January 19, 2019

Season of Withdrawal

When Jesus heard about it (John the Baptist’s execution), He withdrew from there by boat to a remote place to be alone. – Matthew 14:13a (HCSB)

Herod’s execution of John the Baptist marks another turning point in Jesus’ ministry. John had been imprisoned earlier toward the end of the Introduction Period. That event became the catalyst for Jesus to leave Judea and return to Galilee roughly 18 months earlier. This time it’s John’s execution that drove Jesus to carry his ministry into regions beyond the easy reach of Herod and begin a more deliberate effort at preparing his disciples for what was coming in just about a year. This was a SEASON OF WITHDRAWAL.

Jesus knew the day was coming. He knew he was destined for the cross as the final, sacrificial “lamb of God”. But the timing of his death needed to be on his timetable, not Herod’s or that of the Sanhedrin. There were things to do and preparing his disciples was one of those things.

Jesus had sent his disciples on a tour of Galilee preaching, healing, and ministering. They returned while John the Baptist’s execution was still fresh on peoples’ minds. The disciples were tired and needed rest. Further, their activity was raising questions in Herod’s mind regarding Jesus (Mark 6:12-14). So, Jesus initiated a season of rest and withdrawal from Galilee that would provide greater safety from Herod and a time to better prepare the disciples.

But while this was a season of withdrawal from Galilee, it certainly wasn’t a season of withdrawal from ministry. Jesus was quite active during this period and accomplished much. This is arguably the most intense period of ministry for Jesus as he took his message and ministry beyond “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

Some of the best loved stories and messages of Jesus come from this period; the feeding of the 5,000 (#??), Jesus walking on water (#??), Peter’s great confession (#??), and Jesus’ transfiguration (#??). It was a rich time of ministry that will teach us much about the heart and mind of Jesus as we put ourselves in the place of the disciples and follow Jesus and his disciples through these significant months.

The period begins with the return of the disciples from their ministry tour when Jesus calls them to “come away. . . and rest a while” (#??). It will take him north and west where Jesus will “take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs” (#??). It will see him transformed before Peter, James, and John (#??). Finally, it will conclude with his departure from Galilee for the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.

By the end of this period of time, Jesus is clearly anticipating the cross and preparing his disciples for that horrific event. The Passover is roughly six months away and the countdown has begun. Ministry will continue, but the clouds are beginning to gather. Jesus is heading toward his destiny in Jerusalem and Golgotha.

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For a listing of all of the events recorded for this period, see Season of Withdrawal Events.

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