Get a Firm Hold on the Real Life
“Give orders . . . to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.”—1 Tim. 6:17-19.
1-3. (a) Describe the scene as the angry crowd demanded that “the man” Jesus be put to death. (b) What may Jesus have been thinking about under those circumstances? (c) What questions does all this raise?
“LOOK! The man!” There he stood before the howling crowd, and among them the chief priests and officers of the Jews who shouted, “Impale him! Impale him!” Murder was in their very hearts as they cried out, “He ought to die.” It does not take much imagination to envision in our mind’s eye this hostile crowd seeking blood. And whose blood did they want? None other than that of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.—John 19:4-7.
2 No doubt many things ran through Jesus’ mind as he was standing there outside Pilate’s palace. He knew he had come down from heaven to do his Father’s will. He understood that that divine will included dying on a torture stake, and this is what he immediately faced. But what about the future? Would he be resurrected? This he knew depended on whether he had been judged faithful in all he had been given to do; also on whether he would be able to endure the terrible pressure of these final hours down to his last gasping breath.
3 But here we are at the end of the story. How did it all begin? And how, we may wonder, was Jesus in dying able to get a firm hold on the real life?
4, 5. (a) How did it come about that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? (b) What announcement of this event was made, and to whom was it given?
4 It was back in the year 2 B.C.E. that the angel Gabriel came to Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, while in the little village of Nazareth and told her that she was going to give birth to a son, and that her child would really be the Son of God. Later that same year Mary and Joseph traveled down to the city of Bethlehem, some sixty miles to the south, in order to register as decreed by Caesar Augustus. The timing of this decree was providential, for they had no sooner arrived than Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. All of this was just as it had been foretold in prophecy.—Luke 1:26-35; 2:1-7; Mic. 5:2.
5 Jehovah’s angel announced this momentous event to the shepherds in the nearby fields that historic night, saying: “I am declaring to you good news of a great joy . . . there was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David’s city.” Immediately they hastened to ‘see this thing that had taken place.’ Upon returning to their flocks they glorified and praised God “for all the things they heard and saw.”—Luke 2:8-20.
Childhood Events in Jesus’ Life
6. What occurred when Jesus was eight days old?
6 According to the custom of the Jews, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day and was presented at the temple in Jerusalem forty days from birth, for Joseph and Mary to make the proper sacrifice according to the ‘law of Jehovah.’ It was on this visit to the temple that they met an aged man named Simeon to whom it had been revealed “by the holy spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Christ of Jehovah.” Taking the infant in his arms Simeon blessed Jehovah, saying: “My eyes have seen your means of saving . . . and a glory of your people Israel.” Also, an eighty-four-year-old prophetess named Anna “came near and began returning thanks to God and speaking about the child to all those waiting for Jerusalem’s deliverance.”—Luke 2:21-38.
7, 8. What series of events caused Jesus’ family first to go to Egypt and later to return to the village of Nazareth?
7 Some time after these events, interestingly enough, the astrologers that were reported to have come to Jesus on the day he was born (according to Christendom’s teachings), now arrived. They had first gone to Jerusalem and were there told to go to Bethlehem, and there “they saw the young child with Mary its mother.” After opening their treasures and presenting the child with costly gifts they returned direct to their eastern country, having been given divine warning in a dream not to go back to Herod in Jerusalem. Jehovah’s angel then informed Joseph: “Get up, take the young child and its mother and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I give you word; for Herod is about to search for the young child to destroy it.”—Matt. 2:1-15.
8 So right from the beginning the Son of God as a newborn child was not wanted by someone, and that someone was Satan the Devil, the archenemy of Jehovah. Herod, as Satan’s agent, seeing that he had been outwitted by the astrologers, went into a rage. He ordered that all the male children in Bethlehem two years of age and younger be killed. The Devil and his earthly tool certainly went to great lengths in an effort to murder the Son of God. It was not until after Herod died that Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned from the land of Egypt and settled in Nazareth.—Matt. 2:19-23.
9, 10. (a) What occurred at Passover time when Jesus was twelve years old? (b) After that, what information do we have about Jesus during his teen-age years?
9 There in the district of Galilee the child Jesus grew up with his foster father and his mother and half brothers and sisters. He was taught the carpenter’s trade and he “continued growing and getting strong.” When we again hear of Jesus, the historical record tells us he had traveled with his parents to Jerusalem at Passover time, he being twelve years old. Somehow he became separated from his parents, and when they finally found him after three days, why, there he was in the temple “sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning them. But all those listening to him were in constant amazement at his understanding and his answers.” No, this lad Jesus was not wasting his time with a gang of juvenile delinquents around town. “Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” he told his astonished parents.—Luke 2:39-50.
10 Jesus returned to Nazareth and continued to be in obedient subjection to his parents, and as the account says: “Jesus went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.” Later on in his life Jesus certainly would need all the wisdom, physical strength and blessing of God he could acquire in childhood.—Luke 2:51, 52.
Jesus Begins His Dynamic Ministry
11. What very important event in Jesus’ life took place in the year 29 C.E.?
11 After the events of the year 12 C.E. we have no particular record of Jesus until the fall of 29 C.E., when, at the age of thirty, he comes to John the Baptist, evidently his cousin, requesting to be baptized in the Jordan River. Immediately after the baptism John not only saw the holy spirit descend in the form of a dove upon Jesus but also heard a voice from heaven saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” So from his baptism on, Jesus had the backing of Jehovah’s dynamic energy.—Matt. 3:13-17.
12, 13. How did Satan attempt to destroy Jesus at the outset of his ministry, but how did the subtle scheme fail?
12 In preparation for his great work Jesus was led by the holy spirit into the wilderness of Judea, where he fasted for forty days. At the end of this period, when Jesus was in a weakened physical state, the Devil, still seeking to destroy this Son of God, approached him with a threefold temptation, hoping to break his integrity. He suggested that Jesus turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. This failed. He then tried to entice Jesus to prove he was the Son of God by jumping off the battlement of the temple. This too failed. Then the “ruler of this world,” the Devil, offered Jesus all the human kingdoms if he would but fall down and do a single act of worship to Satan. This also failed. How did this man Jesus, perfect in physical and mental powers, respond to these offers? Did he entertain them, think about them, weigh them in his mind, or was he enticed by their desirability? Did he answer the Devil with human reasoning or rabbinical logic? No, in each instance he immediately fell back on God’s Word for his answer and defense, saying: “It is written . . .”—Matt. 4:1-11; John 12:31.
13 So right from the start of his special earthly ministry Jesus walked in his integrity, faithful and loyal to his heavenly Father, Jehovah. And this he continued to do until he was ignominiously impaled. Jesus certainly proved he was reaching out to get, eventually, a firm hold on the real life, everlasting life!
14. (a) Do we know what Jesus looked like? (b) Then, how are we to know what kind of person he was?
14 Have you ever wondered what Jesus looked like, or what kind of person this Son of God was? As to what he looked like, the Bible is absolutely silent. It tells us nothing as to what the color of his hair or eyes was, nor does it give his height, weight or any other particulars on his appearance. Such matters are insignificant trivialities. What kind of person he was, however, is most important, and concerning this we learn a great deal from what he did, what he said, how he said it and what others said about him.
15. Historically, how does Jesus compare as a worker with others of the past or present?
15 It is an acknowledged fact that cannot be disputed, Jesus Christ was the greatest, most influential individual ever to tread this earth. All human history before his time focused on his coming and all history since pivots on his arrival. And what is also astounding is the very brief time in which he accomplished so much. It is not an exaggeration to say that in just three and a half years Jesus did a hundredfold more than other persons do in a lifetime. If you question this statement, then measure the accomplishments of any other creature with the inspired statement of the apostle John: “There are, in fact, many other things also which Jesus did, which, if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose, the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.” There is no question that Jesus was a hard worker!—John 21:25.
16. Were the associates of Jesus prepared to carry on the preaching and disciple-making work after he was put to death?
16 Soon after Jesus’ baptism he selected certain disciples who later traveled along and were closely associated with him during his ministry. (John 1:35-51) You recall how, at the conclusion of his earthly ministry, the resurrected Jesus told these associates, ‘Go and make disciples of people of all the nations.’ In doing so he was not sending them out on a mission with which they were unacquainted. No; rather, they had observed him closely for about three years as he had made disciples, and so they were well trained and equipped to carry on the work Jesus himself had started.—Matt. 28:19.
17. What are some of the events that happened during the first six months of Jesus’ ministry, and how much territory did he cover in this period?
17 It was in Cana of Galilee where Jesus performed his first miracle as a sign to strengthen his disciples’ faith in his Messiahship. After that he visited Capernaum and preached there for a time before going up to Jerusalem for the Passover in the year 30 C.E. So in the first six months of his preaching and disciple-making Jesus had moved around quite a bit—from the lower Jordan valley where John was baptizing to the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee in the north and the hills to its west, and then back down south to Jerusalem.—John 2:1-13.
“The Man” in Action
18. What admirable qualities were displayed by Jesus when he visited Jerusalem at Passover time in 30 C.E.?
18 If Pilate had observed the temple area when Jesus walked in at that particular Passover season with a whip in his hand, he probably would have exclaimed, “Look! The man in action!” Ah, yes! a really bold, courageous man filled with righteous indignation at seeing his Father’s house of worship turned into a house of merchandising. So into action he went, driving out the sheep and cattle, pouring out the money and overturning the tables—all single-handed. This was no pusillanimous weakling, as Christendom’s works of art so often picture Jesus. His disciples, watching this valiant man of action, remarked that the prophecy of Psalm 69:9 was there being fulfilled before their very eyes: “The zeal for your house will eat me up.”—John 2:14-17.
19, 20. (a) Who was Nicodemus, and what conversation took place between him and Jesus? (b) What test did Jesus say would identify whether a man is bad or good?
19 Another admirable quality displayed by Jesus was his ability to speak the truth with boldness, without timidity when in the presence of rulers. This was demonstrated when the Pharisee Nicodemus came to see him during the night. Nicodemus, “a ruler of the Jews,” correctly identified Jesus, saying: “We know that you as a teacher have come from God.” In response, Jesus said: “Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” When this Pharisee displayed his dullness of understanding, Jesus rebuked him, saying: “Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things? . . . If I have told you earthly things and yet you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Nevertheless, Jesus showed impartiality, for he continued giving this man the same opportunity as everyone else to know the truth, the truth that only those exercising faith in the only-begotten Son of God will ever get a firm hold on the real life. “He that exercises faith in him [the Son],” Jesus told him, “is not to be judged. He that does not exercise faith has been judged already, because he has not exercised faith in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” Thus, it was left up to Nicodemus to determine for himself whether he would receive adverse divine judgment or not.—John 3:1-12, 16-18.
20 Probably this member of the Sanhedrin chose the cover of darkness to visit Jesus because he feared the Jews, and felt it might damage his reputation if he was seen by them in the presence of Jesus. This may have been the reason Jesus closed his conversation with Nicodemus by saying: “Here lies the test: the light has come into the world, but men preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil. Bad men all hate the light and avoid it, for fear their practices should be shown up. The honest man comes to the light so that it may be clearly seen that God is in all he does.”—John 3:19-21, New English Bible.
21. What evidence showed that the work of John the Baptist was decreasing?
21 After these events Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, where many believers were baptized, not by Jesus but by his disciples. So many, in fact, were being baptized that disciples of John the Baptist asked him what was the meaning of this. In answer, among other things, John explained: “That one [Jesus] must go on increasing, but I must go on decreasing.”—John 3:22–4:2.
22. What occurred in the city of Sychar that opened up the way for many Samaritans, in due time, to get a firm hold on the real life?
22 Soon after John the Baptist was imprisoned, Jesus left Judea and went into Galilee. (Matt. 4:12) On the way he and his companions passed through the territory of the Samaritans, where Jesus did a little “informal witnessing” to a woman at a well outside the city of Sychar. He was “tired out from the journey”; nevertheless, he seized the opportunity to identify himself, for the Samaritans were also looking for Messiah. The upshot of that conversation with the Samaritan woman by the well was that other people came out of the city to meet Jesus. They, in turn, begged him so strongly to remain with them that he stayed there two days, and “many more believed on account of what he said.”—John 4:3-43.
Jesus Begins Great Galilean Ministry
23. Returning to the district of Galilee, what theme did Jesus now include in his message, and for what reason?
23 Some time after Passover of 30 C.E., this dynamic minister arrived back in the district of Galilee and spent the greater part of the next two years in that area. On this the account says, “Jesus returned in the power of the spirit into Galilee,” which well explains why the Galileans were privileged to witness some of his most powerful works. His spirit-powered message incorporated for the first time the theme used by John the Baptist, who was now silenced by imprisonment, namely, “Repent . . . for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.”—Luke 4:14, 15; Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14, 15; John 4:43.
24. (a) What very unusual event occurred in the Nazareth synagogue? (b) But how did the townspeople respond, and why so?
24 “In the power of the spirit” Jesus entered the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth on the sabbath and read to them from the scroll of Isaiah, chapter 61, verses 1 and 2: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.” Jesus then declared: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.” Well, they marveled at his winsome words, but when he declined to perform miracles for their entertainment and, instead, compared his hearers to the faithless Israelites in the days of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, they “became filled with anger” and hurried him out to a precipice in an attempt to throw him over. However, this powerful, spirit-led Jesus simply walked through their midst and left for Capernaum, for this was not the time nor the manner for his death.—Luke 4:16-31.
25, 26. (a) Did Jesus stop preaching in the territory of Galilee because of the ill-treatment he received in his hometown of Nazareth? (b) What miracles did he perform, and with what results?
25 While walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus invited four disciples to accompany him in his ministry—Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John. The account then tells how this zealous disciple-maker “went around throughout the whole of Galilee . . . preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity.” Reports soon spread far and wide throughout Syria and crowds of people came with all kinds of diseases—among them epileptics, paralytics, demon-possessed persons—and he cured them all.—Matt. 4:18-24.
26 There was also a leper who, on bended knee, entreated Jesus: “If you just want to, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus touched him and said: “I want to. Be made clean.” The man was then told not to advertise the matter, but to go show himself to the priest and to make the offering required by the Law. But because people do talk about such miraculous things, soon the news spread until it became impossible for Jesus even to enter a city openly. So he sought a little peace and quiet in lonely places outside the city, yet the crowds “kept coming to him from all sides.”—Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16.
27. What demonstrated how extremely patient Jesus was with others?
27 We can imagine what a drain this was on Jesus’ time and energy. Even a perfect man needs some time to relax and rest, but it seems that those people, in their eagerness to be cured of their infirmities (and free of charge at that), did not want to give Jesus even this little consideration to which he was entitled. But the more interesting thing is that Jesus never complained or showed resentment because of this lack of consideration, and this demonstrated another of his truly great qualities, namely, his extreme patience with people.
28. (a) What was especially manifest on the occasion when Jesus cured a certain paralytic at Capernaum? (b) Did all those present rejoice over seeing this miracle performed?
28 After being away from Capernaum for some days it was reported that Jesus had returned and soon so many people crowded in and around the house where he was staying that it was impossible to enter. As a consequence, four energetic friends of a paralytic cut a hole in the roof and lowered him, cot and all, down to where Jesus was. This rather amusing aspect of the event is about all some people remember. However, far from being an attention-grabbing stunt, it demonstrated the faith that those people had, and “Jesus saw their faith.” So he said: “Child, your sins are forgiven.” But not everyone present rejoiced at hearing that. Certain scribes found fault with Jesus in their hearts. Being able to discern what was in their hearts, Jesus attempted to reason with them: ‘Which is easier,’ he asked, ‘to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and pick up your cot and walk”?’ He then explained why he used the first expression—“in order for you men to know that the Son of man has authority to forgive sins upon the earth.” Now was that not a kind way of rebuking those scribes? A tremendous witness of God’s power and kingdom was thus given and those present for the most part exclaimed: “We never saw the like of it.”—Mark 2:1-12; Matt. 9:2-8.
29. When opponents disapproved Jesus’ eating with tax collectors and sinners, how did he appropriately answer them?
29 One of the things that greatly impresses the reader of these inspired historical accounts is how often Jesus had the exact, most fitting and appropriate answer to silence opponents. For example, after selecting the tax collector Levi to be one of his followers, this man spread a big reception feast and invited Jesus and his disciples as well as many tax collectors and sinners. Well, the Pharisees and their scribes reproached Jesus for eating with these people who, in their eyes, were looked down upon as sinful and corrupt men, persons to be shunned and avoided. So what was Jesus’ perfect answer to silence these Pharisaical ridiculers? This: “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ailing do. I have come to call, not righteous persons, but sinners to repentance.”—Luke 5:27-32.
“The Man” Did Good on the Sabbath
30, 31. (a) What occurred when Jesus visited the pool of Bethzátha on the sabbath? (b) How did Jesus justify the doing of good on the sabbath?
30 In the spring of 31 C.E. Jesus once again traveled down to Jerusalem for the Passover. Near the sheepgate of the city at a pool called Bethzátha he came upon a pathetic scene. Many sick and diseased people, some blind, others lame or with withered members, were seeking to be cured. Picking out a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years, Jesus said to him: “Get up, pick up your cot and walk.” This the man did, completely cured!—John 5:1-9.
31 But the Jews who observed this, instead of glorifying God over what had taken place, raised a howl against Jesus because he did this good work of healing on the sabbath. How did Jesus answer them? He said: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” Ah, yes, in imitation of the Supreme Worker, who never ceases laboring in our behalf, who sends sunshine and rain even on the sabbath, so too this Master Worker Jesus never ceased working what was good for the benefit of others even on the sabbath.—John 5:10-17.
32, 33. Besides their objecting to miraculous cures on the sabbath, what other accusation did opponents level at Jesus, but how did he answer it?
32 Did the crowd accept Jesus’ explanation? No, but they became even more infuriated, “seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God”—at least, that is how they viewed it. It is difficult to imagine that those people were so blinded by religious traditions that, even in the face of such indisputable evidence that he was the Messiah, they refused to acknowledge that it was God who cured this man by means of Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus continued to reason with them, showing them he was not “making himself equal to God,” but was giving all credit to Jehovah for what he had done, saying, “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing.” Why, they would see him doing even greater things, for the time was coming “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,” yes, “the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.”—John 5:18-30.
33 In telling that crowd these great truths did Jesus really think he would convince them that he was Messiah? Hardly. He was not that naïve. Hence, he concluded this conversation, saying: “If you believed Moses you would believe me, for that one wrote about me. But if you do not believe the writings of that one, how will you believe my sayings?”—John 5:46, 47.
34. On another occasion, why was the charge of sabbathbreaking made against Jesus’ disciples?
34 After the Passover at Jerusalem, on the way back to the district of Galilee Jesus’ disciples picked and ate a few heads of grain when passing through a field. Again the Pharisees accused them of sabbathbreaking. In reply, Jesus said that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, and besides, “the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath.”—Mark 2:23-28.
35. On yet another sabbath, how did Jesus further reason with his opponents that it was right to perform miracles on the sabbath, and with what results?
35 On the occasion of another sabbath, Jesus was in a synagogue and the Pharisees were watching whether he would “break” the sabbath by curing a man’s withered hand. In order to get an accusation against him, they asked: “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” In reply, Jesus asked: “Who will be the man among you that has one sheep and, if this falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not get hold of it and lift it out?” With that he told the man to hold out his withered hand, and it was immediately restored as sound as the other. Again, did those Pharisaical religious leaders praise God for this divine demonstration of Jesus’ Messiahship? No; rather, they became filled with madness and “went out and took counsel against him that they might destroy him.” So again we see that this “Lord of the sabbath” showed no fear of those wicked men. He kept right on doing good and working seven days a week at the job Jehovah had given him to do.—Matt. 12:9-14; Luke 6:5-11.
Master Teacher Pressed Forward Without Letup
36. Why was there an even greater urgency now than when Jesus began his ministry?
36 Just three months after Passover 31 C.E. Jesus reached the halfway mark in his disciple-making work. He had only another year and nine months left in which to complete the assignment and get a firm hold on the real life. There was no time to lose. Much work had yet to be done.
37. What famous speech did Jesus deliver near Capernaum, with what special benefits to us if we read it?
37 About this time Jesus delivered his celebrated discourse commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. Just where that mountain was located is not known for a certainty, but it was near Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. What really matters was what Jesus said on that occasion. You will find this sermon recorded in Matthew 5:3–7:27, chapter five, verse three, through chapter seven, verse twenty-seven. In that speech Jesus certainly gave his audience a great deal to think about, more, in fact, than is possible to repeat in a few words. It would do all of us good to sit down and read that sermon and to think about what he said. Jesus was there speaking the thoughts of God under inspiration as his Father in heaven directed. So if we want to think God’s thoughts we do well to take the time to read and meditate on what was there said.
38. What made Jesus’ methods of teaching so effective?
38 What did Jesus’ audience think about that open-air talk? “The effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching; for he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.” He certainly proved he was the Master Teacher, with no earthly peer. Some of the things that made Jesus’ teaching methods so effective were simplicity, brevity, clarity, solid logic, vivid illustrations and penetrating questions that caused his audience to search their own hearts and come to a decision, either for or against the truth.—Matt. 7:28, 29.
39. Besides his astounding teachings, what else did Jesus continue to do to convince people that he was Messiah?
39 In addition to his using effective methods of teaching, this Great Teacher continued to punctuate the latter half of his ministry with miracles as he moved about from place to place. In Capernaum he healed the paralyzed servant of a non-Israelite army officer, because, as Jesus said: “With no one in Israel have I found so great a faith.” As the bier bearing the body of the only son of a widow passed by on its way to the cemetery of Nain, Jesus touched it and at his command the young man was brought to life. What a witness that was to Jesus’ Messiahship!—Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:11-17.
40. How was the imprisoned John the Baptist to know whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah?
40 News of these wonderful things reached the imprisoned John the Baptist, and so he sent messengers inquiring of Jesus, “Are you the Coming One . . . ?” In reply, Jesus told them to report what they were seeing with their own eyes—the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised and the poor being told the good news. That would certainly convince John that the “Coming One” had indeed come.—Luke 7:18-23.
41, 42. (a) What occurred on one occasion when Jesus was eating a meal with a Pharisee? (b) How did the Master Teacher tactfully show that self-righteous ones will receive little forgiveness for their sins?
41 Why, even when Jesus took time out to eat he was always alert and ready to teach people the truth. Take, for example, the time when he was reclining at a meal in a Pharisee’s home and a notoriously sinful woman came weeping, in hopes of having Jesus forgive her sins. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, tenderly kissed them and greased them with costly perfumed oil. In observing this the Pharisee discredited Jesus in his heart, in fact, he disdained the whole scene. But notice how the Master Teacher, by the following illustration, taught this self-righteous Pharisee a lesson he would not soon forget. Two men were debtors to a certain lender, one owing him five hundred denarii, the other only fifty. The debtors being unable to pay, the lender canceled both debts. Of course, the debtor who owed more had reason to love the lender more. Jesus now applied the illustration to the case at hand, saying:
42 “I entered into your house; you gave me no water for my feet. But this woman wet my feet with her tears and wiped them off with her hair. You gave me no kiss; but this woman, from the hour that I came in, did not leave off tenderly kissing my feet. You did not grease my head with oil; but this woman greased my feet with perfumed oil. By virtue of this, I tell you, her sins, many though they are, are forgiven, because she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”—Luke 7:36-50.
43. What occurred when Jesus revisited all the Galilean communities for a second time?
43 Shortly after these events Jesus began visiting all the cities and villages in Galilee for the second time, taking along his twelve apostles, together with a number of devout women disciples. On this tour he expelled more demons, encountered more opposition from the Pharisees, spoke more illustrations, opened more blind eyes, raised more dead persons, and comforted more oppressed people with the good news about his glorious kingdom.—Matt. 12:22-45; 13:1-52; Luke 8:1-3.
44. What was the response to the preaching of the good news about God’s kingdom in the country of the Gadarenes?
44 The circular tour took Jesus across the Sea of Galilee to the country of the Gadarenes. How would this new territory receive the Great Teacher? Well, when he expelled a “Legion” of demons from a couple of men, and the demons caused a herd of swine to rush headlong over a precipice, the townspeople urged Jesus to leave their district. Did Jesus put up a fight and refuse to leave? No, time was too short for that. He had given a witness. At least one of the demonized men put faith in Jesus, and he was rewarded by a commission from Jesus to go and spread the good news among his relatives and to the federated ten cities known as the Decapolis. So there was no need for Jesus to remain. More worthy ones were anxiously awaiting his recrossing of Galilee that they might receive the blessing of his presence, people like Jairus with a dying daughter and the unnamed woman whose twelve-year flow of blood no physician could cure. Yes, indeed, the time was too short to waste with unappreciative opposers.—Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-43.
45. How did the townspeople of Nazareth respond when Jesus again returned to teach in their synagogue, reminding him of what?
45 If Jesus revisited his own hometown of Nazareth, would he find they had had a change of heart? Would they recognize their past error and gladly welcome their most distinguished citizen? Well, upon his returning and teaching in their synagogue, they were astounded at his wisdom, and yet they stumbled over his being what they thought was only “the carpenter’s son.” In remarking, “A prophet is not unhonored except in his home territory and in his own house,” Jesus probably had in mind the prophet Jeremiah and how his town’s people had rejected him.—Matt. 13:54-58; Jer. 1:1; 11:21.
Meeting the Need for a Greater Witness
46, 47. (a) After two years of intensive witnessing, do we find Jesus tapering off in his ministerial activity? (b) What was his appraisal of the people’s spiritual situation after visiting the territory for a third time, and what did he say should be done about it?
46 One might conclude that after about two years of intensive preaching, after revisiting a number of areas, after performing a great host of miracles witnessed by thousands of persons, after all this, by now Jesus would think about tapering off his campaign. But just the contrary, we find him taking steps to speed up and expand the preaching work.
47 First of all, Jesus himself set out on yet another, a third tour of Galilee, visiting “all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity.” What he saw on this circuit tour convinced him more than ever of the need of increasing and intensifying the preaching work. Wherever he went, on seeing the crowds “he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” “Yes, the harvest is great, but the workers are few,” he observed. What could be done about it? “Beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest,” was Jesus’ advice.—Matt. 9:35-38.
48. What instructions did Jesus give the twelve before sending them out in the preaching work?
48 In harmony with his fervent prayer this man of zeal and action took steps to get more preachers of the good news out into the field. He summoned the twelve apostles and sent them out two by two, making six teams of Kingdom preachers going over the territory in six different directions. In sending these full-time ministers out he gave them specific instructions as to where they were to go, to whom they were to preach and whom they were to avoid. They were also told to say and do exactly what they had observed Jesus say and do. “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” By the power of holy spirit they would be able to “cure sick people, raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons.” They were not to charge money for such godly cures either. “You received free, give free,” was to be the rule they would follow.—Matt. 10:1-42; Mark 6:7-13.
49. Why did Jesus and his apostles decide to leave for a lonely place, but what developments followed?
49 When the twelve returned to relate the wonderful experiences they had enjoyed, Jesus suggested that they retire to some lonely place outside the city, for where they were “there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure time even to eat a meal.” But people got wind of where they were heading and they got there even ahead of Jesus and his disciples. So what was this perfect example of unselfishness and generosity, this Great Teacher, to do? When he saw them “he was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.” Time ran on. The hour got late. They were all hungry. So this miracle-working man of God fed five thousand men with but five loaves of bread and two fish, and yet, there were twelve baskets of fragments left over!—Mark 6:30-44.
50. Within a brief period Jesus was reported to be in what widely scattered places?
50 This event occurred around Passover time in the year 32, which meant that there was only about a year left in which Jesus must finish his work and prove worthy of the real life that was being held in reserve for him as a reward for his faithfulness. It is not surprising, then, that we now find Jesus preaching in widely scattered places and all within a brief period, as he endeavored to give a greater witness over a greater area to a greater number of people. First, we find him in the vicinity of Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Next, he is reported to be performing miracles on the Mediterranean coast near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Soon after that he is far from there, east of the Sea of Galilee and the upper Jordan, preaching in the ten cities called the Decapolis and performing many miracles in that territory.—Mark 7:24-37.
51. What hardships and inconveniences did Jesus no doubt experience, yet why, apparently, is no mention made of these matters?
51 Come to think about it, Jesus certainly did a lot of walking to reach these scattered places. And yet, he never complained about the physical strain or about the hardship caused by the heat or the rain, the dust or the mud, as the case might be. In fact, these things were considered so inconsequential that they are never mentioned. The big thing, the important matter, the lifesaving preaching work that Jesus did—this is the thing that inspired Bible writers stress in their accounts.
52. Who were the greatest opposers of Jesus, and what proves they would never repent and accept the Messiah?
52 That is not to say that the Bible is silent altogether concerning the things Jesus suffered in his ministry. It does tell us a great deal about the persecution and opposition that was heaped upon him, especially by the religious leaders. From the beginning to the end of his earthly ministry he had to contend with their ever-present challenges. Here it was more than two years, during which time he had shown the people one miraculous evidence after another to prove he was indeed the Son of God. And now, having just fed several thousand people (four thousand men, besides women and children) with just seven loaves of bread and a few fish—a feat that ought to convince the most skeptical unbeliever—here come the Pharisees and Sadducees seeking a sign from heaven that Jesus was Messiah. What was Jesus’ response? He merely repeated what he had already told them on a previous occasion, namely, “A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” And as events later proved, when that “sign of Jonah” occurred, when Jesus was in the heart of the earth for three days as Jonah was in the belly of the fish, yet those “wicked and adulterous” men refused to believe!—Matt. 15:32–16:4; 12:38-40.
53. Near the conclusion of Jesus’ two-year Galilean ministry, what important event took place, and where?
53 Before winding up his great Galilean ministry that had occupied the larger part of two years, Jesus took Peter, James and John up into a lofty mountain. There, in what was probably 9,000-foot-high Mount Hermon, they witnessed the transfiguration scene.—Matt. 17:1-13.
Jesus Turns Full Attention on the South
54. Where was Jesus’ activity centered during the final six months?
54 It was in the fall of the year 32, at the festival of booths, when Jesus moved the center of his activity southward, in and around Jerusalem and the districts of Judea and Perea. There he concentrated his preaching during the last six months of his earthly ministry. Here, as elsewhere, Jesus taught the people wise precepts and righteous principles, many times by the use of appropriate illustrations. Some of his most important pronouncements and prophecies were uttered during this campaign in the south.
55. Where do we find Jesus preaching, in the face of opposition, and what does he have to say to believers and nonbelievers?
55 As the end drew closer, and the enemy became more desperate, Jesus had to be even more cautious that they did not kill him before the due time set by God. (John 7:1-19, 25) And yet, do we find this energetic preacher hiding out in the hills, or compromising his message so that it would be inoffensive to the religious susceptibilities of the clergy? Not at all. He boldly entered the temple and began teaching the people, as was his custom. To those who believed him he said, “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But to the opposers he said, “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father.”—John 8:31, 32, 44.
56. What was done to speed up the dividing of the people in the short remaining time of Jesus’ ministry?
56 Jesus realized that here too in this territory ‘the harvest, indeed, was great, but the workers few.’ So if, in the limited time he had, an effective witness was to be given in this territory, as he had done during the two years in the north, then some spadework, so to speak, would have to be done. He therefore “designated seventy others and sent them forth by twos in advance of him into every city and place to which he himself was going to come.” This meant that, instead of the six pairs used in Galilee the year before, now there were thirty-five pairs of witnesses crying out in the land, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” This would certainly prepare the people so they could quickly decide whether they were for or against Messiah when he visited their city.—Luke 10:1-16.
57. When the seventy evangelists returned, rejoicing over the fact that the demons obeyed their voice, what did Jesus say, meaning what?
57 When the seventy returned they joyfully reported to Jesus, “Even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name.” However, they were told, “Do not rejoice over this, that the spirits are made subject to you, but rejoice because your names have been inscribed in the heavens.” Actually, the power over the demons only demonstrated Jehovah’s power over them, but having one’s name written in heaven depended on one’s faithfulness. So one should strive to be faithful, whether casting out demons or doing something less spectacular.—Luke 10:17-24.
58. What are some of the important truths taught by the Great Teacher during his ministry in the south?
58 Consider some of the great truths this never-tiring Teacher taught people as he moved about in his ministry from one set of circumstances to another. Each day he seemed to bring out new truths from his Father’s storehouse of wisdom and knowledge. His story about the neighborly Samaritan was a lesson in real neighbor love and mercy. Martha was rebuked because she was overanxious about material things; Mary was commended on her attitude. Demons were expelled by God’s “finger,” not by Satan “the ruler of the demons.” (Luke 10:24-42; 11:14-22) Never be anxious about what to eat or wear, but, rather, seek God’s kingdom continually and all necessities will be supplied. The “little flock” should have no fear, because their Father will give them a share in the Kingdom. The “faithful steward” is the one whom the Master appoints over all his belongings.—Luke 12:22-32, 41-44.
59. How did Jesus answer opposers when he was again criticized for curing the sick on the sabbath?
59 When criticized for curing on the sabbath a woman who had been bent double for eighteen years, Jesus said: “Hypocrites, does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his bull or his ass from the stall and lead it away to give it drink? Was it not due, then, for this woman who is a daughter of Abraham, and whom Satan held bound, look! eighteen years, to be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” Again, on a sabbath he cured a man who had dropsy, saying: “Who of you, if his son or bull falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”—Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6.
60. Describe some of the interesting illustrations used by the Great Teacher.
60 And, oh, what interesting and practical illustrations this Great Teacher used! So often he told a fitting parable to shut the mouths of the critics in his audiences. Consider some of these briefly. There was a rich man, but not rich toward God, who proposed to pull down his barns to build bigger ones, only to die during the night. (Luke 12:13-21) The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard grain that grows to be a great tree, or, again, it is like a little leaven in the flour. (Luke 13:18-21) Guests at a feast should take the humble seats if they hope later to be exalted. A builder of a tower first counts the cost; a king who cannot win a battle is quick to sue for peace. The shepherd rejoices more over finding one lost sheep than over his ninety-nine safe ones; a woman rejoices more over finding one lost coin than over the nine not lost. (Luke 14:7-11, 28-33; 15:4-10) And then there is the famous parable of the prodigal son, and the just as famous one about the rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 15:11-32; 16:19-31) An importunate widow got a wicked judge to grant her request simply because she kept pestering him for justice. Two men were praying at the temple; the sinful tax collector’s prayers were answered, but not those of the self-righteous Pharisee. (Luke 18:1-14) These are only a few of the many illustrations used by this Master instructor.
The Last Glorious Days of Jesus’ Ministry
61. Before completing his earthly ministry, what did Jesus say he must yet experience?
61 Jesus was aware of the suffering and death he would shortly experience. So for the third time he warned his apostles of these coming events, saying: “Look! We are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things written by means of the prophets as to the Son of man will be completed. For instance, he will be delivered up to men of the nations and will be made fun of and be treated insolently and spit upon; and after scourging him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise.” Jesus was not afraid to face up to these things, that only he might prove faithful until death and get a firm hold on everlasting life in heaven above.—Luke 18:31-33.
62, 63. (a) Why was there some doubt as to whether Jesus would be present at the Passover in Jerusalem in the year 33? (b) But how was that doubt removed on Sunday, five days before Nisan 14?
62 As preparations were being made for the Passover the talk around Jerusalem centered on whether Jesus would put in an appearance or not. This was because “the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone got to know where he [Jesus] was, he should disclose it, in order that they might seize him.”—John 11:55-57.
63 It was in such a heated atmosphere as this that Jesus did put in an appearance, and what an appearance it was! Here he came riding into the city in a triumphal procession, with the people spreading out their garments and palm branches ahead of him, and shouting: “Blessed is the One coming as the King in Jehovah’s name!” The effect this had was that “the whole city was set in commotion,” and as for the Pharisees, they said to one another, “You observe you are getting absolutely nowhere. See! the world has gone after him.” So, as darkness settled down on that Sunday, Jesus withdrew and spent the night outside the city for safety’s sake. There were yet five more days of intensive work for him to do.—Luke 19:36-38; Matt. 21:1-11; John 12:12-19.
64. What did Jesus do on Monday of this final week, and why?
64 The next day, Monday, Jesus cleansed the temple by driving out the merchants and turning over the tables of the money changers. This was no anarchist inciting to riot or revolution. This was the righteous Son of God and he quoted Scripture to back up his action, saying: “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a cave of robbers.” It will be recalled that three years prior to this, Jesus had demonstrated his burning zeal for Jehovah’s pure worship by similarly cleansing the temple of these greedy commercial elements. So what was the response to this second cleansing? “The chief priests and the scribes and the principal ones of the people were seeking to destroy him.” They thus proved to be unreformed and unreformable.—Matt. 21:12, 13; Luke 19:45-48.
65, 66. (a)What were some of the things that Jesus told the temple crowd on Tuesday? (b) Then, in the hearing of his apostles, what additional information in the form of prophecies and parables did Jesus disclose?
65 Tuesday was another very busy day for this seemingly tireless Jesus. We find him in the temple teaching the people even though his authority was challenged by the chief priests and older men. He aimed directly at these unfaithful religious leaders when speaking his parables of the two sons, the wicked cultivators and the marriage feast. (Matt. 21:23–22:14) When catch questions were fired at him about paying taxes, about the resurrection and concerning which is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus proved fully capable of answering one and all with irrefutable arguments. He then proposed a question of his own concerning Messiah’s descent, one that really silenced them: “Nobody was able to say a word in reply to him, nor did anyone dare from that day on to question him any further.” (Matt. 22:15-46) On this occasion Jesus also delivered his most scathing denunciation of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees—a masterpiece of an indictment.—Matt. 23:1-39.
66 As Jesus left the temple area he prophetically observed: “Truly I say to you, By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.” He and his apostles then went out to the Mount of Olives, where he gave them his long-range prophecy concerning the end of this system of things, as well as the parables of the ten virgins, the talents and the one telling of the separating of the sheep from the goats.—Matt. 24:1–25:46.
67. Wednesday is remembered for what nefarious events?
67 On Wednesday, while Jesus remained in Bethany, the enemy in Jerusalem hatched a Devil-inspired conspiracy to seize Jesus secretly. “The chief priests and the older men of the people gathered together in the courtyard of the high priest who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together to seize Jesus by crafty device and kill him.” Appearing on the scene, a most timely and ready-made tool for the crime, was Judas Iscariot, who asked: “What will you give me to betray him to you?” A sum of thirty silver pieces was agreed upon.—Matt. 26:3-16.
68. Thursday, after sundown, marked what event?
68 Thursday was occupied with last-minute preparations for the annual Passover. That evening after sundown, Jesus and his twelve apostles gathered in a large upper room in Jerusalem to celebrate what turned out to be the last legal Passover under the Law covenant arrangement. What a momentous occasion this was! Before the sun would set again Jesus would have laid down his earthly life in order to take hold of the real life, everlasting life and immortality!—Mark 14:12-16.
69. After celebrating the last Passover, what series of events followed one another during the remaining hours of Jesus’ life?
69 There they were in the privacy of an upper guest room, just Jesus and his twelve apostles. It would be a long and sleepless night for this faithful Son of God. In the next few hours some very dramatic events of momentous importance were to occur in rapid order. The thirteen eat the Passover. Jesus washes the feet of his apostles. Judas is identified as the traitor; he leaves abruptly. The Memorial supper is then instituted and the faithful eleven are invited to share with Jesus in a kingdom covenant. Jesus prays. Then the eleven and Jesus leave for the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus there engages in fervent prayer before being betrayed and arrested. The trial is a farce as Jesus is taken around from Annas to Caiaphas, to the Sanhedrin, to Pilate, to Herod and back again to Pilate.—Matt. 26:20–27:2; Luke 23:1-16.
70. Describe the scene as kingship became the burning issue there outside the governor’s palace.
70 Just picture that scene—a shouting mob versus a perfect, undaunted man standing serenely among them all. Pilate inquires of Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answers, “My kingdom is no part of this world.” Finding no fault in him, Pilate again presents Jesus before the mob, saying, “Look! The man!” The mob screams, “Impale him! Impale him!” Pilate asks, “Shall I impale your king?” The chief priests answer, “We have no king but Caesar.”—John 18:28–19:16.
71. Describe the execution of the innocent Son of God at the hands of the Roman soldiers.
71 Whipped, tortured with thorns, slapped in the face and spit upon, this Righteous One was then nailed to a torture stake to suffer an agonizing drawn-out death. Finally, about 3 p.m. on Friday, Nisan 14 in the year 33 C.E., Jesus with his last breath cried out: “It has been accomplished!”—Mark 15:16-20; John 19:1-3, 30.
72, 73. In review, what were some of the things Jesus accomplished in his brief ministry here on earth?
72 Yes, all that Jehovah had purposed in sending his only-begotten Son to earth had been fully accomplished. Jesus had learned obedience by the things suffered; had proved the Devil a liar and qualified himself to be Vindicator of Jehovah in the issue of universal sovereignty. He had come to “bear witness to the truth,” and this he certainly did. He preached good news to the poor, comforted mourners and declared Jehovah’s day of vengeance to high and low alike. Jesus worked what was good, was rich in fine works, was most liberal with his time and energy in behalf of others, was ready to share his great knowledge and wisdom with others, and in the end he finally got a firm hold on the real life, everlasting life in the heavens with his Father.—John 18:37; 1 Tim. 6:12, 18, 19; Heb. 5:8.
73 In all of this Jesus also left us a model that we might follow his steps closely.
[Map on page 14]
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Jesus intensified his ministry, making a third tour of Galilee, visiting “all the cities and villages” to preach the kingdom of God GALILEE
SEA OF GALILEE
Plain of Esdraelon
Bethany across the Jordan
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Jesus covered territory from Phoenicia to the Decapolis in a short time and nearly all on foot
Sea of Galilee
Bethany across the Jordan(?)
SCALE OF MILES 0——10——20
[Pictures on page 5]
At twelve years of age Jesus was in Jehovah’s temple, listening and asking questions
Following his baptism in 29 C.E., Jesus began his dynamic ministry
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Zealously Jesus cleansed Jehovah’s temple of those making it a house of merchandise
[Picture on page 9]
Jesus invited fishermen James and John to accompany him in his ministry
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On the sabbath Jesus healed a man’s withered hand
[Picture on page 12]
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave his audience much to think about
[Picture on page 13]
Even when eating, as here at the home of a Pharisee, Jesus was alert to teach the truth
[Picture on page 17]
In the final months of his ministry Jesus expanded his activity, sending thirty-five pairs of witnesses out to prepare the way before him
[Picture on page 18]
Shortly before his death, Jesus rode into Jerusalem in a triumphal procession; the whole city was set in commotion
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Pilate could find no fault with Jesus, but the mob shouted, “Impale him!”