Jesus’ ministry had three emphases. He presented his messianic credentials to the religious leaders. He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to the crowds. Finally, he trained the Twelve to inaugurate the Church after he ascended to the Father. These are not chronological periods or exclusive missions. They were integrated parts of his first coming.
He presented his messianic credentials to the religious leaders
The leaders saw the miracles and declared that Jesus worked in league with the devil. (Matthew 12:22-32)
The disciples were mercurial at best. They understood and then they failed to understand. The last question Jesus was asked before he ascended to the Father was if he was going to restore the temporal kingdom to the Jews at that time. When they were empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they finally understood and the Church exploded. (Acts 1:6-11)
The ministry to the crowds culminated at the Feeding of the 5000. It was the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. John gave the most complete account of the feeding and the surrounding events. Even after decades, his memory gave great details of the day the crowds departed. (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15)
Jesus fed the crowd by multiplying the lunch of a boy and the people marveled, declared that he was the expected prophet who would restore the fortunes of the Jews. Jesus perceived their intent to make him king and went away to be alone. (John 6:1-15)
The disciples rowed across the Sea of Galilee that night, ran into a storm, and Jesus came to them, walking on the water. (John 6:15-21)
Jesus changed the issue
The crowd followed Jesus across the lake. Jesus began to teach them. He challenged them to believe in him and they challenged him to produce a better sign than one meal. After all, Moses fed the entire nation for forty years with manna. Jesus answered that Moses did not provide the food but his Father in heaven fed the people. (John 6:22-34)
Jesus changed the issue from bread to eat to accepting him as the true food from heaven. They found his words difficult. Jesus pushed them further and further on the real issue. They needed to receive him. (John 6:32-65)
The crowd did not accept his teaching and most left, never to return. Jesus turned to the Twelve and challenged them, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69, ESV)
No miracle can guarantee faith.
When people saw that Lazarus was raised from the dead some believed but others quickly told the religious leaders who then plotted to kill Jesus. In his parable of the Rich Man and Poor Lazarus, Jesus concluded that even the testimony of a resurrection would not convince some. When the religious leaders were confronted with the testimony of the guards at the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead, they paid then a bride, and gave them a fabricated story. (John 11:45-52; Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 28:11-15)
The central issue is Jesus. Experiencing miracles does not guarantee faith.
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