The Ministry of Jesus

Among Jesus' public acts during his ministry, one of the best known is called the Miracle at the Wedding at Cana (Jn 2.1-12), when Jesus changed water into the finest of wines. In this account, Jesus and his mother Mary attended a wedding at Cana, in Galilee. During the feast Mary told Jesus that the hosts had run out of wine. At first, Jesus told his mother that it was not yet time for him to reveal his glory, but then he ordered the servers to fill six water jars to the brim and to draw some out for the headwaiter to taste. The servers had filled the jars so they knew it was water, but the headwaiter did not; when he tasted it, he marveled at the fact that such a fine wine was to be served so late in the celebration. After that event, Jesus began to preach all through the area of Galilee that all should repent and prepare for the kingdom of heaven—the end of time, which was soon to appear on earth. Jesus traveled around teaching, preaching, and performing miracles, including healing the sick, curing lepers, making blind men see, deaf men hear, and lame men walk, and bringing back to life a dead man named Lazarus. He embraced lepers and welcomed sinners, urging all to believe in God and to be redeemed. His fame traveled as far as Syria and crowds gathered wherever he went.

Among Jesus' followers were twelve disciples or apostles, men chosen by him to form the foundation of his new church. Following John the Baptist, they believed him to be the Messiah, the one about whom Moses and the prophets had written. The first to become disciples were the fishermen Simon and his brother Andrew. As they were casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee, Jesus called them to follow him and become "fishers of men." Included among the Twelve were (Mt 10.1-4): the "fishers of men" Andrew and his brother Simon, whom Jesus renamed Peter, James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, the tax collector, James, son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who later would betray Jesus to the Romans. Before commissioning them to go out and preach the coming of the kingdom, Jesus gave the disciples the authority to cure diseases, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and dispel demons. In giving them this injunction, he predicted that they would suffer persecution; he told them that he knew sending them out to preach what he was teaching was like sending sheep into the midst of wolves (Mt 10.16).

Jesus' teaching often took the form of parables—short narratives with morals attached—such as the parable of the prodigal son who returned to his father's home after spending his patrimony (Lk 15.11-32). His arrival was celebrated with a great feast while his brother, who had worked loyally for the entire time his brother was gone, had never enjoyed that extravagant a display of affection from his father. The moral of this parable is that when someone returns from a life of dissipation to one of honest living it should be celebrated and that honest living is in itself a reward. His parables often confused even his disciples who would listen to Jesus deliver one and then later ask him to explain its application (Mt 13.36).

Jesus performed miracles for large crowds and also while alone with his disciples. All four gospels include the story of the Multiplication of the Loaves or the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Mt 14.13-21, Mk 6.34-44, Lk 9.10-17, Jn 6.1-13): Jesus attracted so many followers that once when he was in a small boat in shallow water, thousands of people had gathered on the deserted shore nearby to hear him speak. When it grew late and there was no village nearby where they could buy food, Jesus asked his disciples to bring him all the available food. He blessed the five meager loaves of bread and two fish and turned them into enough food to feed the multitudes, and enough to fill twelve baskets with leftovers. Shortly after this miracle, Jesus performed another miracle that only his disciples saw—he walked on water (Mk 6.45-48, Jn 6.16-19). After the crowds of his followers had eaten, Jesus withdrew to a nearby mountain and sent his disciples ahead by boat across the sea to Capernaum. A few miles out in the open sea the disciples could no longer row against the wind and churning waves. Suddenly, out of the storm, they saw Jesus walking on the water approaching the boat. In Matthew's version of the miracle (14.22-25), Peter then climbed out of the boat and began to walk toward Jesus, but he began to sink and Jesus rebuked him for his lack of faith. When Jesus got into the boat the stormy waters calmed, but the combination of the two miracles had frightened and astounded even his disciples.

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