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Copyright © 2001 Jeanie C. Crain
Last modified: March, 2002

See Back to Galilee (2012)



Mission to Galilee in Mark

Jesus began his mission in Galilee, according to Mark:

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”  38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”  39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons

After the death of John, Jesus began his mission in Galilee, proclaiming the good news and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”   Mark 1. 14  He calls his disciples, heals a man with an unclean spirit, heals Simon’s mother-in-law and many others with demons and various diseases.  When the crowds begin to search for him, he urges his disciples to go with him to neighboring towns so that he could do what he came to do (1.38). He heals a leper, whom he urges to go to the priest and offer what Moses had commanded. His mission in Galilee, nonetheless, has aroused controversy. He teaches a forgiveness foreign to the learned Scribes and is accused of blasphemy for saying sins are forgiven.  He has already been faulted for associating with sinners, replying that not the well, but the sick, need a physician. He calls his disciples to task for not fasting, and Jesus, with his eyes fixed on the kingdom itself, insists, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.” (2.18).  One recalls, “Fasting was undertaken for personal reasons (Psalm 25.13), as a national act in the face of calamity (Joel 2.15), or as a periodic liturgical observance (Zechariah 8.19); normally it involved abstinence from all food to show dependence on God and submission to his will” (Oxford Companion). The religious Pharisees fasted on Mondays and Thursdays.  Jesus uses the metaphor of the wedding here to indicate that the disciples, unlike the Pharisees in their present understanding, have the kingdom of God with them: “Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament view marriage as an image of the relationship between God and his people. It is therefore appropriate that the prophets, Jesus, and the book of Revelation use the imagery of weddings to describe the end of time, when God will be united with his people forever (Isaiah 25.6–9; Matthew 22.1–13; Matthew 25.1–12; Revelation 18.6–10; Revelation 21.1–4).”Gordon J. Wenham

He further incurs righteous indignation when his disciples pluck corn and eat on the Sabbath, but he replies consistent with his vision and mission that the Sabbath is made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.  In Mark, the mission continues in Galilee with Jesus doing good on the Sabbath by healing the withered hand of a man, driving the Pharisees to conspire with the Herodians against him. Undaunted by anything other than the press of people seeking healing, Jesus appoints twelve disciples to proclaim his message. Jesus understands his new version of Judaism will separate him from his people, indeed, from his own family:

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.  32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters † are outside, asking for you.”  33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

For the sake of that message, however, he commits to enduring the separation.  Not until chapter 6 in Mark, however, will Jesus shoulder the full consequences of that rejection and proceed to take his mission to Jerusalem itself:

6 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.  2 On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!  3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense  at him.  4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”  5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.  6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.


Jesus proclaims human beings have a spiritual obligation for accepting responsibility in the evolving kingdom; he urges that emphasis be placed upon the spiritual, but limited human beings continue to behold only the physical and are wowed by the healings. As Jesus speaks, he begins to be understood on two levels:

11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables;

Only a few will hear the word and bear fruit to it; only a few will behold the light manifest. Only a few will recognize the kingdom come in the seed already sown, the mustard seed which is smallest of all plants, growing up into the greatest of all shrubs. Still, some among the crowds, a few heard and experienced the kingdom realized, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”   About Jesus, the crowds separated, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"

Needy crowds press about him, nonetheless, and occasional instances of faith render the body whole. Jesus Jesus raises the daughter of the leader of the synagogue from the point of death, and he heals a hemorrhagic woman.  Nonetheless, Jesus in Nazareth in Mark is rejected, and Jesus begins his long and fateful trek to the Davidic city, Jerusalem, an event that will not happen until chapter eleven.

Between Galilee and Jerusalem, the activities of Jesus continue to set him apart from the religious establishment. Jesus runs into difficulty with the “cleanliness” rules, replying that nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”  He likewise encounters criticism for insisting that Moses’ sense of obligation to mother and father means more than paying temple offerings. He continues to overcome unclean spirits, to make the deaf speak, to minister to the hungry multitudes. The Pharisees continue to ask for signs and are accused of hypocrisy. Jesus, though, heals the repentant blind, causing them to see. In short, Jesus brings to the multitudes the kingdom of God with power (Mark 9.1). Mark shows Jesus as fulfilling in effect the traditions of Moses and Elijah, a tradition Jesus quickly  rejects: How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt?  Jesus understands clearly that his mission requires the rejection of the expected fulfillment in Elijah. A man of prayer (Mark 9.29), Jesus knows that he will die for his rejection of status quo: “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”   He remains confident that his purpose is sealed by a right understanding of his relationship with God. He has committed fully to being last, to becoming servant, to becoming as a child: 5 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”  36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,  37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”  Jesus understands fully that his mission divides the world: 40 Whoever is not against us is for us.  41, inevitably true then as now.  Continuing his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus already sees its outcome:

32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him,  33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles;  34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” 

 Enroute, he explains that human laws (divorce) protect human beings from the hardness of their own hearts, blesses the humble and believing children, understands the plight of the rich in its unwillingness to be separated from material goods,  empathizes with the human struggle to be first, and calls again for a faith that restores sight. He also explaind that once he is in Jerusalem, he will be killed but after a sufficient time, rise again. In short, Jesus proclaims spirit victorious over body. At this point, Mark (chapter 11) introduces Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

See Mission to Galilee in Matthew.

Link to full study of Mark by Jeanie C. Crain