Circuits in Galilee

Arriving at Capernaum the Lord begins to gather Matt. iv. 18-22.

about Him His former disciples that they may accom- Mark i. 16-34.

pany and assist Him in His work. He enters the Luke V. 1-11.

Synagogue and there heals a demoniac. Thence he Luke iv. 33-41.

goes to the house of Peter, and heals his wife's mother MATT.viii. 14-17. of a fever, and in the evening He heals many sick persons who were brought to Him.

The arrival of the Lord at Capernaum, there to take up His abode, offers us a fitting place in which to speak of His Galilean work in its general practical features. In many points it was very unlike His earlier work in Judea. So far as we can learn, He did not then go from place to place baptizing, nor does He seem to have made any use of the synagogues for the purpose of teaching. Like the Baptist, He did not seek the people in their cities and villages, but made the people seek Him, (Matt. iii. 5 ; xi. 7.) In Galilee the Lord began immediately to visit the people in all their cities and villages, making Capernaum the central point of His labors, and this He did in a systematic manner. He went round about the villages teaching, (Mark vi. 6.) "In a circle," says Alexander, " or circuit, that is, not merely round about, but on a regular concerted plan of periodical visitation." We have not sufficient data to determine the local order of these visitations ; but it is natural to suppose that He would first visit the places near Capernaum, and then those more remote, (Mark i. 38.) From this city as a centre He would go forth to preach in the adjoining towns, and extend His labors to those more distant by degrees. And His course would be directed rather to the west than to the east, both because Galilee lay to the westward, and because of the semi-heathenish character of the people who lived beyond the lake. It was, in fact, a considerable time, as we shall see, ere He visited the regions of Ca^sarea Philippi and of Decapolis.

During these circuits we find the Lord journeying from place to place, remaining for the most part only a little while in a place. In these journeys He was attended by His disciples; at first by those who had before been with Him, and whom He recalled, and then by others, and afterward by the body of the Apostles, who were His constant attendants. At a later period of His ministry, His mother and other women accompanied Him in some of His circuits, (Luke viiL 2,) and He was followed by crowds, who were drawn to Him by various motives. His common mode of procedure was apparently this: on entering a city where was a synagogue, He availed Himself of the privilege which His reputation as a rabbi and prophet gave Him, to teach the people from the Scriptures. This He did upon the Sabbaths and synagogue days. At other times He preached in the streets or fields, or sitting in a boat upon the sea; in every convenient place where the people were willing to hear Him. His fame as a healer of the sick caused many to be brought to Him, and He appears in general to have healed all, (Mark vi. 56 ; Matt. ix. 35.) His sojourn in any single village was necessarily brief, and therefore those who had been really impressed by His works or words, and desired to see or hear Him more, followed Him to the adjoining towns, or sought Him at Capernaum. The disciples do not appear to have taken any public part as teachers, but may privately have aided Him in various ways to disseminate truth among the people. The expenses of these journeys were probably borne by the contributions of the disciples, and by the voluntary offerings of the grateful who had been healed, and of their friends. After the Twelve had been chosen, one of their number seems to have acted as treasurer, taking charge of the moneys designed for the common use, (see John xii. 6.)

A specimen of the daily activity of the Lord may be found in the narrative of His early work in Capernaum. He enters upon the Sabbath into the synagogue, and teaches, filling all His hearers with astonishment at His words. He then heals a demoniac, probably immediately after the discourse. Leaving the synagogue, He enters Peter's house and heals a sick woman, and crowds coming to Him at evening, He heals many others. The next morning, after a time of meditation and prayer, He departs to another city. Similar, doubtless, in their main features to this, were His labors upon subsequent Sabbaths. In mentioning these circuits, none of the Evangelists give them in regular order, or relate the events in chronological succession.

Each has his own principle of selection and of arrangement, with which we are not now concerned; but it is obvious when we remember how great the Lord's activity, how many His works and words, that within the limits of their narratives only very brief outlines can be given.

The stages of progress in the Lord's labors in Galilee will be noticed as we meet them. Yet it should be noted as characteristic of the beginning of His ministry, that we do not find any open avowal of His Messianic claims. He' wished the people to infer who He was from His words and works, rather than learn it from any express declarations of His own. He preached the kingdom of heaven as at hand, and illustrated it by His miracles. If the people had sufficient spiritual discernment to see the true import of what He said and did, this was all the proof that was needed that He was the Messiah.

"We give at this point, for the sake of convenient reference, an outline of the Lord's Galilean work, divided into periods of sojourn in Capernaum, and of circuits in the adjacent territories. The grounds for the order will be stated as the particular periods come under consideration.

First Sojourn in Capernaum.

Rejected at Nazareth He comes to Capernaum. In its neighborhood He calls the four disciples while fishing upon the lake. On the following Sabbath He preaches in the synagogue, and heals the demoniac, and afterward heals the mother of Peter's wife. In the afternoon, after the sun had set, He heals many others". Early the next morning He rises to pray, and then departs to preach and heal in the adjacent cities and villages.


He visits the "next" villages, probably those lying nearest Capernaum, as Chorazin and Bethsaida. ISTo particulars of this circuit are given, except that He heals a leper " in one of the cities." This being noised abroad, He is for a time unable to enter any city, and retires to secluded places, where the people gather to Him.

Second Sojourn in Capernaum.

Crowds begin to gather to Him so soon as it is known that He is at home. A paralytic is brought to Him, whom He heals, forgiving his sins. This awakens the anger of the scribes, who regard it as an assumption of the Divine prerogatives. He goes forth again by the seaside, and teaches. Walking along the shore, He calls Levi. He goes upon a Sabbath through a field in the neighborhood of Capernaum with His disciples, and on the way plucks and eats the ears of corn. This is noted by the Pharisees of the city, who were watching Him. He enters the second time into the synagogue, and heals the man with a withered hand. The Pharisees and Herodians now conspire against Him. He departs to the seaside, and is followed by crowds.


Leaving Capernaum, He goes to a mountain in the neighborhood, and after a night spent in prayer, calls His disciples, and from them chooses the twelve apostles. Great multitudes now gathering to Him, He delivers the Sermon on the Mount, and returns, apparently the same day, to Capernaum, still followed by the multitudes.

Third Sojourn in Capernaum.

He heals, immediately upon His return, the Centurion's servant. The people so throng Him, and His labors are so incessant, that He has not time even to eat, and His friends fear lor His sanity.


The day following He goes to ]STain, and raises from death the widow's son. He continues His ministry in the adjacent region. John Baptist sends a message to Him from his prison; to which He replies, and addresses the people respecting John. He dines with Simon, a Pharisee, and is anointed by a woman, who is a sinner. He returns again to Capernaum.

Fourth Sojourn in Capernaum.

He heals a blind and dumb possessed; whereupon the Pharisees blaspheme, saying that He is aided by Beelzebub. His mother and brethren come to Him, but He rejects their claims. He goes to the sea-shore and teaches in parables.


The same day at even, He crosses the sea with His disciples, and stills the tempest. He heals the Gadarene demoniacs, and the devils, entering into, destroy a herd of swine. The people of the country entreat Him to depart, and He returns to Capernaum.

Fifth Sojourn in Capernaum.

Here Levi makes Him a feast. He heals the daughter of Jairus, and the woman with an issue of blood.


He goes to Nazareth, and is a second time rejected. He teaches in the villages of that part of Galilee, and sends out the twelve apostles on their mission. About this time Herod puts the Baptist to death, and now hearing of Jesus and His miracles, wishes to see Him. Jesus returns to Capernaum, and the apostles gather to Him there.

Sixth Sojourn in Capernaum.

No event is narrated as Laving occurred during this sojourn. Probably it was very brief—a mere passage through the city.


He crosses the sea with the Twelve to seek retirement, but the multitude immediately follow Him. He feeds the 5,000, and sending away the apostles by ship, He rejoins them the next morning, walking on the sea. Landing on the plain of Gennesaret, they return to Capernaum.

Seventh Sojourn in Capernaum.

He discourses in the synagogue upon the bread of life. His discourse causes many of His disciples to forsake Him. He addresses the Pharisees, and heals the sick.


He goes to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon to find retirement. Here He heals the daughter of the Syro-Phcenician woman. Crossing the northern part of the Jordan, He goes to Decapolis. He heals a deaf man, and feeds the 4,000, and returns by Dalmanutha to Caj)ernaum.

Eighth Sojourn in Capernaum.
He is tempted by the Pharisees, who seek a sign.


He crosses the sea and visits Bethsaida, where He heals a blind man. He goes toward Caasarea Philippi, and is transfigured. He heals the lunatic child, and returns to Capernaum.

Ninth Sojourn in Capernaum.

He pays the tribute money, and discourses to the disciples. His brethren would persuade Him to go up to the feast of Tabernacles, and work miracles at Jerusalem. He rejects their counsel.


He goes up in secret to Jerusalem during the feast of Tabernacles, and teaches the people. Afterward, a woman taken in adultery is brought before Him. He heals a blind man, and addresses the people. He returns to Capernaum.

Final Departure from Capernaum and Galilee.

The first notice we have of the Lord, after leaving Nazareth, (Matt. iv. 18; Mark i. 16; Luke v. 1,) brings Him before us standing on the shore of the lake, and surrounded by people that pressed upon Him to hear the word of God. How long an interval had elapsed since He left Nazareth, we have no data to decide, but this gathering of the people to Him presupposes a period, longer or shorter, during which He had been teaching. Not improbably He may have been several days upon the journey, and His growing reputation as a prophet, joined to rumors of what had taken place at Nazareth, would procure Him audience in whatever village He entered. Especially as He came near the lake, the numerous cities and villages would furnish crowds of listeners to hear one who spake as never man spake.

It was as He thus approached Capernaum that He met upon the lake His former disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, and called them again into His service. We have already seen that on leaving Galilee, His baptismal work ceasing, His disciples left Him and returned to their homes and usual pursuits. To the feast (John v. 1) He seems to have gone unattended, nor apj)arently were any disciples with Him at Nazareth. But now that John's imprisonment had determined the character of His future ministry, He proceeds to gather around Him those who had already been workers with Him, that they might enter upon this new sphere of labor. Heretofore their relations to Him had been similar to their previous relations to John the Baptist, involving only a temporary absence from their families and business. " These disciples, hitherto," says Lightfoot, " were only as private men following Christ." But now the Lord sought to engage them in a work which should be life-long, and which was incompatible with other pursuits. They should now be His constant attendants, going with Him wherever He went, and thus necessarily separated from their families and friends. This call to follow Him, was not, indeed,-as Alford and others suppose, a call to the apostleship, but to a preliminary service ; and those thus called had as yet little understanding what labors, dangers, or dignities, it involved.

To one wTho considers the essentially different character of Christ's work in Judea and in Galilee, it will not appear surprising that, beginning the latter, He should give to these disciples a new and distinct call Only neglect to note this difference permits any one to speak of a want of harmony between John and the Synoptists upon this ground.

From the narratives of Mark, (i. 16-35 ; see also Matt. iv. 18-23,) we should infer that the call of Peter and Andrew, James and John, was His first act after the Lord came to Capernaum. Luke, however, (iv. 31-42,) places the preaching in the synagogue, the healing of the demoniac, and of Peter's wife's mother and others, and His first circuit, before this call; which order some follow. But

we shall find abundant proof that Luke does not follow the chronological order, and that nothing decisive can be inferred from the fact that he places the call after the miracles and teaching. Still, as his accounts of this call differ somewhat from those of Mark and Matthew, many have been led to regard them as distinct, and as happening at different times.1 The peculiarity of the call in Luke, according to this view, is, that it was later than that in Matthew and Mark, and that now " the disciples forsook all, and followed Him." Now they became fishers of men, (Luke v. 10,) in fulfilment of His previous promise, (Matt. iv. 19.) This involved the entire relinquishment of their secular callings, and to convince them of His ability to take care of them and supply every temporal need, the Lord works the miracle of the draught of fishes. But the words of both Matthew (iv. 20) and Mark (i. 18) are express that "they straightway forsook their nets and followed Him." How, then, should they be found several days after engaged in their usual occupations ? That, whenever the Lord was at Capernaum, these disciples were wont to follow their calling as fishermen, as said by Alford, is plainly inconsistent with their relations to Him, and with the service He sought from them. Certainly they could have had little time for such labors amidst the pressure of the crowds, which seem to have ever gathered around Him when He came to Capernaum.2

The circumstances attending the call of the disciples, as related by the several Evangelists, may be thus arranged: As Jesus approaches the plain of Gennesaret from Nazareth, teaching by the way, many flock round Him to hear His wonderful words. Passing along the level and sandy shore, where the fishermen's boats were drawn up, He sees amongst them the boats of Simon and Andrew, and of James and John, who having been fishing, were now washing their nets.

i So early, Augustine, and recently, KrafFt, Stier, Greswell, Alford. a See Ebrard, 307.


As the people pressed upon Him, He requests Simon to push off his boat from the shore a little way, that from it He may teach the multitude as they stand before Him. After His discourse is ended, He directs Simon and Andrew, and perhaps also others with them, to push out into the deep waters and let down the net. This, after a little hesitation arising from the ill-sue-, cess of their labors the previous night, Simon does, and they take so great a number of fish that the net begins to break. He now beckons to those in the other boat, James and John, and their companions, who had doubtless been watching the whole proceeding, and who now come to their help, and both boats are so filled as to be in danger of sinking. This unexpected success, and all the attendant circumstances, make such a powerful impression upon Simon's mind, that acting with his usual impetuosity he casts himself at the Lord's feet, saying, " Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord." All are astonished to see a Divine hand in what had happened. Soon after this, probably so soon as they reached the shore, He calls Simon and Andrew, in whose ship he still was, to follow him, for He will make them fishers of men. During this time James and John had gone a little distance from them, and were engaged in repairing the net that had been broken. .Walking upon the shore He goes to them and calls them also to follow Him, and they, leaving their father and servants, follow*Him.

In this way may we find a natural and easy solution of the apparent discrepancies between Matthew and Mark on the one hand and Luke on the other. Luke alone relates that Jesus spake to' the people from Simon's boat, and afterward directed him to fish, and shows in what relation this fishing stood to the subsequent call of the fishermen. Matthew and Mark omit all but the fact that they were

engaged in their usual work of fishing when thus called. There is then no such opposition in the accounts as to make it necessary to refer them to different events.1

On the first Sabbath following the call of the four disciples, he enters the synagogue and teaches. His teaching excited general astonishment, but not the envy that manifested itself at Nazareth. Present in the synagogue was a man possessed with a devil, whom He heals, and through this miracle, thus publicly performed, His fame spreads rapidly through all Galilee, (Mark i. 28.) It is to be noted that he did not here, or subsequently, permit evil spirits to bear witness to His Divine character or Messianic claims, (Mark i. 34 ; Luke iv. 41.) The ground of this imposition of silence may have been, that the intent with which such witness was offered was evil, and that it would also have tended to evil by awaking premature and unfounded expectations as to His future work.

From the synagogue the Lord proceeds to the house of Simon and Andrew, where He heals Simon's wife's mother. As mention is made by John (i. 44) of Bethsaida, as the city of Peter and Andrew, it has been conjectured that the house at Capernaum was that of the parents of Simon's wife; but against this is the expression " house of Simon and Andrew," which implies the joint ownership of the two brothers. It is therefore more probable that they had now left Bethsaida and taken up their residence at Capernaum.8 The healing of Peter's wife's mother seems to have been at the close of the synagogue service, and before evening, for at evening all that were diseased and possessed were brought to Him.

1 In this general result agree Lightfoot, Newcome, Townsend, Robinson, Wieseler, Tischendorf, Lichtenstein, Ebrard. For an answer to objections, see Blunt, Scriptural Coincidences, 256, note.

2 This may be a slight confirmation of the supposition that there was but one Bethsaida, and that east of the Jordan.

The synagogue service closed at or before noon, and it may be inferred from the fact that she " ministered unto them," that she served them at the table at the midday meal. According to Josephus,1 the hour of this meal was, on the Sabbath, the sixth, or twelve o'clock. That the sick should wait till the sun was gone down, (Mark i. 32,) maybe referred to the great scrupulosity of the Jews in regard to the Sabbath.8

* Life, 54. 2 See Lightfoot on Matt. viii. 16; and xii. 10.