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JESUS: How did people understand Jesus during his public ministry?

How did people understand Jesus during his public ministry?

For the public, Jesus was at first a master or a teacher who taught in the synagogues (Mk 1:21) and at public places (Mk 2:13). Like the followers of other rabbis of the time, many followed him because of their curiosity to listen to his edifying teachings. Some people called him rabbi because, like other rabbis, he also taught in a sitting position (Mt 5:1; 13:1), he was an expert in the scriptures, lectured in the synagogues and at the Temple (Lk 19:47), and used parables to teach.

Some people considered Jesus a prophet because he taught with authority as if his words were direct from God as compared to the Scribes who used to teach from the scriptures (Mt 7:29). His reputation as a prophet grew and his followers increased because he performed miracles more than all other prophets did. “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Mt 16:14).

The close disciples of Jesus believed in his divinity and even performed miracles themselves, using the power Jesus shared with them. When Jesus called Nathanael to be his disciple, Nathanael acknowledged the divinity of Jesus saying, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49). When Jesus asked Simon Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” his reply was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:15-16).

Many believed in what Jesus taught, and even considered him the Messiah. However, some of his initial disciples doubted his teachings. Though they appreciated his instruction and miracles, they were not firm believers in Jesus and his role as the Christ. Those are the people who stopped following him. They were like the seed that “fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots” (Mt 13:5-6).

Jesus was aware of the effect of his ministry on each individual. He accommodated all of them with patience and gave them the freedom to stay with him or leave him. Along with human nature, he had the divine knowledge to understand the inner thoughts of his listeners. John documented, “While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well” (Jn 2:23-25). This he knew from the beginning of his ministry.

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