This is a very brief, very rough cut summary of the ministry of Christ. I hope in the future to expand and refine this, with more detail and Scripture references. But for now, I hope perhaps this is in some way a helpful overview of the flow of Christ’s ministry on earth.
The ministry of Jesus can be divided into two sections – the first 2 ½ years may be categorized as His Public Presentation, while the last year may be called Private Preparation. The recorded adult life of Christ begins with His baptism, followed by His temptation by the Devil in the wilderness. Immediately following His temptation in the wilderness, John the Baptizer announces Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus’ first miracle is performed in Cana (John 2), turning water to wine at a wedding. Jesus then goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, where He cleanses the temple for the first time. Jesus is also gathering John’s disciples to Himself during this time. When Jesus hears that John is arrested, He leaves for Galilee, traveling through Samaria, where He encounters the woman at the well. Jesus then begins His Galilean ministry for about 18 months, during which time He performed many miracles, in order to validate His two-fold claim to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Many believed Him and followed after Him, but many rejected Him (Matthew 12; John 6:66).
After these major rejections, Jesus begins speaking in parables to the crowds, only interpreting them for His disciples. Jesus also sends out His disciples two by two on a short-term preaching mission to the Jews (Matt. 9:35-11:1). Jesus then returns to His hometown of Nazareth, but is rejected (Matt. 13:57). After this rejection, and hearing of John the Baptizer’s beheading, Jesus retires across the sea to a remote place. However, the crowds hear of where he is staying and find; Jesus clearly desires to be alone during this time period, but He has compassion on the people, heals many of them, and miraculously multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed the crowd of over 5000 people. Jesus was then traveling around Galilee carefully, and avoiding Judea, because the Jews wanted to kill Him (John 7:1). Jesus travels to Phoenicia, then to Decapolis, where He heals the crowd of 4000. He then briefly returns to Galilee where the Pharisees demand a sign of Him, but He refuses. Jesus is careful not to draw attention to Himself with great signs – in stark contrast to His first 2 ½ years of ministry.
In Matthew 16 then, Jesus speaks explicitly of His death for the first time – to which the disciples respond with horror. This is followed quickly by His transfiguration – witness by Peter, James and John – in order to strengthen their faltering faith in Him. In Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, the woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus, who shows her mercy. Jesus also at this time makes the statement, “before Abraham was, I am,” to which the Jewish leaders respond by picking up stones to stone Him, understanding Him to be claiming deity. Jesus then sends out the seventy to evangelize, and begins ministering in Judea outside of Jerusalem.
Jesus then returns to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication. The Jewish Leaders tell Jesus to tell them clearly if He is the Messiah. Jesus refuses to answer directly, but when He claims to be the Son of God, the Jews pick up stones to stone Him again, and Jesus escapes. Jesus retreats to the region of Perea, where He is received warmly, and stays for about 3 ½ months. Upon the death of His friend Lazarus, Jesus returns to Bethany and raises Lazarus from the dead – preparing the people for His triumphal entry – and then retreats to Ephraim for a time. Jesus sets off, for the final time, toward Jerusalem for the Passover. Along the way, He heals ten lepers. He also teaches on such things as prayer, divorce, the Kingdom, and rewards. Jesus arrives in Bethany, and stays with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
On Sunday of the Passion Week, Jesus enters Jerusalem in what is now known as the Triumphal Entry. Jesus goes into the Temple, heals many people, and returns to Bethany for the night. On Monday, Jesus curses the fig tree on His way into Jerusalem, then cleanses the Temple (for the second time), and returns to Bethany for the night. On Tuesday morning, the fig tree is found to have withered, and the explanation is given. Jesus teaches for the day, answering questions and delivering the Olivet Discourse. Tuesday evening, the Jews plot to kill Jesus with the help of Judas. There is no record of any events occurring on Wednesday. Thursday evening, the Passover meal is observed, and the Lord’s Supper is instituted. Judas leaves to betray Jesus, and Jesus takes the disciples out of the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane.
After Jesus’ prayers in the garden, the Roman soldiers arrive and arrest Jesus. He is led away and put through several illegal trials, first brought to Annas, then to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, then to Pilate, then to Herod Antipas, and then back to Pilate again. Pilate reluctantly but wickedly gives in to the demands of the Jews, and Jesus is taken to Golgotha and placed upon a Roman cross at about 9:00 Friday morning.
Jesus is on the cross for six hours before He dies; the last three hours are in darkness. Jesus dies at 3:00 in the afternoon – the very same time the slaughtering of the Passover lambs begins in the Temple. Jesus’ body is buried just before sundown on Friday. Jesus is raised from the dead early Sunday morning, and appears to Mary Magdalene, then to the other women, then to His disciples. Over the following forty days, Jesus appears to His disciples a number of times, to over 500 at once in Galilee, to His half-brother, James, and then to His disciples again. Jesus appears to His disciples one last time to give them final instructions, and then ascends into heaven from the Mount of Olives (Luke 24), and His disciples return to Jerusalem praising God and preaching until the coming of the Holy Spirit.