Jesus’ Life and Ministry
A Mission of Mercy Into Judea
SOME weeks earlier, during the Festival of Dedication in Jerusalem, the Jews tried to kill Jesus. So he traveled north, evidently to an area not far from the Sea of Galilee.
Recently, he has been heading south again toward Jerusalem, preaching along the way in the villages of Perea, a district east of the Jordan River. He has just finished telling the illustration about the rich man and Lazarus. Now he continues teaching his disciples things that he had taught earlier while in Galilee.
He says, for example, that it would be more advantageous for a person “if a millstone were suspended from his neck and he were thrown into the sea” than for him to cause one of God’s “little ones” to stumble. He also emphasizes the need of forgiveness, explaining: “Even if [a brother] sins seven times a day against you and he comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
When the disciples request, “Give us more faith,” Jesus answers: “If you had faith the size of a mustard grain, you would say to this black mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea!’ and it would obey you.” So even a little faith can accomplish great things.
Next, Jesus relates a true-to-life situation that illustrates the proper attitude of a servant of the almighty God. “Who of you is there that has a slave plowing or minding the flock,” Jesus observes, “who will say to him when he gets in from the field, ‘Come here at once and recline at the table’? Rather, will he not say to him, ‘Get something ready for me to have my evening meal, and put on an apron and minister to me until I am through eating and drinking, and afterward you can eat and drink’? He will not feel gratitude to the slave because he did the things assigned, will he? So you, also, when you have done all the things assigned to you, say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’” Thus, God’s servants should never feel that they are doing God a favor by serving him. Rather, they should always remember the privilege that they have of worshiping him as trusted members of his household.
Apparently it is shortly after giving this illustration that a messenger arrives. He is sent by Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, who live in Bethany of Judea. “Lord, see! the one for whom you have affection is sick,” the messenger relates.
Jesus replies: “This sickness is not with death as its object, but is for the glory of God, in order that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” After remaining two days where he is, Jesus says to his disciples: “Let us go into Judea again.” However, they remind him: “Rabbi, just lately the Judeans were seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”
“There are twelve hours of daylight, are there not?” Jesus asks in response. “If anyone walks in daylight he does not bump against anything, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he bumps against something, because the light is not in him.”
What Jesus apparently means is that the “hours of daylight,” or the time God has allotted for his earthly ministry, have not yet elapsed, and until they do, nobody can harm him. He needs to use to the full the short time of “daylight” left for him, since afterward will come “the night” when his enemies will have killed him.
Jesus adds: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.”
Evidently thinking that Lazarus is resting in sleep and that this is a positive sign that he will recover, the disciples respond: “Lord, if he has gone to rest, he will get well.”
Then Jesus tells them outspokenly: “Lazarus has died, and I rejoice on your account that I was not there, in order for you to believe. But let us go to him.”
Realizing that Jesus could be killed in Judea, yet desiring to support him, Thomas encourages his fellow disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” So at the risk of their lives, the disciples accompany Jesus on this mission of mercy into Judea. Luke 13:22; 17:1-10; John 10:22, 31, 40-42; 11:1-16.
◆ Where has Jesus been preaching recently?
◆ What teachings does Jesus repeat, and what true-to-life situation does he describe to illustrate what point?
◆ What news does Jesus receive, and what does he mean by the “daylight” and “the night”?
◆ What does Thomas mean when he says, ‘Let us go that we may die with him’?