Survey of the New Testament
with Jim Leffel
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Week Two: The Ministry of Jesus


"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son" (Galatians 4:4).

Messianic expectation

Old Testament prophecy

We said last week that God had carefully plotted out a strategy in which he would establish his reign on earth through the agency of his Davidic, messianic king.

Jewish expectation and intertestimental experience

Between the close of the Old Testament era and the time of Jesus, the promise of a messiah became a major part of the Jewish psyche. Heartened by the heroic, if limited victory of the Macabean Revolution, the Jews saw the messiah through the eyes of military conquest.

Social conditions

Pax Romana (20BC-180AD)

This is the period of time from Tiberius to Marcus Arelieus. The empire was free of serious external threat, had it's most stable economy, and internal harmony. The Romans connected their empire by an extensive network of well protected roads and port cities around the Med. basin. The linking of diverse ethnicities by a common language was also an important feature of the Roman empire. These factors provided the circumstance around which God could effect his plan for man.

Setting the stage: Jesus prior to his ministry



to establish Jesus in David’s royal line

universality of God’s program: Gentiles, women, all humanity included

Differences in the Gospel genealogies:

Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy to David, but not the kingly line. Mary is in the line of David. His Gospel ends with Joseph, even though Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ father (see Mt. 1:16, "whom" is fem.).

Matt. traces Jesus’ genealogy through the kingly line, showing Jesus’ right to be the Davidic messiah.

Birth narrative

When was Jesus born?

During the time of census (Herod’s problem with Rome) and toward the end of Herod’s reign: 5/4 B.C. (see Lk. 2:1-5; Mt. 2:1)

Jesus’ family

Siblings (Lk. 2:7; Mt. 13:55,56)


Beginning of public ministry at "about 30" (Lk. 3:23)

John the Baptist: the forerunner

Jewish understanding of baptism

John’s baptism of Jews (Mk. 1:7,8. See Mal. 3:1; Is. 40:3)

Jesus’ baptism by John

Identification as messiah (Jn. 1:29-34; Lk. 3:21,22)

Identification with humanity (2 Cor. 5:21)

An overview of Jesus’ ministry

Jesus’ ministry is punctuated by two events: baptism (identification with humanity) and crucifixion/resurrection (resolving human dilemma)

Early Judean Ministry: Year of obscurity

Gathering of disciples (Jn. 1:38-51)

Describe the "master/disciple" relationship in Judaism

Sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:14-21)

Identifies his messianic mission (Is. 61, Day of the Lord)

Return to Judea

Cleansing of the temple (Jn 2:13-25)

Explain temple practices under the sadduces (temple currency, temple tax, animal selection, profit to high priest and associates)

Begins healing, exorcising and preaching (Lk. 4:40-44)

Show the distinction between disease and demon possession

John the Baptist is jailed, and Jesus goes north to Galilee

Galilean Ministry: Year of popularity (Luke 10:1)

Healing ministry

1. "signs" attest to his identity (Luke 7:20-23)

2. Symbolic, or teaching in orientation (Jn. 9:13-17)

Sabbath and the Pharisees. Confrontational

3. Miracles attest to his authority (Luke 5:17-26)

His ability to forgive sins.

Teaching ministry

Sermon on the mount, parables from this period. Large crowd follows him around to listen to his sermons (content later). Itinerant preacher, who spoke both in the synagogues and in open air environments.

Polarization of his followers

Jn. 6:66-70; Mk. 8:27-29; Mk. 9:1-13 (transfiguration)

Perean Ministry: Period of rejection

Clearer teaching about his mission (Luke 11:29-36; Mk. 9:30-33; Mk. 10:32-45).

Note: popular to think that the sermon on the mount is the center of Jesus' teaching, but not so. It is the cross, and that is why for example in John and Mark, the last week takes up half of the gospel. The narrative (especially of Mark) shows the geographical movement south, toward Jerusalem, to his death.

Hostilities at a climax (Luke 11:14-16, 37-54)

Here, Jesus both exposes their hypocrisy and sealed their contempt for him.

Passion Week

1. Triumphal Entry (parousia): Luke 19:35-39

a. This had both biblical and roman significance.

i. Parousia (appearing) was a victory march for the Romans.

ii. Fulfills a prophetic function (Zech. 9:9)

b. A decisive moment in Jesus' ministry as he accepts openly identification as the awaited messiah.

c. Declares the ominous consequences of rejecting him (Lk.19:40-44).

2. Denunciation of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:13-36)

The "woes" to the Pharisees.

3. Cleansing of the temple (Luke 19:45-48)

Final act of confrontation and rejection of the Jewish religious establishment.

4. Last Supper (Luke 22:14-23)

Link with Passover, blood and body of Christ.

5. Trial

The charge against Jesus is really twofold. The Jewish Sanhedrin accused him of blasphemy for his claim to be God's son. But since the Jews could not execute violators of their law, another charge had to be drummed up. It was charged that Jesus, as the self-proclaimed messianic king was a revolutionary against the state. These charges were then related to the Roman governor, Pontus Pilate.

Luke 23:13-25. Jesus is innocent by the standard of Roman justice.

6. Crucifixion

a. Explain death by crucifixion.

b. Seven statements from the cross:

i. Lk. 23:34. "Father, forgive them...." Plea for grace to executioners.

ii. Lk. 23:43. "Today, you shall be with me in paradise."

iii. Jn. 19:27. Request to John on behalf of Mary.

iv. Mt. 27:46. "My God, my God..." cf. Ps. 22:1. Experience of the judgement of God on Jesus. An infinite being can take eternal punishment in finite period of time.

v. Jn. 19:28. "I thirst." Cry of physical anguish.

vi. Jn. 19:30. "It is finished." Tetelestai, or "paid in full." Explain the cirtificate of debt (Col. 2:13,14).

vii. Lk. 23:46. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." With the sins of humanity paid for, Jesus was now able to be restored to fellowship with God.

(What happened between death and resurrection? 1 Pet. 3:18-20)

7. Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10)

The central teaching of the early church: Jesus died for the sins of humanity, and by his resurrection, proved the adequacy of his sacrifice and the assurance of eternal life. Authenticity of the resurrection claim: "No one dies for what they know to be a lie" (Origen). There is no other credible historical alternative to the biblical record. Something profound happened, the historians are in agreement on this point. When the first-hand testimony for which the witnesses were prepared to die is combined with the testimony of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the messiah, the case is quite strong.

8. Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)

Link to gen. 12:3 promise that in Abraham, all of the nations of the earth would be blessed. This is the central marching order of Christ to the church. We are God's "Plan A" and there is no "Plan B."

9. Ascension (Luke 24:50-53)

Glorification of God's messiah. Christ reigns on the throne of David (Ac. 2:29-36), and prepares a place for his people (John 14:2).

The Teaching of Jesus

Jesus' identity

1. "I am" (Exodus 3:14; John 8-10, 14)

a. Jn. 8:48-59. Before Abraham was I am

b. Jn. 8:12. I am the light of the world

c. Jn. 10:7. I am the good shepherd

d. Jn. 14:6. I am the way, the truth and the life

e. Jn. 10:9. I am the door to the sheep

2. Equality with God (Jn. 10:30; Jn. 17:5,8)

3. Claims divine prerogatives

a. forgive sins (Luke 5:20)

b. granter of eternal life (Jn. 17:2; 14:6)

4. Unique Davidic Son (Luke 20:41-44; cf Ps. 110:1)

Jesus’ Sermons

Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

Meaning of the Law.

This sermon is Jesus' major teaching on the Law of Moses. He ascends to the top of a mountain, in the same way that Moses received the Law from the top of Mt. Sinai. Jesus assumes for himself a level of authority even beyond that of Moses, by prefacing many of his pronouncements with "You have heard that the ancients were told (a reference Moses).....but I say..." (Mt. 5:21,22).

Jesus challenges the legalistic, externalistic interpretation of the Law held by Jewish scholars, and held that there was an inner demand of the Law which was completely forgotten by the Jews (Mt. 7:28,29).

Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).

The blessings of the kingdom fall on the "unlikely." That is, the poor, the sick, those whom the Pharisees referred to as the "sinners." The basic thread that goes through the beatitudes is humility and inner sensitivity to God's moral priorities, such as justice and mercy.

By this deeper, inner humility, Israel was to be the "city set on the hill" and "salt and light" to the world. That is what God intended for the Law in Ex. 19:5,6. Israel was to be a living testimony to God for the world. The notion of being a witness to the gentile world was completely lost in 1st century Judaism. Jesus' disciples, by contrast, were to be the testimony of god to the world, who, by their good works would glorify God.

Jesus fulfills the Law (Matthew 5:17-19).

Jesus does not reject the Law or the prophets, but identifies himself as the completion of them. That is, in his life, ministry and death, he satisfies the full intent of the Law and the message of the prophets.

Internal demand of the Law (Matthew 5:20-48).

Clearly, these are representative samplings of how the law is binding, and not meant to be exhaustive.

5:20-26. Murder is hate

5:27-32. God's design or intent for marriage

5:38-42. Revenge

5:43-48. Love. Unselective, sacrificial love is the essence of moral living. Love is the fulfillment of the moral content of the Law (cf. Mt. 22:34-40; Jn. 13:34,35; Jn. 15:7-17).

Confrontation with externalistic religion (Matthew 6:1-18)

Note the intent of the Lord's Prayer (Mt. 6:5-8).

Living by faith (Matthew 6;19-34)

The sign of lack of faith in the goodness of God is the hunger for a wealth based security. Unbelief is accompanied with anxiety. Note the contrast in 7:7-11.

Confrontation with hypocrisy (Matthew 7:1-6)

Note that in the context, he is not saying that one can never legitimately impose moral standards on others. Rather, he is exposing the Pharisaic mentality that they were better than others (cf. Lk. 18:9).

Jesus will stand in judgement over humanity (Matthew 7:13-23).

Note again, the level of authority Jesus claims for himself.

Postscript: Two Foundations (Matthew 7:24-27).

Ultimately, the moral teaching of Jesus is to bring people under God's blessing, having grounded their lives on a proper foundation.

Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13)

What is a parable?

An allegory taken from common experience, in which there is usually one single point being made. It is not unlike a fable in that sense. Each of the details of the parable are typically unimportant. In interpretation, we look for the main idea being conveyed. Interpreters since Augustine have gotten into trouble ascribing meaning to each aspect of the parable. Recent scholarship has shown that the parable form was to express a single meaning. There are exceptions to the "one story, one meaning" principle. But in interpretation, unless the text supplies more that one dimension of interpretation, we must be very tentative in our ascribing more than one meaning.

Why did Jesus speak in parables?

Mt. 13:10-17. The hardness of heart of the Jewish religious establishment is contrasted with the simple understand of the believer. The simplicity of God confounds the genius of fallen man.

1. Kingdom as a mystery: Much of Jesus' teaching recorded in the Gospels surrounds the identification of himself as the messianic servant of God, and the pronouncement that the reign of God (the kingdom) has come through his ministry. Yet, the reign of God is not as the first century Jews had expected. The true nature of the kingdom Jesus announced was "not of this world" (John 18:36) and was shrouded in mystery (Mk. 4:11; Jn. 16:25).

"Mystery" means something that was hidden, but which is now revealed. The mystery of God's rule is twofold. First that it comes to the "unlikely." That is the message of the Sermon on the Mount. God offers his kingdom not to those who think they satisfy the moral requirements of the Mosaic Law, but those of humble state who recognize their dependence on God. Secondly, the Kingdom is a mystery in the sense that messianic servant would come first to redeem a people who would voluntarily subordinate themselves to his rule. The message of the suffering servant who atones for the sins of the people is present in the Old Testament (Is. 52, 53), but it is difficult to grasp in light of the more prominent message of the Davidic King who rules over the earth on behalf of God. The message of the atoning death of the messiah was something that can be clearly seen after the crucifixion of Christ, but which could not be truly understood before hand. That is why when Christ would speak openly of his death and resurrection, even his disciples wondered to themselves what he meant (Mk. 8:31.32; 9:10). It is clear from the teaching of Christ, the testimony of his disciples, and from the message of the rest of scripture, that God intentionally kept hidden the true intent of Christ's mission (see Rom. 16:25-27; 1 Peter 1:10-12).

The question of why God wanted the sacrificial death of Christ to be unknown is answered for us in 1 Corinthians 2:6-9. It is in the atonement that God is able to qualify men to enter his kingdom. Had the devil really understood this, he would not have had Christ crucified, knowing that the end of his claim to the earth was eminent. In his death, Christ put to an end the stranglehold of the Satanically-inspired rebellion against God. It is only now, in retrospect, that we can look back into the scripture and see clearly that this was God's plan all along. Now the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness exist together. But there is coming a day when Christ will return to establish his rule upon the earth, as the prophets of the Old Testament had envisioned. Between the cross and his return, Christ is expanding his kingdom by persuasion and conversion, not by power and coercion.


1. Reign (authority to rule).

2. Realm (domain of rule).

The kingdom is a time of peace and justice in which god will personally rule. This theme was the hope of the prophets. The "Day of the Lord" (Joel 2,3) and the kingdom (Dan. 2:44) refer to the same thing.

Kingdom as present and future.

Proclamation of the kingdom is a crucial aspect of Jesus' teaching. The kingdom is portrayed as both a present reality and a future hope. It is a present reality, in that God offers his rule in the lives of those who would accept his messiah, but future in the sense that God will one day impose his rule without the consent of those under it. The future kingdom is the millennial kingdom established at the end of the age. John the Baptist announced the presence of the kingdom in the ministry of Christ (Mt. 3:2; 4:7). Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom has come in his ministry (Mt. 12:28; 11:12,13). At the same time, Jesus looked to the kingdom as a future hope (Mk. 14:25; Mt. 8:11; Mt. 6:10). In his teaching, Jesus offered the kingdom of god to the Jews, but on the spiritual basis of individual repentance and faith, rather than on a politico-nationalistic basis, as they had expected of their messiah. By rejecting Jesus, most of the Jews, including their official leaders, rejected God's rule through the Messiah. Consequently, God has transferred his kingdom to the believing community, the church (Mt. 21:42, 43; Col. 1:13; Rom. 14:17: Ac. 28:23,28-31). Yet, there remains a plan for Israel in the end times

Central themes of the kingdom

1. From humble origins to global status.

Mt. 13:31,32. The mustard seed.

Lk. 15:16-24. The dinner invitation.

2. Entered by grace through faith.

Mt. 13:3-9; 18-23. The soils

Lk. 18:9-17. The Pharisee and the Publican.

3. Entering the kingdom produces joy, rejection of the kingdom results in judgment.

Mt. 13:44-46. Joy of the kingdom.

Mt. 13:47-50. Judgment on those who resist the kingdom.

Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24)

a. Background (Mt. 23:29-39). The Jews rejection of the messiah would mean their destruction. They would have to look to the future for the kingdom to be established.

b. Apocalyptic return of Christ, and the nature of biblical history.

see other notes.

Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16): see other notes.

a. The Person and work of the Holy Spirit

b. The "Helper"

c. Transition to the work of the Christian community by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God's work through the new community, empowered by the Holy Spirit

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