Mt. 18:1-14; Mk. 9:33-50; Lk. 9:46-50
When people work closely together, some like Peter, James and John become closer to their leader. This sometimes causes a certain amount of envy and jealousy. That was likely the cause of a dispute on the way to the house in Capernaum. The apostles turned to Jesus for the answer. They asked, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He set a little child before them as an example of humility and stated that they must be converted and become as little children if they were to enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who would be first, must put themselves last by serving others first. Note: He did not say, “Come as little children,” but, “Become as little children.”
Jesus pointed out the importance of righteous living. Even the most trivial thing done for someone else in His name will not go unnoticed—even a cup of water. He stated that if a member of the body caused a person to sin, he would be better off without that member, than to be cast into the everlasting fire.
Mt. 17:22-27; Mk. 9:30-32; Lk. 9:43-45
Great crowds followed Jesus and His apostles wherever they went. In order to escape them this time, they returned to Capernaum in Galilee.
As they traveled, Jesus repeated the revelation He had made at Caesarea Philippi that He was to be betrayed, killed and raised up on the third day. This made them exceedingly sorrowful. Even though He had mentioned it earlier, the disciples still did not understand what He was talking about and were afraid to ask.
A one-half shekel offering or tax was required of the Jews in order to service the tabernacle or temple. As they entered Capernaum, those who received the temple tax asked Peter if Jesus paid the tax.
Jesus told Peter to go fishing and open the mouth of the first fish that he caught. He would find a coin large enough to pay the tax for both Jesus and himself. It is our spiritual responsibility to pay our legal share of the taxes.
Mt. 17:14-21; Mk. 9:14-29; Lk. 9:37-43
The next day after the transfiguration, Jesus and the three disciples came down from the mountain and found the scribes in a deep discussion with the other nine disciples. One man in the multitude had a son who was afflicted with epileptic seizures and the disciples had been unable to heal the boy. After Jesus had removed the demon, the people were amazed at the majesty of God.
Jesus pointed out to the disciples that their faith was not strong enough to perform this miracle. Even if they had the faith of a mustard seed, they could move mountains.
Mt. 17:1-13; Mk.9:2-13; Lk. 9:28-36
Six days later, Jesus went up on a high mountain to pray and He took Peter, James and John with Him. These three men had become leaders who seemed to be closer to Him than the other apostles. It was probably dark because Jesus usually prayed at night and while He was praying, the men went to sleep.
While He was praying, Jesus was transfigured (transformed; changed). His face shone like the sun and His clothing became dazzling white. To make the scene even more unusual, Moses and Elijah appeared and Jesus talked with them about His death.
When the apostles woke up they were afraid and did not know what to do or what to say. Recognizing Moses and Elijah, Peter said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Since Peter made Moses, the lawgiver and Elijah, a great prophet equal with Jesus, God spoke to them from a bright cloud and said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” Even as great as they were, there is One greater. Jesus, the Christ is to be the object of our worship.
Jesus commanded Peter, James and John not to tell the things that they had seen until after He had been raised from the dead because the general population was not ready for that kind of news.
Mt. 16:21-28; Mk. 8:31-9:1; Lk. 9:22-27
There had been a mistaken idea among the Jews that Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah was going to come and restore the earthly kingdom of Israel to them and be their king. He began discussing His passion (suffering) with the apostles and the fact that He would go to Jerusalem and be killed by the Jewish authorities and be raised the third day.
Even though He had briefly referred to this earlier in His ministry, as the sign of Jonah, the apostles still did not grasp the impact of what Jesus had said. Peter especially was outspoken and said, “Lord this will not happen to you!”
Jesus recognized that Satan was causing Peter to look for an earthly kingdom instead of the spiritual kingdom that He was to establish. He even pointed out that some of those present would see the kingdom come with power. If the kingdom has not come yet, there are some extremely old persons still living.
He then began to teach a lesson on sacrifice to the disciples and to the others present. In order to follow Jesus, one must say, “No” to self when desires are not in harmony with living for Him. He said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Mt. 16:13-20; Mk. 8:27-30; Lk. 9:18-22
As they traveled toward Caesarea Philippi, Jesus chose to test the disciples. He began by asking them what people thought about Him. They said that some thought He was John the Baptist. Others thought Elijah, Jeremiah or even one of the other Old Testament prophets had come from the dead. He then asked them directly, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter, who seemed to speak for the others replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered Peter by giving him the authority to lay down the rules or laws of the kingdom as the Holy Spirit guided him. He said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This promise was fulfilled less than a year later on Pentecost. See Acts 2:1-47.
The church or kingdom was built on the foundation of Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. A person cannot be a true follower of Christ without making this confession. One cannot follow someone in whom he does not believe.
Mt. 16:1-12; Mk. 8:11-26
After sending the multitude away, Jesus and the disciples got into a boat and came to the region of Magdala, also called Dalmanutha on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee.
While in the region of Magdala, Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and Sadducees asking for a sign of His divinity. They did not believe His miracles were from God.
The Sadducees were another sect of the Jews. They were fewer in number than the Pharisees and had different beliefs. The Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angels and spirits. They believed that a person received his reward for righteousness or punishment for sins while he lived.
Jesus called them hypocrites because they could recognize weather signs, but could not recognize His miracles as divine.
He again pointed to the sign of Jonah, who was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale and likewise, He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
After this encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus and the apostles entered into a boat and went to the other side of the sea to near Bethsaida.
At this time, He instructed the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Since they misunderstood His point, Jesus explained that the leaven of these people was their doctrine or teaching, which was false. (As leaven spreads throughout bread dough, false doctrine is an evil influence today.)
When they came into Bethsaida, they were met by a group bringing a blind man, who was begging Jesus to touch him. After restoring sight to the man, Jesus and the apostles traveled northward about forty miles to Caesarea Philippi.
Mt. 15:29-39; Mk. 7:31-8:10
After leaving the region of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus and the apostles went to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. There, they went up on a mountain in the area of Decapolis, which was inhabited mostly by Gentiles.
Great multitudes came and brought the lame, blind, mute, maimed and many others to be healed. When these Gentiles saw the power of Jesus as He healed them, they “glorified the God of Israel.”
Since the multitude had been with Jesus three days, they had run out of food. Jesus did not want to send them away hungry because some were very far from home. Again, He asked the disciples about the amount of food on hand and found only seven loaves and a few fish.
Jesus commanded everyone to sit and after He had given thanks for the loaves and fish, the disciples distributed them to the multitude. Everyone ate until filled and seven large baskets full of scraps were picked up. About four thousand men, besides women and children participated in this feast.
Mt. 15:21-28; Mk. 7:24-30
Jesus left the region of Galilee and traveled northward forty or fifty miles into Gentile territory in the region of Tyre and Sidon. He wanted to escape the Jews and get some rest. After arriving, He entered a house in order to be alone.
Again, His popularity prevented Jesus from getting away from the people. A Greek woman came asking that an unclean spirit be cast from her daughter. Jesus ignored the woman because He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (the Jews).
There were only two classes of people—Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles were sometimes referred to as dogs, which explained Jesus’ statement, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
The woman was persistent in her request and stated, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” Because of her faith and persistency and Jesus’ mercy and compassion, He healed her daughter. Our needs, however great they are to us, are just crumbs compared to what the Lord is able to do for us.
Mt. 15:1-20; Mk. 7:1-23; Jn. 7:1
Since the Jews had been so hostile to Jesus the last time He was in Jerusalem, He decided to avoid this Passover Feast and travel in the region of Galilee. It was still not the time for Him to be offered.
Sometime after the Passover, some of the Pharisees and scribes who had come from Jerusalem saw Jesus’ disciples eating without washing their hands. They were very critical of the disciples because they had transgressed “the tradition of the elders.”
Jesus called them hypocrites because they presented themselves, as keeping the commandments, yet did not honor their fathers and mothers. He stated that they were “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” This presented Him with an opportunity to teach a lesson on purity.
Eating with dirty hands may not be sanitary or healthy, but it will not defile the soul. Jesus said that it was not the food that goes into the mouth, but the words that come out of the mouth that defile a man.
The words that come from the mouth come from the heart. Some of the things that defile are evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, deceit, lewdness, evil eye, pride and foolishness.
Again, a great throng of people met Jesus and the disciples as they came to shore in the land of Gennesaret near Capernaum. They brought many who were sick begging only to touch the hem of His garment. Those who touched it were made completely well.
The day after Jesus had fed the five thousand men, He taught them in the synagogue in Capernaum. Since He perceived that the crowd was looking for more food, He taught them a lesson on spiritual food that would endure for eternal life.
Jesus stated that He is the bread of life and that He was sent by His Father from heaven. Also, if they would eat of that bread and believe in Him, they would have eternal life.
The Jews could not understand this. They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then, that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
After Jesus had stated that His flesh must be eaten and that His blood must be drunk in order to live forever, many of His disciples (followers) “went back and walked with Him no more.”
At this time, Jesus asked the twelve apostles a sad question, “Do you also want to go away?”
Peter answered with an expression of the hope of mankind. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Mt. 14:22-36; Mk. 6:45-56; Jn. 6:15-21
The Jews were expecting the Messiah to set up an earthly kingdom and Jesus realized at this time that the people were about to come by force and make Him a king. That was not His mission.
He sent the disciples to the other side of the sea toward Capernaum and after sending the crowd of people away; He went up into the mountain to pray.
While Jesus was praying, the disciples were having their problems. A strong wind began to blow, which churned up the waves and made rowing the boat very difficult. As they strained against the wind and waves, they encountered an even worse problem. It was early in the morning just before daylight and they saw a ghost!
The “Ghost” identified itself as Jesus, who had completed His prayer and was walking on the water to join the apostles. The impetuous Peter was skeptical and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
Jesus said, “Come.” As Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus, he saw how boisterous the wind was and his faith failed. Beginning to sink, he called out and Jesus caught him. When they got into the boat, the wind became calm.
Mt. 14:14-21; Mk. 6:33-44; Lk. 9:11-17; Jn. 6:2-14
The rest that Jesus had planned did not happen. Since the time was near for the Feast of the Passover, there were thousands of people traveling toward Jerusalem. They had seen and heard of some of the miracles that Jesus had performed and when they saw Him and the disciples get into the boat, they ran ahead along the shore and met them when they arrived on the other side. Because of the compassion He had for their needs, Jesus healed the sick among them and He taught them about the kingdom of heaven.
As it was getting late in the day, the disciples realized that there was no food and asked Jesus to send the people away.
Jesus had another idea. There was a small boy present who had five barley loaves and two small fish. The loaves were about the size of crackers and the fish were about the size of sardines.
After Jesus blessed the food, it was distributed among the people. Those five loaves and two fish fed about five thousand men plus the women and children who were present, possibly a total of fifteen or twenty thousand. Twelve baskets full of scraps were also picked up.
Mt. 14:13; Mk. 6:30-32; Lk. 9:10; Jn. 6:1
About the time Jesus heard of John’s death, the apostles returned from the preaching mission that He had sent them on. They reported to Him about all the things that they had done and taught.
Since Jesus was tired and grief-stricken because of the death of John, His human side began to show. At His suggestion, they all went across the sea to a deserted place near Bethsaida to rest.
Mt. 14:1-13; Mk. 6:14-29; Lk. 9:7-9
Several months earlier, John the Baptist had been arrested and put into prison because he had said that Herod should not have his brother Philip’s wife.
When John had first been arrested, Herod wanted to kill him, but he was afraid of the people because they thought that John was a prophet. As time went on, Herod began to listen to him and to respect him somewhat.
At Herod’s birthday party, his wife’s daughter danced before him. He was so pleased with her, that he made an oath that he would give her anything she wanted, even half of his kingdom. Her mother told her to ask for John’s head on a platter.
Herod regretted that he had made such a rash promise, but because of the “honor” in fulfilling an oath and because of the others with him, he had John beheaded. If we make a rash promise that fulfilling would cause us to commit sin, we should renege on that promise.
John’s disciples took his body and buried it and then told Jesus what had happened.
When Herod later began to hear about the things that Jesus was doing, he started having severe problems with his conscience. He thought that Jesus maybe was John or even Elijah raised from the dead and was now performing these signs and miracles. Herod began seeking to see Jesus for himself.