Below we have the latest installment of Bob Dunne’s book, 909 Days that Changed the World. We will post two chapters a week for the summer months. We suggest reading it quietly and putting yourself in the scenes. You might be amazed at how closer you can get to Jesus! Should you be interested in your own copy, the book ($14.95 plus sales tax) can be bought from his publisher Leonine Press, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. It is also available in Nook and Kindle. You may also get an autographed copy directly from Bob by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 12: Jesus Takes his First Tour of Galilee
Early the next morning Jesus gets up and without waking anyone goes out the door and slowly walks into the hills on the west side of town. As the sun begins to rise in the east, he finds a little indented spot in those hills, out of view from the town below, and begins to enter into intense prayer with his Father. Yesterday was a big day, his public life taken up a level by all the miracles. He knows that is the turning point in his ministry. We leave Jesus in deep, loving communication with his Father and return to the town below.
Some time after Jesus leaves the house, Mary is awakened by the sound of people gathering outside the door. It is early dawn, and the people are clamoring for Jesus. Mary, noticing he is not there, tells them that perhaps he is at the house of Simon’s mother-in-law. When they get there, Simon and Andrew say they do not know where he is. The crowd is growing bigger by the minute as more and more people wake up and, with thoughts of yesterday’s events fresh in their minds, come to look for Jesus. Perhaps he is at the house where John and James are staying? A quick run over there is not rewarded with his presence. Where can he be? The townspeople begin searching around to see if they can find him.
The four disciples, having observed Jesus’ predilection for praying in the mountain hills since they moved to Capernaum, slip away and move up the hillside to see if Jesus is there. After a short search, they find him. He is sitting down, eyes closed, with such a look of peace on his face. They do not want to disturb him, but with the noise of the crowd in the background, Simon calls his name softly and Jesus opens his eyes. “Everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37), says Simon. Jesus smiles softly at Simon and the others and tells them that he will greet them all but he cannot stay in Capernaum and adds, “Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come” (Mark 1:38).
Others have also been coming up into the hills looking for Jesus, especially after they notice Simon doing so. Just as Jesus is finishing talking with his four disciples, a few of them reach the spot where Jesus and the four are standing. The cry of having found him goes up, and many others hurry to see. They are gushing over him, thanking him for yesterday’s cure of their loved ones, offering to have him stay at their houses, asking if there is anything they can do for him. Jesus smiles and thanks all of them but tells them as he did the four, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43).
The crowd lets out a collective gasp and begs him to stay with them a bit longer. When they see he is resolute, many offer to go with him, but Jesus tells them all to go back to their homes and their work. They have responsibilities and should tend to them. He promises he will return, but for now he will only be taking Simon, Andrew, James, and John. The crowd begins to break up and return to their homes, but two linger on. One is Philip, who, having heard the news of Jesus’ miracles yesterday, has made the short trip to Capernaum from Bethsaida. Jesus walks up to him and with that same look that captivated him back at the Jordan riverbank over a year ago asks him to join them on the trip. Without any regard for what he might be
missing back home, Philip says “yes” and is ready to go.
Finally the crowd has totally dispersed, and there remain only Jesus, Simon, Andrew, John, James, Philip, and one other person standing there. It is Mary, and she looks at him with inquiring eyes, wondering if she will be going with him. He walks up to her and puts his hands atop her shoulders. He asks her to wait here in Capernaum for his return. Mary longs to be with him but she agrees without hesitation. She thinks to herself that her son will now more publicly be about his Father’s business. Mary walks back down the hill towards the town, and Jesus and the other five head over the hills into the other parts of Galilee.
During this “first tour” of Galilee, Jesus preaches in the synagogues, heals all manner of sickness, and casts out many devils. We don’t get much detail from the gospels about specific miracles, but there is one that stands out. As Jesus is passing from one town to another, a leper comes out of hiding from the side of the road. The crowd gasps as the leper, in violation of every law, runs towards Jesus. The crowd scatters in all directions, but Jesus does not move. This poor man “full of leprosy” (Luke 5:12) kneels at Jesus’ feet and begs, “If you wish, you can make me clean” (Luke 5:12). Jesus looks at him and sees not just a man in search of someone to lift his misery, but more. This is a man who has genuine faith in Jesus as his words “if you wish” clearly indicate. He wants to be cured, true, but he asks it to be Jesus’ will and not his own. Jesus is touched to the core of his heart, and the crowd, far enough away so as not to catch the leprosy from the contaminated man, but close enough to observe the interaction between the two, notice the intense look of affection and concern on the face of Jesus. Even so they are not prepared for what comes next. Jesus stretches out his hand and touches the leper. Imagine the horror and confusion of those watching. Touching someone with leprosy is anathema. Doesn’t Jesus know he is risking getting this ugly disease himself? Jesus does not care at all. “I do will it. Be made clean” (Luke 5:13), and the leper is immediately cured. The man’s joy knows no bounds. He gets up, embraces Jesus, and runs off “to show himself to the priest and offer what Moses prescribed for his cleansing” (Luke 5:14). Nothing moves Jesus to action as does faith; it remains still true today.
In every town he visits on this tour, the pattern is usually the same. He preaches, he heals, and the people beg him to stay longer. Everyone wants to be with him; no one wants him to leave. He frequently goes out to the deserted places to pray and gather strength, but the people keep coming to him (Luke 5:15-16). We can imagine the enthusiasm Jesus generates as he goes from town to town. Never have the people seen such miracles, and brought about by such a meek, humble, and loving man. Who is this man? The idea of Jesus being the “Messiah,” the one to save the Jewish people from Roman rule, begins to build up steam. Although his demeanor does seem meek, perhaps he is the one who will lead the people to a new era of power and success. Truly, no one has ever worked as many wonders as he has in these towns and villages.
There are a group of people, however, who are more skeptical— or, rather, jealous of Jesus. The chief priests of these towns see the people flocking to him and hanging on his every word. Inevitably some of these chief priests begin to fear he is usurping their power. Some try to throw cold water on the people’s enthusiasm, but mostly to no avail, and as Jesus leaves each town or village to go to the next one, these chief priests are left pondering what they are to do about him. After numerous weeks on this tour of Galilee, Jesus and his five disciples turn back to Capernaum. He has won over large numbers of the people of Galilee, but it is now time for him and his disciples to get back home to their respective jobs and families. It is early January, day 441 of the 909 days that changed the world. Simon Peter is about to make a startling insight, and Jesus is about to make a proclamation that will scandalize many and steel the chief priests even more against him.