Jesus' Public Ministry

Discovery for Teachers

Jesus' Public Ministry


Luke 4:14 through 11:54

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)


This portion of the Gospel of Luke covers Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and the beginning of His ministry in Perea, the territory east of the Jordan River. Jesus used Capernaum as His home base, but He travelled into many of the cities and villages in the region, teaching, preaching, and healing as He went. During this period Jesus called the twelve disciples who would be instrumental in helping to establish His church, and commissioned seventy followers to proclaim the Kingdom of God throughout Israel. In addition to His public ministry, Jesus spent time alone with His disciples, revealing to them His mission as the Savior of the world, His coming death, and the cost of true discipleship.

At times, Jesus’ teaching took place in Jewish synagogues. During the years of Israel’s exile when there was no Temple, synagogues were established as places of worship and as schools for young boys; a synagogue could be built in any town where ten or more Jewish families lived. It was customary for Jewish people to gather there on the Sabbath to hear the Scriptures expounded, and that practice continued even after the Temple was rebuilt. A visiting rabbi sometimes was invited to read from the Scriptures and teach, and Jesus availed Himself of that opportunity on a number of occasions.

As Jesus’ fame spread throughout the area, He began to preach and teach in locations other than the synagogues. Luke states that He ministered in homes, by the seashore, as He traveled between various places, on the plains, at city gates, and in desert areas. Luke also mentions occasions when Jesus withdrew from the crowds for time alone in prayer, and spent time privately with His closest followers.

In these chapters, Luke’s description of Jesus’ ministry emphasizes the complete well-being or wholeness that Christ came to bring. He healed sick bodies but also delivered from sin. He had compassion for the hungry people in the wilderness, as well as for the spiritual hunger of penitent sinners. He set free the demon-possessed, and raised the dead. By word and deed, Jesus showed love and compassion, regardless of nationality, gender, age, wealth, or station in life.


  1. In our focus verses, Luke 4:18-19, Jesus explained the purpose of His ministry on earth. What did Jesus say He was sent to accomplish? Why were these things needful for the human family?

    Jesus said He was anointed to preach the Gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, preach deliverance to the captives, recover sight to the blind, set at liberty those who were bruised, and preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Point out to your class that He was reading from Isaiah 61:1-2, a passage of Scripture which would have been very familiar to those in the synagogue who were listening to Him.

    As your group discusses the second question, they should conclude that Jesus’ actions were needful because of sin. The world was in distress. Hatred and oppression ruled the lives of the people, who were spiritually blind and held captive by sin. There was a great need for a Deliverer. Point out to your class that the world situation has not changed. People still are held captive in spiritual blindness and sin. The need for the Savior and Deliverer is just as great today. Those of us who are saved are called to offer the hope of deliverance through Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
  2. After describing the purpose of His ministry by reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21), what did Jesus mean when He said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears”? What was the response of the people to His statement?

    Jesus was indicating that He was the Messiah; this was His first public declaration of that fact. Clearly, the people were astonished at His claim. While they admired his “gracious words” — likely referencing His speaking ability and His manner of reading the Scripture — they were amazed to hear one who had grown up in their midst make such an assertion. Their surprise quickly turned to indignation as they realized what He was claiming, and they tried to cast Jesus over the side of the mountain into the valley below. However, He “passing through the midst of them went his way” (verse 30).
  3. We read in Luke 5:16 that Jesus withdrew into the wilderness to pray. A little later, before selecting His disciples, Jesus went to a mountainous region, and this time prayed all night (Luke 6:12). What was the value in removing Himself from others in order to spend time alone with God? Why do you think He did this?

    Jesus was the Son of God, but He was also fully man, and still felt the need of communing with the Father. Jesus was drawn to prayer; it was not a duty. Class discussion should focus on the fact that personal communion with God is a vital component of succeeding spiritually. While there is blessing and power in united or corporate prayer, spending time alone with God should not be neglected. One way we can assess the value of such a practice is by observing how many obstacles the enemy tries to put in place to prevent it from happening!

    Class discussion may also bring out that Jesus was our perfect example. He came to earth as a man so He could empathize with our humanity and show us how to have victory. Jesus knew we would need strength and grace from God to triumph over temptation, and He set a wonderful example before us by withdrawing from those around Him and spending time alone in prayer to His Father.

    You may wish to point out that Luke describes Jesus in prayer before every major undertaking during His earthly life. Not only should we pray about needs and challenges that face us, but we should never make an important life decision without bringing it before God in a season of earnest prayer.
  4. In chapter 5 we read that Jesus taught the people from Simon Peter’s boat which had been rowed a distance away from the shore. Afterward, He instructed Simon to launch out into deeper water and lower his nets. Simon Peter had fished all night and caught nothing, yet he did as he was told. What qualities did Simon exhibit by his response, and what were the results? What would be a formula for victory using this account? Luke 5:1-11

    Simon Peter exhibited faith and obedience. He did not understand why Jesus told him to lower the nets, and he even remonstrated briefly by pointing out to Jesus that no fish had been caught though they had spent the night trying. However, though it seemed pointless to lower the nets again, Simon obeyed. The result was that the net enclosed “a great multitude of fishes” — a quantity so immense that the net broke.

    As your class discusses what formula can be derived from this example, they will likely conclude that obedience mixed with faith will result in victory. There may be times in our lives when we feel God leading us in a way which does not seem to make sense. It may be a call on our lives that we feel incapable of fulfilling adequately. We may feel led to speak to someone about the Lord, but are unsure because we do not know how our words will be received. However, if we truly feel God has called us to do something, we should trust Him and obey. Whether or not we always see “a great multitude of fishes” — an awesome, direct result because of our obedience — we will have spiritual victory and the approval of God.
  5. Luke records frequent occasions when the Pharisees or teachers of the Law exhibited condemning attitudes toward Jesus. Chapter 6 provides two examples of them finding fault: when Jesus allowed His disciples to pick corn to eat on the Sabbath (verses 1-5), and when He healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath (verses 6-11). Jesus saw the hypocrisy of the Pharisees’ hearts, and responded that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (verse 5). What did He mean by that statement?

    When Jesus said that He was “Lord of the Sabbath,” He was stating that His authority as the Messiah and the Son of God overruled the traditions and practices established by religious leaders. Point out to your class that many restrictions had been put in place by the Jews’ religious leaders themselves. For example, thirty-nine categories of activities were forbidden on the Sabbath. These included the prohibition against harvesting, which Jesus’s disciples challenged by picking grain to eat. (“Corn” was wheat or barley; the chaff was removed by rubbing in their hands.) The forbidden activities also included practicing medicine on the Sabbath. Since the Pharisees equated healing with the practice of medicine, Jesus challenged that tradition when He healed the man with a withered hand. The religious leaders of the day were always on the lookout for what they considered infractions of the Law, so they quickly identified these two supposed violations in an attempt to condemn and discredit Jesus.

    What irony that these so-called teachers of the Law were challenging the very One who created the Sabbath! Jesus had the authority to interpret what activities honored or violated the Sabbath; the Pharisees certainly did not.
  6. In chapter 8, verses 4-18, Jesus gave the parable of the four soils to illustrate spiritual receptivity. While emphasis is often placed on the variety of soil in this parable, we should also consider the seed itself. What does the seed represent? What are some conclusions we can draw about sowing the seed that are applicable to our day?

    According to verse 11, the seed represents the Word of God.

    In response to the second question, several points could be mentioned.

    •   The sower “went out” to sow the seed. We know from Scripture that the Gospel message will “go out” to every man, enlightening every individual about his/her spiritual need. As Christ’s followers we have a commission and a responsibility to go “into all the world” with the message of salvation.

    •   The seed was living; it had the potential to bring forth new life. The Word of God continues to be alive thousands of years after it was written. It still has the potential to bring forth new life in a receptive heart.

    •   The responsibility of the sower was to sow abundantly, even though he was no doubt aware that some would be snatched away and others would spring up at first but ultimately would be choked out. We recognize that some in our day will reject the truth, and others will respond initially but in time will fall away. The results depend upon the receptivity of the one who hears the Word; no fault can be found with the seed itself.
  7. Luke 8:22-25 tells of a fierce storm which occurred on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples, who were traveling across that body of water at the time, were afraid. Fear is a normal human reaction when we face alarming circumstances. Yet after calming the storm, Jesus challenged the disciples by asking them, “Where is your faith?” What can we do to retain our faith when faced with fear-inducing circumstances?

    Your group should conclude that while faith may not be the natural first reaction to fear-inducing circumstances, we should remind ourselves that God is in control of everything that comes our way. He does at times allow situations that will test and stretch us spiritually. Faith is not a failure to see the danger, nor is it simply an absence of fear, but rather a surrendering of our fear to God. It is trusting that God will take care of us, and will work out all situations for good (see Romans 8:28).

    To get to that place of complete trust in every circumstance will take prayer and drawing close to God. Faith is built on the Word of God, so as we absorb Scriptures and embrace them, our faith is strengthened. Another faith builder is to recall past answers to prayer in our lives as well as the lives of others. We will find that keeping our eyes on Jesus rather than on circumstances gives a wonderful calm even in the midst of the storm.
  8. On two occasions recounted in chapter 9, Jesus warned His disciples about His impending death (Luke 9:21-27,44-45). He also stated that following Him would not always be easy. It would necessitate a life of self-denial and there would be a cross to carry. How can Jesus’ admonition in Luke 9:23 be fulfilled in today’s world?

    In verse 23, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” To deny ourselves and carry our cross is simply to surrender our will to the Lord and to obey Him instantly and completely. Doing so requires trust. It may mean to go, as Jesus commissioned the disciples, or it may mean to stay, as Jesus commanded the demoniac who had been healed. The bottom line is that we follow our Lord by imitating His life and obeying His commands. We are not to expend our lives on earth for our own pleasure, but in serving God and others. We all must make sacrifices. At times, commitment may be costly in a number of ways, but in the end, it will be immeasurably worth all pain and effort!
  9. In chapter 10, a lawyer attempted to involve Jesus in a typical Jewish dispute over fine points of the Law by asking what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by validating the concept of loving God and loving our neighbors (verse 27). When the lawyer pressed further, asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. We can all relate to this story as we all encounter people to whom we should reach out in compassion. What are some ways we can minister to the needs of others?

    Your group should conclude that ministering to the needs of others may be more than sharing our resources. The Good Samaritan not only paid for the man’s lodging, but he took time from his own affairs to offer compassion and personal care. The heart of love, expressed to another, likely will be the most valuable ministry of all.

    Every person we come in contact with can be considered our “neighbor.” We should never be so busy that we fail to respond when God shows us a person in need. There are endless ways we can help, depending upon the particular circumstances. Take time to offer a smile or a question of concern to a depressed or troubled co-worker. Send a note or take a meal to someone who is grieving or going through a hard place. If our hearts are open to the leading of the Spirit, we will find many opportunities to minister out of hearts of love.
  10. When Jesus was a guest in Martha’s home, her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet in worship and communion with Him. Martha was attempting to minister to Jesus through acts of hospitality, and she complained that Mary did not help her (Luke 10:38-42). However, Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better part. What does this account teach us about priorities?

    Your class should conclude that communion and time spent with God must be a first priority in our lives. God is more concerned about our relationship with Him than what we do for Him. Martha was so busy in serving God that she failed to take time to just be with Him. It is vital that we never let serving God become a substitute for spending time with Him.

    Ask your class to discuss some ways we can make our relationship with God a high priority, even though we live busy lives and have ongoing responsibilities in the Lord’s work and to our spouses, families, employers, and so on.


Jesus taught His followers that love was the rule by which men are to live, and He lived what He taught when He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and delivered those in bondage. He commissioned His followers to follow His example by proclaiming the Kingdom of God in word and deed.