a private conversation with a Jewess, so having a conversation with a Samaritan woman must have been even more shocking to the disciples. Note the following:

Any man whose business is with women may not remain alone with women; and a man should not teach his son a craft that is practiced among women.[5]

Mishnah, Kiddushin 4.14

  1. Moral discrimination (her moral history). While the terms “poor reputation,” “sinful woman,” and “sexual impurity” are commonly associated with prostitution, these were also applied to women of multiple marriages who were not prostitutes.[6] However, no Samaritan man would have married a prostitute, so the probability that she was one is rather nil.


In the conversation, she displayed a modest and gentle spirit, two characteristics Jesus always loves. There was hatred between the two ethnic groups because each considered itself to be the true Israelite nation.[7] In the middle of this hostility, the love of Jesus destroyed all forms of discrimination. As she listened, her knowledge and faith about Him grew. She concluded that He was the long expected Tahbe/messiah without the performance of any signs or wonders. Ironically, the Jews required a sign.

“A town of Samaria called Sychar.” Amazingly, the name Sychar means drunken town or lying town.[8]  Why anyone would want to identify their community with a name like that is unknown. No wonder the Jews avoided them.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.”  The role of a woman was primarily one of a domestic servant in the home.  While some women rose to positions of power and influence (i.e., Esther),[9] but for the most part, those few were the exceptions.  In the average home, the man was the dominant influence and the woman did as he directed. This was not only true within the biblical community but in neighboring cultures as well. It continues to this day in many Muslim countries.

Her duties included preparing food for meals and storage, weaving raw materials into fabrics, and maintaining the home.   If the home did not have a cistern, she had to draw water from the village well and carry it home.  These were distinctive chores and men were not to undertake them. However, Jesus was not troubled by prevailing cultural taboos. When He approached her at the well, He broke nearly every gender-based cultural norm that had established itself over the previous centuries, including the cultural taboo that “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”[10]  This is why His disciples were surprised when they returned and found Him talking with her.

Jesus initiated a conversation by asking her for water. This was a radical request because it also required that He drink from her vessel – which in Jewish thinking, was a very unholy and defiled vessel. They avoided contact with the “mixed race,” and to drink from her vessel was even more unthinkable. In response, she acknowledged two cultural barricades: gender and ethnic differences.  But Jesus shifted the cultural difference to a spiritual one.  The “gift of God” (v 10) and of “living water” (v 10, 14), which means water of life, was also symbolic of eternal life.[11]  There was a time when oriental courtesy would never refuse a request for water.[12] However, in the two previous centuries the relations between the Jews and Samaritans had become strained to the breaking point, so even giving water to someone of the other ethnic group was strictly forbidden. Two other examples,

  1. The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37) demonatrated the strong love Jesus had for them, and,
  1. A common saying was that one who eats the bread of a Samaritan is as one who eats the flesh of swine.[13] This saying underscores the phrase, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans,”(Jn. 4:9). This does not mean that Jews and Samaritans never spoke with each other, but it meant that there were no friendships and social events shared by the two groups, which is precisely what Jesus did. Jews who traveled through Samaria had the freedom to purchase necessary items if they wished, but other than that, the two groups discriminated against each other.[14]


This attitude is preserved in the writings of a second century B.C. Jew named Jesus, the son of Sirach, who wrote the following:

Two nations my soul detests,

            And the third is not even a people;[15]

Those who live in Seir and the Philistines,

            And the foolish people that live in Shechem.[16]

Ben Sirach 50:25-26[17]


Evidently, she did not grasp the full concept of what Jesus was saying and the conversation was about to become more remarkable.  When He asked her to get her husband (v 16), she indicated that she had none.   Until now, the dialog was one that she could have had with any man who was not too discreet.  But Jesus captured her undivided attention when He said she had five husbands. To this she acknowledged Him by saying “I see that You are a prophet.” She chose not to continue to discuss her former husbands, but she obviously recognized Jesus as One who had unusual divine insight of both current events, the future, and was a proclaimer of God’s word (Gk. prophetes).[18]  Her statement was not merely a compliment, but was one of the highest honors among the Jews.[19]  In modern society today, there is no similar position. However, the discussion continued on the major issue between Jews and Samaritans: where is God to be worshiped. But the response by Jesus was one referring to a different issue, the coming of the Kingdom of God (cf. Rev 21:22).

She had been in a marriage covenant with five men, was now living with a sixth man with whom she did not have a marriage covenant. And now, number seven – Jesus, told her of a new spiritual covenant. However, while she did not fully understand it, she obviously had a basic concept of what Jesus was trying to communicate.  She reflected the opinion of many Middle Eastern people in saying that, “When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” That statement may have been one of the deepest mysteries of the gospels, because, just as the Jews had unanswered questions, so did the Samaritans. Both groups had questions they pondered for centuries.

There have been countless sermons that condemned her because preachers have assumed that she was a prostitute who had been divorced five times and now lived with a man outside of marriage. Most likely, her former husbands divorced her because she could not bear children for them.  The ancients believed infertility was a curse that came directly from God. In a society where divorce was condemned, to have been divorced five times simply meant that she was the constant subject of gossip and ridicule.  Not only was she childless, but she had no friends and was indeed, was a very lonely woman. At that time women seldom divorced their husbands because living as a widow or divorced woman almost always insured a life of poverty.

She probably did not choose to live an unmarried lifestyle, but she had to in order to survive.  She, most certainly, gave up on life thinking God condemned her and she lived with someone only as a means of survival. No one would have helped a woman who was repeatedly divorced. Therefore, her conversation with Jesus became her only hope for life.

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Then Jesus said that He would give her “living water.” There are two interpretations of the term “living water.”

  1. In a physical sense, it was flowing water as found in a river or stream.
  1. In a spiritual sense, it reflected upon common phrases pertaining to teaching and explaining the Law. The term was similar to the phrase “To give water to drink.”[20]


Jesus referred to the imagery of both interpretations. He spoke of “living water,” as a reference to water flowing from a stream that is always fresh and vibrant.  It is in sharp contrast to well water, or worse yet, cistern water, which is collected rain water that after several months becomes stagnant.  People in this area have always been dependent upon cisterns since there is no rainfall for six to eight months of the year.  Living water is water that was never stored in a vessel and was considered clean and refreshing.[21] His words were not like those spoken by the Pharisees, but were filled with kindness and compassion and she responded in like manner. Earlier Jesus had turned water into wine, now He opened the gates of living water of eternal life for an impoverished soul.

As with hundreds of other rules and regulations, the leading Pharisees developed clever ways to circumvent them and that included a way to turn stagnant water into “living water.” They simply let it flow a short distance through a small channel or pipe to where it was needed. What was stale and stagnant one moment “suddenly” became ritually pure and desirable. But Jesus was referring to living water that flows fresh from a mountain spring, not that which was manipulated by the religious leaders.

According to Jewish tradition, there were six grades of water.  Flowing water was the best and stagnant water was the worst. The best two or three were acceptable for mikvaoth (or mikvah singular) immersions, each “one more excellent than another.”[22] A mikvah was a small reservoir of fresh water into which one would immerse himself/herself to be ritually pure.[23] At the temple, the priests immersed themselves three times daily.  The Midrash stated that the best quality was from a continuous flowing source and was known as “living water.”[24] It was ideal to be immersed in living water, which was considered the best grade and, therefore, approved for “the sprinkling of lepers” and for “mixing with the ashes of the sin-offering.”[25] Here Jesus said that He would make this living water flow out of the believer.  Jesus offered her living water.

On the other hand, the Essenes seemed to understand the phrase living water to mean a life in covenant with each other. In a fragment of the Damascus Document is a reference that whenever members left the Essene community, they left the well of living water from where life and refreshment flowed.  Consequently, they were no longer counted as part of the Essene community. In detail, the document reads as follows:

And like this judgment will be that of all who reject God’s precepts . . .  and forsake them and move aside in the stubbornness of their heart.  And thus, all the men who entered the new covenant in the land of Damascus and turned and betrayed and departed from the well of living waters, shall not be counted in the assembly of the people and shall not be inscribed in their lists, from the day of session of him who teaches.

Dead Sea Scrolls, Damascus Document 19:32-35[26]


The Essene covenant of membership was considered to be equal to a well of living waters.  Therefore, the words of Jesus concerning living water could have been understood by some as attaining knowledge of God and as a reference to a new covenant.

Video Insert    >

06.01.03.V The Samaritan Woman at the Well. Gordon Franz discusses the preparation days of the Samaritan Passover known as the Festival of Zimmuth Pesah when Jesus met the Samaritan woman.


When Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman, He was also speaking to an adulterous people. Her people were represented in her life and she was a “type and shadow” of all Samaritans.[27] Jesus knew that she had five husbands – so did the Samaritans in a spiritual sense.[28] The Samaritans originated from five pagan groups who intermarried with Israelites, and these pagan groups each had their own god(s).[29]  In the 8th century B.C., the king of Assyria brought in foreign people, who spiritually polluted the land when they married their Jewish neighbors who had remained in Samaria.[30]  According to Josephus, each of these five people groups brought their own gods with them into Samaria.  The historian and the author of 2 Kings preserved the details.[31]

In essence, the Samaritan woman was symbolic of the Samaritan people. Since the marriage covenant is a “type and shadow” of the covenant believers have with God or gods, her life with five husbands (covenants) was reflective of the Samaritan people whose background was with pagan gods (covenants). When Jesus spoke with her, she lived outside of a marriage covenant, and the Samaritan people lived in spiritual confusion.

06.01.03b (2)


It was the desire of Jesus to see them return to the worship of the One True God. In fact, His mission was and still is to see all humanity come to the saving knowledge of the One True God.  Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus to come to the Jews, this woman  prepared the way for Peter, Philip, and John who came later (Acts 8:5-25) and had a successful ministry among them.  From Peter’s converts, there arose a certain man named Justin, who was born in the ancient city of Shechem.  He became a significant second century church father and writer, who willingly died for his faith. The English word martyr is from the Greek word martys, which carries a sense of witness.[32] Justin was killed because he was a witness for Jesus, and is known today as Justin Martyr.[33]

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain.”  People in all ancient cultures believed their god or gods had to be worshiped in the same temples as where their deities lived.  At the time of this encounter, the Samaritan temple had been destroyed for nearly a century and a half, and the Samaritans waited its reconstruction (see 03.05.07). They were jealous that the Jews had a beautiful temple but theirs was destroyed by a Jew.  So they had strong expectations that the Taheb would come and rebuild it.

Jesus, however, introduced a new concept of worship “in spirit and truth” without a temple.  His “temple” would be those believers in whom the Holy Spirit would live and, therefore, there would be no need for a temple of stone.  Clearly, the opinions expressed by the woman were not light-hearted comments, but serious expectations shared by the Samaritan community at large.

“Salvation is from the Jews.” Salvation is from the Jewish people in the sense that God made His covenant with them, beginning with Abraham.  Since Jesus is the central focus of that covenant, salvation is through Him alone, and He is of human Jewish origin.

“Worship the Father in spirit and truth.” The term “in spirit” indicates that the worshiper has changed character and is focused on Christ.  He has the new life, which he received at his new birth (Jn. 3:5-8; Heb. 9:23-24). The phrase “[in] truth” refers to the complete honesty and openness that the worshiper has when he comes to God in prayer, for God knows all things. To worship God in Spirit and truth is a high privilege and the Father seeks those who desire to worship him.[34]

Following her statement “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ), Jesus identified himself as that Messiah.  It was His most direct statement in His early ministry. She returned to her village and proclaimed her encounter with Jesus.  A lowly woman of the despised Samaritans became one of the first profound evangelists of the New Testament era. It must be remembered that no one anticipated a messiah who would be fully human and fully God. Therefore, the term messiah is spelled with a lower case “m.” The Samaritan woman most certainly did not expect the Samaritan messiah to be God as well as man.

The progression of her understanding is even more profound when considering her theological background. While the Samaritans believed in a coming messiah, they had a unique perception of him because they only had the five books of Moses that comprised their Bible. Furthermore, some passages of their Bible were modified from the Hebrew Bible. One of those is the messianic prophecy of Deuteronomy 34:10 that reads in their Bible,

There will not arise a prophet in Israel like Moses.

Samaritan Bible: Deuteronomy 34:10[35]


In essence, the Samaritan woman must have been wondering of Jesus was in fact, Moses. Yet that apparently did not influence her as did the conversation with Him.  Theologically, she was prepared to meet Jesus and when she did, her heart followed. He never condemned her for what she did or believed because “in Christ all things are new” (Rev. 21:5).

Throughout this dialogue, Jesus was very patient and allowed her understanding to develop.  As the Master Teacher, He guided her from the known to the unknown.[36] She concluded her opinions believing Jesus to be the Messiah and the Savior of the world. This was an extreme departure from her preconceived ideas and her own faith. They believed the Taheb would come, live 110 years, die, and then would come again for the final judgment of the world.[37] This was based, in part, on Deuteronomy 18:18 of the Samaritan BIble. Therefore, the ministry of Jesus was beyond their wildest expectations. In this discourse there are several points to be noticed.

  1. Jesus never confused doubt with unbelief, or ignorance with stupidity and carnal foolishness. He was the very model of patience and kindness and did not condemn her for her past actions or her beliefs. She evidently lived in shame (the reason for going to the well at midday was to avoid other women) and Jesus gave her hope.  She, as a Samaritan, believed only in the first books of the Old Testament and some other theological issues, but Jesus never condemned her (Rom. 8:34) or argued with her.  In Christ, all things are made new.
  1. He told her that He was the “living water” of eternal life. This is always the real issue. He pointed to himself, as as the way of salvation (Jn. 4:26), and
  1. She became an evangelist in her community. As a result of her testimony, many came to Jesus (Jn. 4:27-30).
  1. Both temples, the Samaritan and Jewish, were pronounced obsolete.
  1. The message of the Kingdom of God was available to the Samaritans, and later would be offered to the Gentiles as well.
  1. The irony is that it was Jesus who was thirsty and came to the well for a drink, and offered the thirsty woman who gave him a drink, living water. The words and works of Jesus are filled with ironies.


“I know that Messiah is coming.”  Not only the Samaritans, but nearly all people groups in the ancient Middle East were expecting a Messiah to come. For example, in 63 B.C. the Romans attempted to pass a decree requiring the killing of infant boys because of a prophecy of a new-born king (see 03.05.15), and of course the magi came to Bethlehem because they too were expecting a Messiah. Then in 42-38 B.C. the Roman poet Virgil predicted the coming of a messiah (see 03.05.24). Yet this woman and her fellow Samaritans had something the others didn’t have – a Samaritan Torah. The first five books of Moses are similar in most details to the Jewish version – close enough to have the correct prophecies of the messiah[38] whom they called the Tehab.  Little wonder then, that she was expecting Him. In the course of discussion with Jesus, there is an interesting progression of her observations.

  1. She addressed Jesus as a “Jew” (v. 9),
  1. Then she addressed Him as “sir” which has a meaning similar to “lord” (v. 15),
  1. Then she addressed Him as a “prophet” (v. 19),
  1. Then she addressed Him as the “Messiah” (v. 25), and
  1. Finally, she recognized Him as “the Savior of the world” (v. 42).
  1. Without question, she must have considered Jesus to be the expected Taheb.[39] The Samaritans, like so many others, believed that God would soon send someone to restore their land and people. That “someone” was called the Taheb or Restorer – a great prophet of the end-time whom Moses referred to in Deuteronomy 18:15.[40]


A similar progression of observation was noted by the blind man who was healed by Jesus by the Pool of Siloam.[41]

I am He … the One speaking to you.”  This is a direct statement by Jesus stating in no uncertain terms that He is God Himself, a declaration of deity.  In the Hebrew Bible the phrase I Am is used to reveal the essence of God.[42] Furthermore, in the Septuagint translation, the phrase I Am is the exact phrase used by God to identify Himself in the burning bush when Moses asked who was speaking to him.[43] John used seven I Am statements in his gospel.[44]

Evidently, Jesus did not care about the Jewish or Roman reactions to such an announcement.  In other situations He told various individuals not to reveal His identity or what miracle He performed.  The Jews were far more nervous about the coming of their messiah than any other people group.

[1]. http://www.lifeandland.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/lllj-seminar-notes1.pdf  Retrieved December 18, 2012.


[2]. A term associated with sexual impurity.


[3]. See 02.01.17 “Samaritans” for a list of significant changes the Samaritans made to their Torah and an abbreviated listing of the hateful actions between the two groups.


[4]. Freedman, The New Manners and Customs of the Bible. 514.

[5]. For this reason, men who were weavers were highly despised. It was clearly defined as “women’s work.”


[6]. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 283.

[7]. Charlesworth and Evans. The Pseudepigrapha and Early Biblical Interpretation. 22. See also “Samaritans” 02.01.17.


[8]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:111.


[9]. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 157.   


[10]. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 283.

[11]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 283.


[12]. Other references are Jer. 2:13; 17:13; Job 22:7; Prov. 25:21.


[13]. Geikie, The Life and Words. 1:557; Fruchtenbaum, Life of the Messiah. Tape 4, Side B.


[14]. See 02.01.17 and 03.02.04 for more information.


[15]. The phrase “not even a people” clearly has some powerful negative cultural implications as 1 Peter 2:10a reads “Once you were not a people,” and Hosea 1:9-10 twice reads, “you are not my people.” The phrase was regarded as a high insult between cultural groups – meaning that those to whom it was addresses were less than human. In the Apostle Peter’s first letter he said that without Christ, the believers were, in a figurative sense, less than human; but with Christ they are more than mere human – they are a chosen people, a royal priesthood and holy nation unto God Himself.


[16]. The second and fourth stanzas of this Hebrew poem refer to the Samaritans.


[17]. Ben Sirach and Tobit belong to a classification of extra-biblical books known as the Apocrypha. These two literary works reflect the opinions of many Jewish people. See 02.02.03 “Apocrypha” for more information. The reader is reminded that quotations from non-biblical sources are not to be understood as being of equal authority with the biblical narratives. See 01.02.04.


[18]. Brown, “Prophet.” 3:74-92.


[19]. Macartney, Great Interviews of Jesus. 24.

[20]. Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 2:298.


[21]. Myers, “Yes, They are.” 48.


[22]. Mishnah, Mikwaoth 1.1.

[23]. Zondervan’s New International Version Archaeological Study Bible. 2005. 1562.


[24]. Mishnah, Mikwaoth 1.1 – 2.1.

[25]. Mishnah, Mikwaoth 1.8; cf. Lev. 14:5; 15:13.

[26]. 19:32-35 = Column 19, lines 32-35; Martinez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated. 46.

[27]. See “type and shadow” in Appendix 26; See also Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 768.


[28]. As stated previously, the woman had a covenant with five previous husbands. Likewise, the ancestors of the Samaritan people had covenants with five gods. See also Josephus, Antiquities 9.14.3 (288) below.


[29]. 02.01.17 “Samaritans.”


[30]. See 03.02.04 and .05.


[31]. See  2 Kings 17:24-25, 29, 32 and Josephus, Antiquities 9.14.3 (288) in 02.01.17 “Samaritans.”


[32]. Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman, eds., “Martyr.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. 539.


[33]. Guignebert, The Jewish World in the Time of Jesus. 199.

[34]. Jn. 4:23; Rom. 8:15; 1 Jn. 3:1; See also Heijkop, Unto Christ, 22-23.

[35]. Barclay, Jesus. 230-32. Italic emphasis mine.


[36]. The concept that intellectual teaching is based upon what is previously known to the person taught has generally been credited to Aristotle, in Posteriora Analytica. 1.1. However, the concept, although not described in this manner, is elementary and was practiced by the Jewish rabbis and prophets for centuries.


[37]. Blizzard, “Judaism – Part 1” Yavo Digest 1:5, 8; Guignebert, The Jewish World in the Time of Jesus. 196.


[38]. Gen. 3:15; 49:10; Num. 24:17; Deut. 18:15.


[39]. Barclay, Jesus. 231.


[40]. Bruce, New Testament History. 34-35.


[41]. See 11.02.21, 11.02.24, 11.02.11.A, and 11.02.11.B.


[42]. Ex. 3:14-15; Isa. 41:4; 43:10, 25; 46:4; 51:12; 52:6.


[43]. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 211.


[44].  The Seven “I AM’s”: Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35, 41, 48, 51): Light of the World (Jn. 8:12); Door of the sheep (Jn. 10:7, 9); Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11, 14); Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25); the Way, the Truth, the Life (Jn. 14:6) and the True Vine (Jn. 15:1, 5).



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 06.01.04 SPIRITUAL FOOD

06.01.04 Jn. 4:27-38



 27 Just then His disciples arrived, and they were amazed that He was talking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do You want?” or “Why are You talking with her?”

28 Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the men, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They left the town and made their way to Him.

31 In the meantime the disciples kept urging Him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But He said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”

33 The disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought Him something to eat?”

34 My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them. 35 “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.”


My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.”  Jesus made frequent mention of His dependence upon the Father.[1]


“Look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest.”  Jesus clearly connected agricultural imagery to “harvesting for the Kingdom of God.” In January and early February the crops were obviously not ready for harvesting – in fact, the barley seeds were not even planted yet.[2]  And the fields certainly were not literally white (see 02.03.02). But that was when Jesus came to the Samaritan Festival of Zimmuth Pesah when they wore white festal garments. In those days, the ethnicity of people was identified by their clothes, language, or accent. Those were markers that distinguished “them from us.”


The Jews had maxims of conduct that pertained to all areas of life. There was always a labor shortage when crops were harvested and placed in storage.  A rabbi said the following:

Rabbi Tarfon said: “The day is short and the task is great and the laborers are idle and the wages are abundant and the master of the house is urgent.”

Mishnah, Aboth 2.15


Jesus had simply taken a well-known statement concerning the labor conditions of his agricultural community and applied it to the work of God.




06.01.04.A  SAMARITAN MANNEQUINS IN WHITE COSTUMES. These traditional white costumes were worn by the Samaritans when they celebrated the Festival of Zimmuth Pesah — the Samaritan Passover which is about two months earlier than the Jewish one.  When Jesus said that the fields are ripe for harvest, just as crops lighten in color at harvest time, His words were a pun with an obvious double meaning. Photographed at the Samaritan Center in Shechem, Samaria, by the author.

[1]. Cf. Jn. 5:30; 6:38; 8:26; 9:4; 10:37-38; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10; 17:4.


[2]. Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:288-89.



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 06.01.05 Samaria THE FIRST WOMAN EVANGELIST

06.01.05 Jn. 4:39-42 Samaria




39 Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 Therefore, when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of what He said. 42 And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.”


There can be little question that this woman’s reputation was the lowest in the community. Yet her statements were so profound that the village elders, who normally would never have listened to her, decided to investigate her report. She said that Jesus had supernatural knowledge concerning herself that He could have received only from God. She recognized him as Savior and the Messiah; the Taheb or Restorer – a great prophet of the end-time.[1] The greatest evidence of divine truth has always been a transformed life. There was a growing circle of believers who recognized the identity of Jesus.

At this time women were not considered viable witnesses and their ideas were generally considered meaningless.  But with this encounter and others like it, Jesus underscored the importance of women and thereby, their status was elevated. The manner in which Jesus nullified prejudice was later more fully illustrated in the letters written by the Apostle Paul.[2]  Only heaven knows her name although the Eastern Orthodox tradition says her was Photina.[3]

“The Savior of the world.”  It wasn’t the woman, but the village leaders who announced that Jesus is the Messiah of all humanity.  Ironically, the Jews could not accept this teaching because, in their preconceived ideas, the messiah would be theirs alone and would overthrow the Roman Empire. They refused to consider the possibility that He would also be the messiah for the Samaritans, Greeks, and the hated Romans.

[1]. Bruce, New Testament History. 34-35.


[2]. Rom. 3:27-4:18; 8:9-17; etc.


[3]. Jordan. Who’s Who in the Bible. 239.



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 06.01.06 JESUS RETURNS TO THE PROVINCIAL DISTRICT GALILEE.

06.01.06 Jn. 4:43-45 Galilee



43 After two days He left there for Galilee. 44 Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45 When they entered Galilee, the Galileans welcomed Him because they had seen everything He did in Jerusalem during the festival. For they also had gone to the festival.


The reputation of Jesus went before him.  In a society where changes occurred very slowly, a man performing miracles was a major event. Everyone wanted to see the “Miracle Man,” who some thought might be the Man of God. Therefore, when Jesus arrived in the Galilean communities, He had a waiting audience.

06.01.07 Boy Healed In Capernaum

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 06.01.07 Boy Healed In Capernaum

06.01.07 Jn. 4:46-54 Cana




46 Then He went again to Cana of Galilee, where He had turned the water into wine. There was a certain royal official whose son was ill at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and pleaded with Him to come down and heal his son, for he was about to die.

48 Jesus told him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

49 “Sir,” the official said to Him, “come down before my boy dies!”

50 “Go,” Jesus told him, “your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and departed.

51 While he was still going down, his slaves met him saying that his boy was alive. 52 He asked them at what time he got better. “Yesterday at seven in the morning the fever left him,” they answered. 53 The father realized this was the very hour at which Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” Then he himself believed, along with his whole household.

54 This, therefore, was the second sign Jesus performed after He came from Judea to Galilee.


This account has given critics fuel for argument because the parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels have a number of differences compared with the book of John.  Most scholars believe all four gospel writers refer to the same event, but that may not be the case.  For the purpose of this study and eBook, the narrative as recorded by John is presented.  However, as stated, Matthew, Mark and Luke may have recorded a similar but separate account.  Note the following differences:

Synoptics        The soldier is a Gentile centurion                                                             John                      The soldier is a royal official of Herod’s army (centurion)            Explanation   Herod had a Gentile army because he did not trust the Jews.

Synoptics        The centurion tells Jesus not to bother to come to his home                    John                      Jesus is asked to come to the centurion’s home                                   Explanation   Since there were many who were concerned about the boy’s life, someone                                asked Jesus to come, a request made by a solider or messenger for the                                benefit of the centurion, but the centurion said “No,”

Synoptics        Jesus heals a slave                                                                                    John                       Jesus heals a son                                                                                    Explanation   The term “son” is not limited to a blood relative, but can be an                                            endearing term for any young male child, even if he is a slave.

Synoptics        Jesus heals in Capernaum                                                                            John                   Jesus heals in Cana                                                                                Explanation   Capernaum was better known than Cana, which was a “daughter village”                           of Capernaum.


This is the second of seven miracles recorded by John although Jesus obviously performed hundreds of others.[1] It was not only stunning for Jesus to heal people, but in doing so, He identified Himself with God without saying a word. Not only was Jesus of gentle authority, but when He healed, the audience reflected upon one of the names of God – Jehovah Rapha – our Lord who is our Healer.[2] Furthermore, John’s selection of seven miracles represent wholeness and completeness and, in this case, the perfect Person who performed them.

 “A certain royal official.”  Some scholars believe that the official was Manaen (or Menahem), the foster brother of Herod Antipas, who eventually became a prophet and teacher (Acts 13:1).  Others believe the official was Chuza, the personal steward or epitropos, of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee.[3] It was the responsibility of the epitropos to care for the king’s personal property and investments. It is uncertain if the official was Jewish, given the Roman practice. In addition to Manaen, Joanna (or Johanna), the wife of Chuza was one of the women who also supported Jesus and His disciples (Lk. 8:3; cf. verse 53).[4]  Both were affiliated with Antipas.

By this time, the provincial capital of Galilee had been moved from Sepphoris to Tiberius, which was located along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and a few miles south of Capernaum.  Since the ministry of Jesus centered in Capernaum, travelers along the Via Maris and the government officials in nearby Tiberias, heard of Jesus’ reputation. The royal official went from the Tiberius-Capernaum area to Cana to meet Jesus.  He evidently had incredible faith in the ability for Jesus to heal, as the distance is not only about eighteen miles, but it is also a long uphill walk. The ancients walked quickly at a pace like a military march of today; not the modern slow walk of two or three miles per hour, but a faster pace of four to five miles per hour.  The Sea of Galilee is 680 feet below sea level and Cana is about 1600 feet above sea level. No one would have undertaken such a physical challenge if there was not a passionate motivation.

Finally, there were many who pondered if Jesus was the expected messiah who would bring them freedom. Simon the Zealot may have considered this as well.  However, when Jesus healed the son of the royal official, the hopes and dreams of many Zealots were crushed. That was reinforced when Jesus said that one should carry a burdon “a second mile,” an obvious implication of occasional Roman military commands. They did not realize, until later, the dynamics of Jesus and the freedom that He would bring.


06.01.07.Q1 What was the purpose of the miracles performed by Jesus?


People believed that illnesses were the consequences of sin.  How appropriate that Jesus was the Great Healer, since He came to save men from their sins.  While the healing of the human body did not save anyone from sin, the act of healing provided striking evidence to the observers, that Jesus saves lost souls from the consequences of sin.[5] Miracles were not the intended end, but gave overwhelming evidence concerning the identity of Jesus.

Considering the social and political tensions of the time, for a Jew to heal a Roman or his servant was unthinkable. This had a profound effect because most Jews believed God was interested only in them. In fact, many dismissed any thought of Gentile conversions and questioned how God could select one of their own to heal the son of a Roman official of the horrible Herodian dynasty. Yet even within the halls of government, the Spirit of God was convicting the lost. Manaen, a foster-brother and official to Herod, became a believer.  His and other conversions were beyond Jewish comprehension.[6]

The short dialog between the centurion and Jesus is most interesting. The Greek language of the centurion’s request indicates he repeatedly asked Jesus to heal his servant, because he was desperate and the young man was near death. This underscores the faith he had in Jesus although the request was probably humiliating (Jews were despised by most Romans).  The boy’s father had assumed that Jesus needed to be beside his son physically in order to perform the miracle (cf. Jn. 11:1-37). Jesus, however, demonstrated His power over distance by simply speaking His Word of healing. Once Jesus pronounced his son healed, it would seem natural for the centurion to hurry home to confirm the miracle. But he didn’t.  In fact, he stayed in the area and did not begin his return trip until the following day.  In this case, there was a double miracle – an absent child was healed of his sickness and the father was healed of his unbelief.

The passage reads that on the following day, as the centurion was walking home, he met his servants who came to tell him of the boy’s healing.  The time of the healing was confirmed to have occurred at the 7th hour (1:00 p.m.), but the centurion was not surprised at the news. Note the interesting progression in the narrative:

  1. He believed in the words of the promise spoken by Jesus and
  1. He believed in Jesus as the Messiah.


Again, news of the miracles that Jesus performed traveled quickly. Many believed in Him as the result of Him cleansing of the temple (Jn. 2:23; 3:2), and they had returned to their homes in the Galilee area.  Now Jesus was requested to perform another miracle in the same area where He once turned water into wine. Two statements were made by these miracles – without a single word spoken.

  1. The first miracle in Cana was associated with creation of a new family and the joy of the wedding, at which Jesus added gladness to the feast.
  2. In the second miracle, there was sorrow with the fear of death in the family but Jesus brought health and gladness to many hearts.


After this event, some of the chronological experiences of Jesus’ life are difficult to ascertain.  John focused his gospel on the events in Judea,[7] yet he did not mention the miracles in Galilee.

On a side note, critics have long said Capernaum was a poor and isolated village with little or no significance to either the Jewish or the Gentile world.  But the fact that a Roman garrison was there speaks volumes of its significance. Archaeologists discovered a Roman bathhouse, which verifies their presence.[8] The town was a caravan stop that had a commercial center with major fishing and basalt stone products industries.[9]  There is also evidence to suggest there was at least a small facility to sell glass vessels or manufacture them.[10]


The following image can be found in the full single-volume eBook of Mysteries of the Messiah as well as in the corresponding mini-volume. Search for the following reference number: 06.01.07.A. A MOSAIC OF A FIRST CENTURY FISHING BOAT. This mosaic of a first century fishing boat is believed to be typical of those used on the Sea of Galilee by the fishermen who were called by Jesus to become His disciples. Photograph by the author at Capernaum.


The following image can be found in the full single-volume eBook of Mysteries of the Messiah as well as in the corresponding mini-volume. Search for the following reference number: 06.01.07.B. THE SO-CALLED “JESUS BOAT.”  During a severe drought in 1986, an ancient fishing boat was discovered in the mud along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  The hull matches well with the first century mosaic tile picture and has been nicknamed the “Jesus boat.” An image of the mosaic is projected on the wall so visitors see the similarities. Photograph courtesy of Kibbutz Ginnosar.


It is difficult to imagine what daily life was like in those days. In Capernaum, homes consisted of several rooms clustered around an open courtyard, which was the center of family activities.  Rooms were essentially for the storage of personal items and sleeping during the cold and rainy months.[11] Bathrooms within homes did not exist except in the palaces of the aristocrats and kings. Noticeably missing from the village was a well, since a lake of fresh water was nearby.  Dried food and crop seeds were stored in clay jars.  The Galilee area was extremely fertile and productive with wheat, fruits, and vegetables, all of which contributed to the economic growth of a mixed community of Jews and Gentiles.



06.01.07.C. A ROMAN MILESTONE AT CAPERNAUM. An early second century milestone, discovered at Capernaum, was most likely made by soldiers. When not at war or military practice, they functioned as road builders, highway engineers, pursued highway bandits, and pursued caravans who attempted to evade the tax collector. Photograph by the author at Capernaum. The translation reads as follows:

IMP (erator)


[TRAIA]NI PAR (thici)

F (ilius) [DIVI NERVAE] [N] EP (OS) TRAI


06.01.07.D. ROMAN MILESTONE INSCRIPTION. The inscription was written in Latin, the official language of the Roman Empire. Damaged and illegible letters appear in lower case.[12]  Translation of the Latin inscription reads, “The Emperor Caesar, son of the divine Trajan who conquered the Parthians, grandson of the divine Nerva, Trajan Hadrian Augustus.”[13] Notice the reference to divinity.

[1].  The Seven Signs: Water into Wine (Jn. 2:1-2); Healing the Nobleman’s Son (Jn. 4:46-54); Healing the Paralytic (Jn. 5:1-17); Feeding the 5,000 (Jn. 6:1-14); Calming the Storm (Jn. 6:15-21); Healing Man Born Blind (Jn. 9:1-14) and Resurrection of Lazarus (Jn. 11:17-45).

[2]. See “Jesus, the Fulfiller of Selected Names of God” in Appendix 32 for additional attributes.


[3]. Barclay, “Luke.” 96; Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 2:183.


[4]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 106.

[5]. Flusser, Jesus. 65.

[6]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 106.

[7]. This is implied 7:3-4.


[8]. Laughlin, “Capernaum from Jesus’ Time.” 55, 59.

[9]. See 06.03.02.A through 06.03.02.E.


[10]. Loffreda, Recovering Capharnaum. 20. Some scholars have suggested these glass vessels were imported from Phoenicia for the purpose of selling them to caravans.

[11]. Loffreda, Recovering Capharnaum. 21, 24.

[12]. Loffreda, A Visit to Capharnaum. 23.


[13]. Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 89; Loffreda, A Visit to Capharnaum. 23.


06.01.08 Capernaum

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 06.01.08 Capernaum

06.01.08 Mt. 4:12-17; Lk. 4:14-15 (See also Mk. 1:14-15) Capernaum




Mt. 12 When He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee.  13 He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

15 Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
along the sea road, beyond the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles!
                  16 The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living in the shadow land of death,
light has dawned. (Isa. 9:1-2)

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”(Mt.4:17)  

Lk. 14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread throughout the entire vicinity. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, being acclaimed by everyone.


The literary focus in the Hebraic poetry is that the Gentiles living in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali have seen a great light.  That light is Jesus.

“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,” These two ancient tribal areas in the upper and western regions of Galilee had an international highway known as the Via Maris meaning, the Way of the Sea, that connected Egypt with Damascus and other points east.[1]  For centuries, invading armies marched along this popular road to their destination.  In the process soldiers pillaged the communities for freshly harvested food and supplies.[2]  Hence, those living in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali were repeatedly plundered, raped, and murdered.  Even if they were not the targets of a military conquest, they suffered greatly.


They were especially devastated in 730 B.C. and again in 722-21, when the Assyrians marched through, captured, and relocated the ten northern Israelite tribes hundreds of miles to the east. At the same time, the Assyrians relocated five eastern Gentile tribes into what became known as Samaria, hence, the name “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Jesus ministered in these two areas – now known as Galilee and Samaria – for two reasons:

  1. To fulfill the promise spoken of by Isaiah. Because the Jews of Zebulun and Naphtali suffered so much in the past, Jesus was now bringing the message of peace and hope to their descendants.[3]
  1. He was outside of the arresting powers of the Sanhedrin.[4] While the high court sent observers to listen and eventually confront Jesus, there was nothing they could do until He came into Jerusalem.[5]


“Galilee of the Gentiles.”  When the Assyrians relocated the Israelites in 722/721 B.C., they removed so many of them that the vast majority of the remaining people were Gentiles.  For this reason Isaiah referred to the region as the Galilee of the Gentiles (Isa. 9:1) as did the author of 1 Maccabees (5:15). By the first century Galilee had a significant population of Phoenicians, Syrians, and Greeks. Archaeological data indicate an almost complete abandonment of the region as the result of the Assyrian campaigns from 733 to 701 B.C.[6] The province remained unchanged for centuries and it was not until the era of Nehemiah and Ezra, and again after the Maccabean Revolt, that Jews began to repopulate Galilee. But that was only minimal repopulation, as a major influx of Jewish people from Babylon and elsewhere occurred in the wake of the Hasmonean conquest. Some scholars believe the forefathers of Mary and Joseph came from Babylon to the province of Galilee after the Revolt. Scholars believe that for this reason Galileans had a noticeable accent in their speech.


To confirm the absence of Gentiles living  in this area, it is significant that archaeologists have uncovered numerous villages that had no evidence of pig bones – a sure sign of Gentile occupation. On the other hand, there are three positive indicators of Jewish occupation that have been discovered in nearly every community.  They are:

  1. Ceremonial stone vessels made of limestone that reflect concern for ritual purity
  1. Stepped plastered ritual baths known as mikvaoth.
  1. Tombs that reflect burial practices that were unique to the Jewish people. They placed the body of the deceased inside so-called kokhim or loculi,[7] a horizontally shafted underground family tomb. This was a distinctive practice in the end of the Second Temple Period.[8]


Furthermore, Josephus said that a “countless multitude” came from Galilee and other areas to Jerusalem at Pentecost,[9] and that they did so by going through Samaria.[10]  The Jewish population had increased significantly after the Maccabean Revolt when Jews migrated from Babylon. It is not surprising then, that because of the Gentile reputation of centuries past and the fact that the Galileans had an accent and some customs that were somewhat different than the Jerusalemites, the religious leaders of Jerusalem generally snubbed them. It should be noted that a growing number of scholars believe that in spite of the political, military, social, and economic crises in “Eretz Israel” (the land of Israel), the Jewish people maintained a majority over Gentile and Samaritan populations in the first centuries B.C. and A.D.[11]


Repent.” The word repent in Greek is metanoias, which literally means to change one’s mind. However, in the first century culture, to change one’s mind also meant to change one’s lifestyle to match his new way of thinking.[12]  This is the central message of Jesus because it is critical to establishing the Kingdom of God within one’s life. The nearness of the kingdom has reference to the presence of Jesus among men.  His words and works are the good news of the gospel of God that demands a human response.  It is a measure of time determined by God for the fulfillment of the kingdom as promised from the foundation of the world and promised in various covenants throughout history.  The plan of God was about to be fulfilled as stated on the cross when Jesus said, “It is finished.”  This clearly set guidelines to protect the church from false teachers, who would come and state that the work of Jesus was not complete and that another message of God would need to be heard.


06.01.08.Q1 What is the “Kingdom of Heaven”?

The kingdoms of this world consist of matter and flesh, of power and deceit, of depraved human nature. The Kingdom of Heaven/God is the opposite.  It is the kingdom of the Spirit and the soul, the kingdom of renunciation and of purity; the kingdom of all things valued by men who know the worthlessness of everything else in comparison.  The phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” is an expression not found in the Hebrew Bible; the term was developed by sages to refer to God as king or to God reigning in the lives of His people forever (Ex. 15:18). Mark used this phrase in conjunction with “the time (Gk. kairos) is near,” meaning “the Day of the Lord” that the prophets foresaw is “approaching quickly.”[13]


But Jesus did not wish to be the restorer of earthly kingdoms or be the conqueror of people. God offered kingship to Jesus via the cross, which is in stark contrast to Satan who offers so-called “eternal life” without the cross.  The kingship of Jesus is the Kingdom of Heaven within His believers. The day when a soul has repented, has turned to righteousness, and has placed Jesus in the center of his or her life, the eternal Kingdom of Heaven has been enlarged because it has acquired a new citizen.


The ideal Kingdom of God is to be realized in the absolute rule of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son, by whom all things are made and consist (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16-20). His earthly life was one of perfect obedience to God and whose sacrificial offering of love upon the cross reveal to men their true relation to God, and whose spirit works to bring them into this relationship. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Spirit of God functioning within a person, and that person, in turn, functions accordingly to his or her best abilities to serve God.


Finally, it should be noted that from the Book of Daniel, the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven,” was a familiar phrase in the first century.  The term was found in the Psalms of Solomon 17:4 and other Jewish books that were in wide circulation of the time.


06.01.08.Q2 Is there a difference within the phrases “Kingdom of God/Heaven?”

No. Matthew, speaking to a Jewish audience would not have used the name of God, but rather, would have used a substitute word such as “Heaven, Power, Glory, the Highest,” or “the Name.” The reason is that most Jewish people had so much respect for God that they did not even mention His name, but addressed Him with a different title. But other gospel writers who addressed their works to a Gentile audience would have used the word “God” because their audiences would not have thought they were offending Deity by using the word “God.” Matthew, at times, used the plural form “heavens,” which is characteristically Hebraic and does not occur in any other language.[14] The phrase “Kingdom of God” simply means that God has complete rulership of one’s life.


The Kingdom of God is also in the future in that there will come a time when Jesus will rule and reign upon the earth for a thousand years with Jerusalem as His capital.  The Kingdom that is in the present is the one in which every believer permits Jesus to rule and reign his or her life.  However, in the future there will be a completely different Kingdom – one where Jesus will rule and reign over the nations of the world as a political entity – King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


“Their synagogues.” Matthew used this phrase several times,[15] as if to suggest a future separation between Jesus and traditional Judaism (although a break was never the intent).  He also spoke of “their” scribes (Mt. 7:29) and “their” cities (Mt. 11:1). Even though followers of Jesus functioned within Judaism throughout most of the first century, by the end of the Second Revolt in A.D. 135, there was a clear separation.


[1]. See  07.03.05.Z “Map of Major Routes through First Century Israel.”


[2]. For more details, see 03.02.04-05, “733 B.C. Israel Falls To The Assyrians; Israelites Deported To The East; 723 B.C. Israel Ends.”


[3]. Monson, Regions on the Run. 31.

[4]. Thompson, “Sanhedrin.” 3:1390.


[5]. It is interesting that the synoptic gospels hardly mention Jesus in Jerusalem until the Passion week, yet John’s gospel concentrates on His ministry in the Holy City. For further study, see Burton Throchmorton, Gospel Parallels.


[6]. Dunn, “Did Jesus Attend the Synagogue?” 208-09.


[7]. Kloner and Zissu. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. 77.


[8]. Reed, Archaeology. 47; Dunn, “Did Jesus Attend the Synagogue?” 208-10.


[9]. Josephus, Antiquities 20.6.1 and Wars 2.12.3.


[10]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.2 and Wars 2.3.1.


[11]. Cohen, “The Attitude to the Gentile in the Halakhah and in Reality in the Tannaitic Period.” 35.

[12]. Barclay, “Mark.” 26; Richardson, “Repent.” 191-92.


[13]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 232.    

[14]. Grintz, “Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language in the Last Days of the Second Temple.”  37.

[15]. Mt. 4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54; 23:34.

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