Christ's Early Ministry

Chapter 27

For a time, John the Baptist's influence over the nation had been even greater than that of its rulers, priests, or princes.

If he had announced himself as the Messiah and raised a revolt against Rome, the nation would have eagerly followed him. Every honor that appeals to worldly ambition, Satan was ready to urge upon the Baptist; but John steadfastly refused to be bribed. The attention that had been drawn to himself, he directed to Another.

Now as the tide of public interest began to shift, John's disciples looked with jealousy upon Jesus' growing popularity. Bringing their dissatisfaction to John, they complained, "Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to Whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him." Through the jealousy of his disciples, Satan was trying to tempt John with feelings of self-pity and disappointment; but their feelings found no response in John.

The success of Christ's work, which the Baptist had so joyfully accepted, was also reported to the authorities at Jerusalem. The priests and rabbis had been jealous of John because of his great influence over the people, but here was One who had still greater power to attract their attention. With a new firmness of mind, they resolved to put an end to the work that was drawing the people away from themselves.

Jesus knew that they would withhold no effort to create a division between His own disciples and those of John. He knew that the storm was gathering which would sweep away one of the greatest prophets ever given to the world. 'Wishing to avoid all occasion for misunderstanding or contention, He quietly withdrew to Galilee.

The news of Christ's return soon spread throughout Galilee, bringing hope to the suffering and distressed. In Capernaum, the news attracted the attention of a Jewish noble who was an officer in the king's service. A son of the officer was suffering from what seemed to be an incurable disease. Physicians had given him up to die; but when the father heard of Jesus, he determined to seek help from Him. The child was very weak and, it was feared, might not live till his father's return; yet the nobleman felt that he must present the case in person. He hoped that a father's prayers might awaken the sympathy of the great Physician.

On reaching Cana, he found a throng surrounding Jesus. With an anxious heart, he pressed through to the Saviour's presence. When he saw only a plainly dressed man, dusty and worn with travel, His faith wavered. He was doubtful that this Person could do what he had come to ask of Him; yet he determined to present his request. Telling his errand, he pleaded with the Saviour to accompany him to his home.

While the officer waited in painful suspense, Jesus said, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." Like a flash of light, the Saviour's reply revealed the nobleman's inner thoughts. He saw that his purpose in seeking Jesus was selfish. His uncertain faith appeared to him in its true character. In deep distress, he realized that his doubt might cost the life of his son. He knew that he was in the presence of One who could read the thoughts and to whom all things were possible. In great agony he cried, "Sir, come down ere my child die." His faith took hold upon Christ as did Jacob, when, wrestling with the angel, he cried, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." Genesis 32:26

The Saviour cannot leave the soul that clings to Him, pleading its great need. "Go thy way," He said; "thy son liveth." The king's officer left the Saviour's presence with a peace and joy that he had never known before. Not only did he believe that his son would be healed, but he now had a strong faith in Christ as the Redeemer.

At the same time, those watching at the bedside of the dying child in the home at Capernaum saw a sudden and mysterious change. The flush of fever gave place to the soft glow of returning health. No signs of his illness remained, and he quietly sank into a restful sleep. The fever had left him in the very heat of the day. The family was amazed, and great was their joy.

Across the bright days of Christ's ministry in Galilee, there was one shadow. The people of Nazareth rejected Him. He who had claimed for Himself the glory of the Messiah was the son of a carpenter and had worked at His trade with His father Joseph. "Is not this the carpenter's son?" they asked? Matthew 13:25. They were acquainted with His brothers and sisters and had seen Him develop from childhood to youth, from youth to manhood. Although His life had been spotless, they would not believe that He was the Promised One.

Once unbelief was accepted, it continued to control the men of Nazareth. In the same manner, it controlled the National Council and the nation. With many, the first rejection of the demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power was the beginning of the end. In order to prove that their first resistance was right, they continued ever after to pick apart Christ's words. Their rejection of the Holy Spirit's convicting power speaking to their minds reached its climax in the cross of Calvary, in the destruction of their city, and in the scattering of the Jewish nation.

It was not simply the absence of outward glory in His life that led the Jews to reject Jesus. He was the sum and substance of purity, and they were impure. He lived among men an example of spotless integrity. His blameless life revealed their insincerity, making the hollowness of their pretentious spirituality stand out in stark contrast. Such a light was unwelcome.

Notwithstanding their boast that under the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" (see Revelation 5:5) Israel should be exalted to pre-eminence over all nations, they could have borne the disappointment of their ambitious hopes better than they could bear Christ's reproof of their sins and the condemnation they felt when in His presence.

Christ never flattered men. He never spoke that which would stimulate their imaginations, nor did He praise them for their clever inventions; but deep, unprejudiced thinkers received His teaching and found that it tested their wisdom. They marveled at the spiritual truth expressed in the simplest language. The most highly educated were charmed with His words, and the uneducated were always benefited. He had a message for the uneducated, and He made even the heathen to understand that He had a message for them.

As Jesus addressed the crowds of people, He watched with deep earnestness the changing expressions of those who listened to His words. The faces that expressed interest and pleasure gave Him great satisfaction. As His words of truth broke through the barriers of selfishness, working repentance, and finally gratitude, the Saviour's heart was filled with happiness. When His eye swept over the throng of listeners and He recognized among them the faces He had seen before, His face lighted up with joy. He saw in them hopeful subjects for His kingdom. When the truth, plainly spoken, touched some cherished idol, He marked the change of countenance which told that the truth was unwelcome. When He saw men refuse the message of peace, His heart was pained to its very depths.

The days of Christ's personal ministry among men was a time of intense activity for the forces of darkness. For ages Satan with his evil angels had been seeking to control the bodies and the souls of men, to bring upon them sin and suffering. All the resultant misery he had then charged upon God. Jesus was revealing to men the true character of God. He was breaking Satan's power and setting his captives free. New life and love and power from heaven were moving upon the hearts of men, and Satan assembled all his forces to oppose the work of Christ at every step.

So it will be in the great final conflict of the controversy between righteousness and sin. While new life and light and power are coming down from above, bringing life and strength to the followers of Christ, a new life will be springing up from beneath and strengthening those over whom Satan is able to exercise his control. Even now, great intensity of feeling is taking control of every earthly element. With an insight gained through centuries of warfare, the prince of evil cloaks his real character. He appears clothed as an angel of light; and in listening to him, multitudes are "giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy." 1 Timothy 4:1–2

In the days of Christ, the leaders and teachers of Israel were defenseless against the work of Satan. They were disregarding the only means by which they could have resisted evil spirits. It was by the Word of God that Christ overcame Satan. The leaders of Israel professed to be the ones able to explain God's Word, but they had studied it only to defend their traditions and enforce their manmade rules. By their interpretation they made it express doctrine that God had never given. Their mystical explanations made unsettled that which He had made plain. They argued over unimportant details and practically denied the most important truths. As a result, disloyalty was found everywhere. God's Word was robbed of its power, and evil spirits worked their will.

History is repeating itself. Claiming the Bible as their source of doctrine and professing to reverence its teachings, many of the religious leaders of our time are destroying faith in it as the Word of God. They occupy themselves with analyzing the Word and set their own opinions above its plainest statements. In their hands, God's Word loses its recreative power. This is why unfaithfulness is found everywhere and wickedness is widespread.

When Satan has undermined faith in the Bible, he directs men's minds to other sources for light and power. In this way, he successfully introduces his thoughts into the minds of men who have turned from the plain teaching of Scripture and the convicting power of God's Holy Spirit, bringing them under his control. Criticism and speculation concerning the Scriptures have opened the way for spiritism and mystical spiritual teachings. In this way, these modernized forms of ancient heathenism have gained a foothold, even in the professed churches of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The means by which we can overcome the wicked one is that by which Christ overcame-the power of the Word. God does not control our minds without our consent; but if we desire to know and to do His will, His promises are ours: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." John 8:32; 7:17. Through faith in these promises, every man may be delivered from the snares of error and the control of evil.

This chapter is based on John 3–4