Jesus—His Life and Message: Three Incidents
October 6, 2020
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: Three Incidents
Within the Gospels, there are a number of verses which describe incidents in Jesus’ life or statements He made that are somewhat “stand-alone” in that they aren’t connected to what precedes or follows them in the text. From time to time I plan to cover such unconnected passages in this series. I have also found that in the process of writing this series, sometimes I have failed to include some verses which should have been included in topics which have already been covered. As such, when necessary, I will cover the stand-alone statements and/or the passages which should have been included earlier. This is one of those times.
In Mark 6:12–13, we’re told that Jesus’ disciples went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. We are then told that because of the success of the disciples’ ministry, the name of Jesus became well-known.
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”1
King Herod refers to Herod Antipas, who was born in 20 BC to Herod the Great and his Samaritan wife, Malthace. He was the ruler of Galilee and Perea (the area on the east side of the Jordan River). He became tetrarch at the age of 16 in 4 BC. The title “tetrarch” meant “ruler of a quarter.” In the Gospels, he is referred to as both “King Herod” and “Herod the Tetrarch.”2 He was not given the official title “king” by the Roman emperor, and was removed as tetrarch when he went to Rome to ask the emperor to give him the title of king. His designation as king in Scripture represents a popular designation rather than an official one.
Jesus’ disciples had made a number of mission trips within Herod’s tetrarchy of Galilee and Perea, and because they cast out demons and healed the sick in Jesus’ name, His name had become well-known to the people of the region and to their ruler. In response to Jesus’ fame and popularity, some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”3
There were many similarities between John and Jesus. They were about the same age, both were itinerant preachers, and they both preached the message of repentance and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Both were very popular, and according to these verses it seems that John worked “miraculous powers.” However, the difficulty in this statement is how these people could have confused Jesus with John the Baptist since they were contemporaries. Both were known, they communicated through their disciples, and there would have been no confusion as to who was who. One author explains: What is envisioned is probably that just as Elijah’s spirit came to rest on Elisha (2 Kings 2:1–15), so the spirit of John the Baptist had come to rest upon Jesus.4
Others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”5
In saying that Jesus was Elijah, the speakers were referring to the book of Malachi, which prophesies,
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.6
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.7
In stating He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old, they were saying that Jesus was a man of God, a prophet like those in the Old Testament who spoke God’s words.
This alone would have been motive enough to get Jesus killed, just as it had been enough to have John the Baptist arrested and eventually killed.8
Jesus Foretells His Death
In Mark 9:30–32, Jesus privately spoke to His disciples of what awaited Him in the not too distant future.
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.9
Jesus and the disciples were once again on the move and were in Galilee, in the north of Israel. At this time, He sought privacy in order to take uninterrupted time with His disciples and teach them without others present. Since they were going to be the ones most affected by His arrest, death, and resurrection, Jesus spent time preparing them for what was coming and for their future ministry as His apostles.
The statement that Jesus was teaching His disciples implies that Jesus didn’t just announce the fact that He would be killed, but that He spent time explaining what Scripture had to say about what was going to happen to Him. This would have included not only His arrest and death, but also His resurrection. Jesus confidently stated that He would be raised up after three days. He may have referred to verses from the book of Isaiah such as:
He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.10
He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.11
We are told that His disciples did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. While they were able to understand the words Jesus said, they didn’t understand the necessity of Jesus having to lay down His life. However, Jesus understood what awaited Him in Jerusalem. He knew His death was part of His mission, and that though He would die, He would rise again. While His disciples were slow to understand and accept this teaching, they needed to hear it in preparation for the day when it would come to pass.
Jesus Repeats the Prediction of His Death
In Mark 10:32–34, Jesus again spoke to His disciples about His coming death. In this instance, He was on His way to Jerusalem for the last time.
They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”12
On this journey, Jesus took the disciples aside for private instruction regarding what was going to happen to Him after they arrived in Jerusalem. He taught His disciples privately at other times within this Gospel as well.
He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.13
When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”14
Jesus spoke only to His disciples about what was going to happen to Him. He was very clear and direct in stating what He would face in Jerusalem. He would be arrested, brought before the Jewish religious leadership to stand trial, and be found guilty. His punishment would be death and His execution would be at the hands of the Gentiles, the Roman rulers, who would also mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. Jesus knew what was coming, and He faced it with courage. He endeavored to prepare His disciples for what was ahead. Each of the other Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) also explain that Jesus would suffer and die and that He would rise from the dead after three days.15
Jesus clearly knew the suffering which was coming. Nevertheless, in obedience to His Father and out of His love for us, He sacrificially laid down His life, that we may live forever.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Mark 6:14.
2 Matthew 14:1. Luke 3:1, 19; 9:7. Acts 13:1.
3 Mark 6:14.
4 R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 253.
5 Mark 6:15.
6 Malachi 3:1.
7 Malachi 4:5–6.
8 Matthew 14:1–11.
9 Mark 9:30–32.
10 Isaiah 53:5–6.
11 Isaiah 53:12.
12 Mark 10:32–34.
13 Mark 4:34.
14 Mark 9:28–29. See also Mark 7.
15 Matthew 17:22–23; 20:18–19. Luke 9:21–22.