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God Knows What He Is Doing

John 4:1-3
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptising more disciples than John – although in fact it was not Jesus who baptised, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. (NIVUK)

Jesus did not want to start a religious movement.  He had no interest in the Jewish agenda of overthrowing the Roman occupation, nor competing with John the Baptist (or any other group such as the Pharisees) by having more disciples.  Jesus’ agenda had already been agreed in heaven with the Father and the Spirit.  He was to demonstrate the character of God in a human lifestyle (Colossians 1:19-20), train a small group of Apostles to lead His church (Acts 1:1-8) before dying on the cross for their salvation, rising again and returning to heaven.

Jesus knew the timetable and ensured that He was not distracted away from it (Luke 9:51).  The whole of His life and ministry was focussed on the cross – and He arrived there just at the right time to be the Passover Lamb, who was sacrificed for the sins of the world (1 Corinthians 5:7).  But it was not yet time for that, and so Jesus moved His ministry base back to Galilee (the word is used for the lake or ‘sea’ of Galilee as well as the administrative region whose governor was Herod (Luke 23:6-7)).

The large region of Galilee extended west from the shores of the lake to the hilly areas east of the Syrian Mediterranean coastal plain.  It was away from the religious focus of the country in Jerusalem and separated from it by the region of Samaria.  No self-respecting religious Jew would pass through Samaria.  And so Galilee, with its regular transit by international Gentile traders, was the ideal place for Jesus to train His Apostles.  It was sufficiently out of the way to avoid official religious criticism or precipitate His arrest before God’s appointed time (John 7:6-9).  It also was the time He chose to train His apostles.

God often does His deepest work in the people He wants to equip when they are away from the spotlight.  That is how He worked with Bible characters like Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Paul.  The trainee Apostles needed time to observe what Jesus was doing in public and have time in private to question Him about the meaning of His words and deeds (Matthew 13:10-18).  We often learn important lessons when God allows circumstances which encourage us to listen to Him.  However, when we have learned the lessons, God will expect us to put them into practice in the public square, unashamed of our Saviour and confident of our identity in Him.  So do not be discouraged when you see life changing - it may well mean that after a period of spiritual training close to Him, you will become very useful to the Lord again.

Gracious God. I am grateful that You know everything and that You have Your plan for my life. Forgive me when I become distracted by the pressures of life and fail to listen to You or allow myself to be shaped by Your Word. Please help me to realise that You are working in me through all the circumstances of life so that I may become useful to You and a joy to Your heart. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams