Jesus’ Ministry beyond Israel

Though the majority of Jesus’ ministry was performed within predominantly Jewish areas of Palestine, the Gospels also record several occasions when Jesus traveled beyond Israel and ministered to Gentiles, including a visit to Tyre and Sidon in Syria and possibly multiple visits to the region of the Decapolis southeast of the Sea of Galilee. It is difficult to be certain of the exact order of the various events of the Gospels, so it is unclear if some of these trips beyond Israel were part of a single, larger trip or if they were all made separately. Jesus’ visit to Tyre and Sidon was likely an attempt to take some time away from the great crowds he was increasingly drawing in Galilee, for Matthew specifies that Jesus “withdrew” to the region with his disciples, and Mark notes that Jesus did not want anyone to know where he was staying (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). Nevertheless a Gentile woman found him and begged him to cast a demon out of her daughter, and Jesus did. Another time Jesus and his disciples got into a boat and crossed over the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis, though the exact location is unclear. Some manuscripts record that he landed at the region “of the Gadarenes”; others read “of the Gerasenes” ; and still others “of the Gergesenes.” Gadara, Gerasa, and Gergesa were all located within the Decapolis, meaning “Ten Towns,” which had been granted a special autonomous status with Rome. There Jesus cast demons out of two men, leading the residents to plead with him to leave their region (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39). On another occasion while Jesus was in the Decapolis he healed a deaf and mute man, and those who heard about it were amazed (Mark 7:31-37). The Gospels also record that Jesus traveled to the town of Caesarea Philippi at the foot of Mount Hermon in the far north of Israel (though this was technically still within the jurisdiction of Judea). Caesarea Philippi was one of the sources of the Jordan River and home to a prominent pagan shrine to the Greek god Pan. Here Peter famously declared to Jesus: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30). It was likely also here that Jesus was transfigured before his disciples on a “high mountain” (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13; Luke 8:28-36).

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