8. The commencement of the Galilaean ministry. We read the details of the Galilaean ministry in the synoptists, who describe our Lord's public entrance, in the power of the Spirit, into Galilee. They are silent with reference to these earliest witnesses to his method and varied specimens of his work. Just as in the Revelation of St. John we have a proem, and a series of visions which rehearse the entire development of the kingdom and glory of the Lamb of God until the day of his triumph, his wrath, and his great glory; so in these earlier chapters of the Fourth Gospel we have an anticipation of the entire ministry of Messiah. Specimens and illustrations are given of his creative might, of his purifying energy, of his forecast of the cross, of his demand for inward and radical renewal of his promise and gift of life. We can read in these events his principles of judgment and his revelation of the Father, his mission to mankind as a whole, and his victory and drawing of souls to himself. We see, moreover, his relation to the theocracy and to the outlying world, to the learned rabbi and to the woman that was a sinner.. We see the Lord in his glory and in his humiliation. A very brief hint is given in the following verses of the character of his Galilaean ministry, Wherein mighty works and words alternate, and the first storm of direct opposition to him begins to make its appearance, upon which, while much light is cast by the narrative of John 5:1-47 ., we have no indistinct trace in the synoptic narrative.
Now after the two days— i.e. the two days of our Lord's sojourn in Sychar ( John 4:40 )— he went forth £ thence into Galilee. Here the author takes up the narrative of John 4:3 . The delay in Samaria was parenthetical to the chief end of his journey, which was to leave Judaea and commence his ministry in Galilee. He now enters it a second time from Judaea. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country, When therefore he came into Galilee, the Galilaeans willingly received him, having seen all things whatsoever he did in Jerusalem, at the feast: for they themselves also went to the feast. These words bristle with difficulties, and hardly two commentators entirely agree in their interpretation of them. Christ's visit to Galilee is here accounted for by the principle embodied in the proverb, or a part at least of the proverb, which he used (according to the synoptic narrative) with reference to his visit to and reception in Nazareth, about this some period in his career. Apart from that reference, the most simple explanation of the quotation would be that our Lord regarded Jerusalem and Judge, as in one sense, and a very deep one, "his country," not simply his birthplace, and which he felt at twelve years of age was to contain his Father's house and kingdom and work; and of which he afterwards said, "O Jerusalem, that killest the prophets,... how oft would I… but ye would not!" The Fourth Gospel records our Lord's various Judaean ministries with such striking incidents and impressive discourse, that his claim upon the loyalty of the metropolis was repeatedly urged and as repeatedly rejected. True that in John 4:1-3 we are told that our Lord left Judaea because the Pharisees, the influential religious party, were in a hostile sense comparing his ministry with that of the Baptist. This may only be another way in which the comparative unfruitfulness of his early ministry in Judaea is stated. "The prophet hath no honour in his own country." If this was the meaning of Christ's recurrence to the proverb, then we can understand the οὖν of John 4:45 , as well as the γάρ of John 4:44 , The Galilaeans who had been up to Jerusalem, and been favourably impressed—perhaps more so than any Judaeans, having formed the bulk of those who received baptism at his hands—received him graciously on his entrance into Galilee. The whole passage thus would hang together; a subsequent and similar and more acute experience where he was best known by face, in Nazareth, drew from him an expanded form of the proverb, in sad and melancholy iteration, "A prophet is not without honour save in his own country, and amongst his kindred, and in his own house " ( Mark 6:4 ; Matthew 13:57 ). [In Luke's enlarged account of the visit to Nazareth ( Luke 4:16-30 ), possibly an event which is perfectly distinct from the visit to his "own country" cited by Matthew and Mark, the proverb appears in its shorter form.] This interpretation is that preferred by Origen, Maldonatus, Wieseler, Baur, etc., formerly by Ebrard and Lucke, and now by Westcott, Moulton, and Plummer. In my opinion it is the most satisfactory and least encumbered interpretation. It does not seem satisfactory to Meyer and others, who urge that πατρίς can only mean what it obviously does in the synoptic narrative, viz. Galilee as represented by Nazareth. Meyer also interprets the γάρ as introducing a reason, not only for our Lord's present return to Galilee, but for his earlier departure from Galilee to Judaea ; and Meyer supposes that he must have uttered the words then. On this supposition, the Galilaeans in the first instance must have failed to appreciate his prophetic claims. Christ had gone to Jerusalem and Judaea, and there acquired the fame of a prophet, and subsequently these Galilaeans were ready to recognize it second hand, on the occasion of his return. Godet adds to this the joyful emotion that was felt when the plan of Jesus had been successful as far as the Galilaeans were concerned. Moreover, he gives a pluperfect sense to ἐμαρτύρησε , "he had testified." Against this we observe that our Lord must have soon found that, in a narrower and closer sense, his nearest friends and neighbours had learned nothing by their journey to the feast; and that the author of the Fourth Gospel must have been ignorant of the kind of reception so soon accorded to our Lord at Nazareth. Bruckner and Luthardt suppose by the γάρ that Jesus either sought the struggle with his unbelieving compatriots or the solitude induced by the absence of sympathy. There is not the faintest trace of this in the narrative. Then, again, Cyril, Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Hengstenberg, suppose that by πατρίς is meant his own city, Nazareth, which is here contrasted with Galilee in general, including Capernaum, which became the missionary centre of his early ministry. These commentators suppose that, when we are told "he went to Galilee," it means (as we see from verse 46) he went to Cana, "for he testified," etc.; and therefore that in this forty-fourth verse comes the tragic scene described in Luke 4:16-30 . Lange has supplemented this theory by another that removes part of the difficulty, viz. that by ἅτρίς was meant Lower Galilee, including Nazareth, and by the Galilee of Luke 4:44 was meant Upper Galilee and the neighbourhood of the lake, including Capernaum, to which we find that, after his cruel treatment at Nazareth, he retired. So Geikie. Now, there are difficulties in either of these views, which give great awkwardness to the expression, "So he came to Cana again," in verse 46. Tholuck, De Wette, Lucke, in various ways, urge that the γάρ of Luke 4:44 may mean namely, that is to say, etc., pointing onwards to the kindly reception which the Galilaeans gave him being due to the signs which they beheld, and not to the words of life which he had spoken. Every view seems to us far-fetched and inconsistent, with the exception of the first interpretation. The only objection that is at all urgent, arises from the fact that, in the synoptic narrative, Nazareth is spoken of as his country. But if this were so, we do but see in the reception accorded to him in Nazareth a further illustration of the very same spirit which was shown to him in the metropolis. In both places "he came to his own, and his own received him not." There is nothing improbable, if so, that in both places Jesus should have appealed to the homely proverb. On the second occasion he added to it, "his kindred and his home," as well as "his country."
Our Lord's return into Galilee.
He was now about to enter on the scene of his longest ministry.
I. THE REASON OF HIS RETURN TO GALILEE . "For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country."
1 . This might appear to be a reason for his avoiding Galilee, which was undoubtedly his own country.
2 . He meant that, though he might have no reputation in Galilee, he could carry into it the reputation he acquired in Judaea and Jerusalem. These places might be regarded as setting the fashion to Galilee by the high estimate they put upon his achievements.
3 . The proverb implies that a prophet, or any one who speaks in the name of the Lord, is entitled to special honour by virtue of his office . He ought to receive
II. THE WELCOME OF THE GALILAEANS . "The Galileeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast."
1 . The Galilaeans were not religious aliens in Palestine. "For they also went unto the feast."
2 . The reason of the Galilaean welcome to Christ was the impression made upon them by the miracles at Jerusalem. This fact marks their spiritual inferiority to the Samaritans, who believed on him for his word.