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GENERAL OUTLINE OF OUR LORD'S MINISTRY-CALLING
OF THE FIRST FIVE DISCIPLES AT BETHABARA-THE
It would greatly aid to the clear understanding of the course of our Saviour's life, if we were able to give dates to the several events. This, however, with regard to the greater part of them, is impossible. The Evangelists have marked very few of them in such a way, that we can determine the precise time at which they took place. They do not even pretend to relate them all in the order in which they occurred. So far were they from thinking this a matter of great importance, that they have not so much as informed us how long the ministry of Christ lasted. Consequently there have been very various opinions on this point. Many persons suppose it to have continued about
Some think it could have been no longer than about a year. And others have fancied it to have been extended through many years.
It is not possible to examine here the reasons on which these several opinions are founded. I can only say, that on the whole, I believe the second to be the most probable. It was the opinion entertained by the early Christians; and it is favored by the general course and character of the
There were three great annual festivals in the Jewish Church, at which all the men were expected to appear at Jerusalem, and at which therefore we must suppose Jesus to have faithfully attended. The Evangelist John has recorded his visits to Jerusalem; and we find that he makes mention of a Passover, of a feast of Tabernacles, of a feast between them, which must have been that of the Pentecost, and of another Passover. This exactly makes out the festivals in their proper order, for a little more than one year. The other three Evangelists relate what took place in the country, and omit his visits to the city. We thus have, in John's Gospel, the regular account of what our Lord did in Jerusalem at four several festivals, and, in the other Evangelists, a relation of what he did at other times and places. The present history is arranged on this principle. The Passover mentioned in the sixth chapter of John, being regarded as that at which our Lord suffered, the events of that chapter are transposed accordingly. The whole scheme thus becomes simple and probable, and is attended with fewer difficulties than perhaps any other. *
* This is the plan proposed by Dr. Carpenter, in his Geography of the New Testament, and illustrated in the Harmony recently published in Boston, under the care of Professor Palfrey, (by Gray & Bowen.) I have seen cause to
A brief preliminary survey of the order and connexion of events, will facilitate a clear apprehension of the history. It may be observed, then, that our Saviour's ministry naturally divides itself into five parts, corresponding to the several visits which he made to Jerusalem. His home was in Galilee; and thence he travelled to Jerusalem five times, on occasion of five several festivals;— the Passover, the feast of Pentecost, the feast of Tabernacles, the feast of Dedication, and the Passover a second time.
1. At what time of year his baptism took place, we have no means of ascertaining; perhaps in January. He then spent forty days in the desert, returned to Galilee, wrought his first miracle at Cana, and went up to attend the Passover at Jerusalem. In the year A. D. 29, this festival occurred on the 19th of March. This date is certain, for it depends on astronomical calculation.
2. From this Passover he abode in Galilee, till he returned to attend the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, the 8th of May. vary from it very little. It commends itself by its simplicity and ingenuity.-In explanation of the transposition of the sixth chapter of John, it is to be observed, that the feeding of the five thousand is there said to have taken place when “the Passover was nigh.” According to the other Evangelists, it took place not long before the last Passover. It seems proper to give to the event the same date in the narrative which the latter have given to it; for they specify which Passover was nigh, which John does not.
3. He spent the summer in Galilee, but we have no particulars respecting his employment. He returned to Jerusalem on the 16th of September, the third day of the feast of Tabernacles.
4. At the close of the feast he returned home to Galilee, and then began the most active portion of his ministry. He travelled twice over Galilee, and sent out the twelve apostles and the seventy disciples. He came to Jerusalem to the feast of Dedication on the 26th of November.
5. The next interval he spent partly in Galilee, partly on the other side of the Jordan, partly in journeying from place to place, and returned to Jerusalem at the Passover in April. On Friday, the 7th of April, he was crucified; and the ascension consequently took place on the 11th of May.
On looking attentively at this statement, it will be seen, that our Lord's ministry, from his baptism to his death, lasted about one year and three months; and that far the greater portion of the records of the Evangelists relate to the last eight months. Indeed ten of the twenty-one chapters of John are occupied with the narrative of the last six days. It may be useful to bear in mind this proportion between the several parts of his ministry.
As we cannot determine the precise date of the Baptism, we cannot tell on what day he returned from his retirement of forty days in the wilderness.
It appears to have been on the day before his return, that the chief men of Jerusalem sent to John the Baptist the messengers already mentioned, to inquire whether he were the Christ. John denied it, as we have seen; but assured them, at the same time, that the Messiah was standing amongst them, though they knew him not.
He then expressed his sense of his own inferiority, by adding, that he was not worthy to unloose the shoes' latchet of that eminent person. The day after John's interview with the deputation from Jerusalem, Jesus, returning from his temptation, arrived at the place where John was; and John pointed to him person of whom he had spoken.
“ Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man who is preferred before me, for he was
This declaration of course excited the attention of those who heard it. Many would not give it credit, for they had no idea that the Messiah could appear in a humble form. But others would think differently; and those who were most devoted to John as his disciples, would be most likely to put trust in his assertion. When, therefore, he again, the next day, pointed to Jesus as he passed by, it is not strange that two of them immediately followed him, and sought to introduce themselves