If the views that have already been presented in regard to the divisions of the Lord's ministry are correct, we are in a position to judge rightly the statements of the Evangelists respecting the period that intervened between the departure from Galilee and the commencement of Passion Week, a period of about five months. In Galilee the Lord had accomplished His work. He had gathered about Him a considerable body of disciples, (1 Cor. xv. 6,) who saw in Him, with more or less clearness of vision, the Christ of the prophets, and Son of the living God; and there was also a much larger number, who, unable to see in Him the Messiah of their hopes, still believed that He was a prophet sent from God, and heard His words with reverence. Besides, there must have been very many in all parts of the land, who had seen His works, and been more or less impressed by them, and yet had not felt the power of the truths He taught. His labors had by no means been in vain, although, as set forth in His own parable, but little of the seed He had so diligently sown, fell into good ground.
There are two circumstances that seem to have marked, if not determined, the conclusion of the Galilean ministry; first, that the apostles, not to speak of other disciples, had learned the mystery of the Lord's person as the Son of God, divine and human ; second, that the machinations of His enemies at Jerusalem were arousing great hostility against Him in Galilee, and making the further prosecution of His labors there full of difficulty and danger. Both of these points demand attention.
It needs no argument to show that the Lord's ministry must primarily aim at the recognition, on the part of His disciples, of the great fact that in His person " God was manifest in flesh." Until they were able to rise above the ordinary Jewish conceptions of the Messiah, and to see in Him the Son of God, He could open to them but little of the divine purpose. He could say nothing to them in distinct terms of His death, resurrection, and ascension. He must continue with them in person till, through their communion -with Him, they should learn who He was, and what His relations to the Father. And, as we have seen, when Peter, in the name of all the apostles, made the confession that He was "the Christ, the Son of the living God," He for the first time announced to them His approaching death, (Matt. xvi. 21.) This announcement it was still very hard for them to understand, and perhaps the more that they now knew Him to be the Son of God, for what had death to do with Him ? But, however imperfectly held, the germ of this great truth of His divinity was in their hearts, and they were now in a state to receive those teachings of Jesus which had reference to a heavenly kingdom, and implied His divine nature. Thus the foundation was laid of that high knowledge of God's purpose in Him, which they needed in their subsequent work, and for which
they were further prepared, first by the teachings of the Lord Himself after His resurrection, and then by the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost.
Thus we see that the recognition on the part of His disciples of His divine Sonship, and the consequent announcement to them of His approaching death, mark the end of His Galilean ministry. Yet a little time must elapse, that these truths might get more firmly rooted in their faith, ere the terrible hour of His sufferings should come.
That, as His disciples grew in knowledge and love, the darkness and bitterness of His enemies should increase, was but what Jesus Himself had foretold. All who loved the light gathered around Him, the true light. His words were the test by which the thoughts of all hearts were revealed ; and as His ministry was prolonged, and the truths He taught were more distinctly apprehended, the line of separation between His friends and His enemies became more and more marked. His popularity among the people seems to have been at its height about the time of the Baptist's death. Immediately after the feeding of the five thousand, many wished to take Him by force and make Him a king. But the nature of His teachings soon repelled not a few who had been counted among His disciples, (John vi. 6Q ;) and the Pharisees at Capernaum, and elsewhere in Galilee, became daily more open and virulent in their opposition. Gradually the great crowds, that at first thronged around Him, diminished ; the novelty of His first appearance passed away; His calls to repentance were by most disregarded; His miracles, wonderful as they were, were not of a kind to satisfy the populace that He was the expected Messiah ; His enemies were active and unscrupulous in representing Him as a blasphemer ; His nearest and most trusted disciples were uninfluential and obscure men, publicans, fishermen, and the like. It is not, therefore, in itself at all strange that there was not in Galilee at the end of His ministry any general belief in His Messianic claims. Outside of the circle of the disciples He was regarded by many as a prophet, but not aa the Messiah, (Matt. xvi. 14; compare also xxi. 11.) The great body of the Galileans turned away from Him. Against those cities which He had often visited, and where He had wrought His mightiest works, He pronounced a fearful judgment. Thus in Galilee as in Judea, Jesus was despised and rejected of men.
But the Lord did not yet forsake His people. He will make one more, and a final appeal. Up to this time He had not openly and expressly declared Himself to be the Messiah, either in Judea or in Galilee. He left the Jews to judge for themselves, from His teachings and His works, who He was. But they did not for the most part discern Him. Their preconceived opinions of the Messiah prevented them from recognizing Him in the obscure, humble, peaceful Galilean, mighty as were His miracles, and sublime as were His teachings. Yet, while thus not answering to the popular apprehensions of the Messiah, He seemed in His discourses to claim higher rank and power than even the Messiah could claim ; a mysterious relationship to God which was blasphemous. Thus, on the one side, His silence respecting His Messiahship caused many, who were astonished at His works and words, to look upon Him only as a prophet; and on the other, His repeated allusions to His divine Sonship drew upon Him the enmity of many as a blasphemer.
But while it was the will of God that His people should be left at first to recognize His Son by His words and works, yet He willed also that there should be borne clear and full testimony to His Messianic character, that all might be without excuse. Such testimony John the Baptist had borne, and to this was now added that of all His disciples, who in the very fact of their discipleship proclaimed Him to be the Messiah. He had not indeed permitted the apos
ties to proclaim Him by name, (Matt. xvi. 20,) because He then for their sake avoided publicity. But the time had now come when His Messianic character must be publicly asserted, that the whole nation might know that He wTas the Christ, the Son of David, the King of Israel; and if rejected, He must be rejected as such. The people should not be left in doubt whether He asserted Himself to be more than a simple prophet, or, like the Baptist, a forerunner of the Messiah. He will go up to Jerusalem ; for if it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem, how much more is this true of the Son of God; and He will go with every circumstance of publicity, to be received or finally rejected by those whom God had set to be the heads of the people. It must be a national act, and cannot be done in ignorance. In Judea, He had testified of Himself as the Son of God, but in vain. ~Now He will return thither, and His disciples shall bear witness to Him, if perchance the nation will hear them. To this end His messengers shall go before Him into every place where He designed to go, and announce the kingdom of God at hand in the person of the King.
Here, then, we find the grand peculiarity of the Lord's last journey to Jerusalem. As He knew, and had declared to His apostles, He wTent up to die; but to the Jewish people the issue of His journey was not known, and the secret purpose of God did not hinder this last appeal to them to repent and receive their Lord.
It is thus the mission of the Seventy, who were sent " two and two before His face into every city and place whither He Himself would come," that gives to this last journey its distinctive character. Going before Him, they announced that He was about to follow them on His way to Jerusalem, and thus prepared all who heard them to see in Him, not a mere prophet, the risen John, or Elijah, or any other; but the Christ. They were His heralds or forerunners, and their work was to announce His approach, and to prepare His way.
This large deputation, seventy in number, thus preceding Him, must of necessity have given great publicity to all the Lord's movements, and gathered crowds around Him in the various places He visited. As they were to confirm their message by healing the sick, this also would excite general interest and attention. It necessarily follows that He pursued some fixed order in the journey, going only where His messengers had preceded Him, and where they had found reception. As they were to go two and two, it follows also that the visitation of these cities must have occupied considerable time on His part, and that the journey may have been very circuitous, though always having Jerusalem as its goal. Being the last journey, and so the last opportunity to address those whom He met, His teachings would adapt themselves to the time; and the purpose for which He sought public attention through His heralds, would naturally give a peculiarly Messianic character to all His discourses. This fact would also arouse, in a marked degree, the jealousy of His enemies, who would not fail to see in His conduct fresh proof of His ambition, and new grounds of fear. Thus the Lord would be brought more and more into collision with them, and His reproofs become more severe as they displayed more openly their hate.
How far the last journey from Galilee is marked by these characteristics, we shall see when we come to the examination of the several evangelic narratives. It will not, however, be questioned by any one who attentively examines them, and especially that of Luke, which is most full, that He was attended by multitudes; that He came very often into collision with the Pharisees; that His reproofs of their hypocrisy were very severe; that His teachings to the people made prominent the need of self-denial on the part of those who would become His disciples ; that
His parables taught very clearly the approaching rejection of the Jews, the appointment of new stewards, His departure to His Father, and His return in glory; and that He aimed to keep His approaching death clearly before the eyes of the apostles.
If the character of the Lord's last journey to Jerusalem be correctly stated, it is apparent that to the mission of the Seventy a much greater importance must be given than has usually been done by commentators and harmonists. Perhaps the fact that Luke alone mentions this mission, has led many to think it unimportant. But when we read the terms of their commission, and remember that it has had no other fulfilment than that here recorded, that there has never been, so far as we know, any body of men since to perform such a work ;* we cannot believe that their duty was trivial, and its results insignificant. The labors of the Seventy must have been of an importance corresponding with the breadth and dignity of their commission, and have exerted a powerful influence upon the people in this last stage of the Lord's ministry.
1 Some, indeed, have affirmed, that as bishops answer to apostles, so do presbyters to the Seventy; but this view has found no general reception.