Bridgeman/Art Resource, NY

“Christ preaching on the Sea of Galilee,” by Jan Bruegel the Elder (1568–1625). “Such a very large crowd gathered” around Jesus when he began teaching parables beside the sea that he preached from a boat while his audience remained on the shore (Matthew 13:1–2//Mark 4:1–2). As many of the Galileans flock around Jesus’ boat (center) in Bruegel’s painting, others continue to haul fish from their boats (lower right) and clean their catch (lower left). Jesus could presumably have attracted far greater crowds, and had more influence, in Jerusalem, the religious and political center of Jewish life.

Jesus must have had a compelling reason to center his ministry in this rural area. His motive may be gleaned from at least one passage in the Gospels: “When [Jesus] heard that John [the Baptist] had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee” (Matthew 4:12//Mark 1:14). Did Jesus feel obliged to take over the ministry abruptly terminated by the Baptist’s arrest?