The Ministry of Jesus:

AD c.29-33


Scholars variously argue that Jesus's ministry lasts as little as one year or as many as four. There is greater certainty about its starting date. It begins when he is baptized by John the Baptist, an event which Luke places in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius, or AD 29. John is an ascetic, similar in attitude to the Essenes. He preaches the urgent need for repentance to prepare for imminent divine judgement. Jesus too will preach that the kingdom of God is at hand, but his own ministry is less removed than John's from the everyday world of the villages and towns of Palestine.

Jesus soon acquires followers. The Gospels suggest that a major cause of his appeal is his apparent ability to work miracles - particularly miracles of healing.

A group of followers emerge as Jesus's regular companions. These are his disciples, listed in the Gospels as twelve in number. The exact names vary in different accounts, but three are clearly his most trusted inner circle - Peter, and the brothers James and John. All are fishermen, working on the sea of Galilee until their call to join Jesus. Peter emerges as the leader. The idea that Jesus sees him as the leader of a future church (and therefore, with hindsight, the first pope) is based on a passage in Matthew's Gospel (xvi, 16-19).

Jesus says to him: 'You are Peter, and on this rock (petros in Greek) I will build my church... I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven'.

The last week: AD c.33

Most of Jesus's ministry takes place in Galilee, but in a climax of enthusiasm he and his followers move triumphantly into Jerusalem just before the festival of the Passover. Galilee is a known centre of resistance to Roman rule at a time of increasing political unrest. And the preaching of Jesus has been critical of the Jewish authorities, the Sadducees and Pharisees. His arrival is not likely to be welcomed by those in power.

Any crowd of people in a state of excitement is alarming to the authorities, and Jesus's actions do little to reassure them. He smashes the stalls of the traders in the courtyard of the Temple, and prophesies the imminent destruction of this most holy building.

It seems inevitable that he will be arrested and punished. Indeed in Christian terms it is essential that he should be - for he has come, his followers later believe, to make the ultimate sacrifice of his own life, which will somehow redeem the sins of mankind.

Jesus has a last supper with his disciples. The implication is that it is the Jewish ritual meal of Pesach or Passover. He breaks bread for them, offers them wine, and specifically - in the Gospel account - associates these with his body and blood, soon to be spilt in his sacrifice. The Eucharist, the central sacrament of the Christian church, is established.

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Check out: "The Ministry of Jesus"

(Summary; original © Heikki Räisänen 1992)

-- @ University of Helsinki, Dept of Biblical Studies (1999)

Check out blog entry (May 27, 2007):

"Meditations on Jesus Ministry:
Experiencing God - John 14:8-17"

-- @ "The Church Then and Now" blog

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