AFTER LEAVING Jerusalem, at the time of the Feast of the Dedication, Jesus went across the Jordan, and followed the river upward to the place twelve or thirteen miles below the Sea of Galilee; the place where he had been baptized by John, and where soon after his baptism he found his earliest followers. This place was called by two names, “Bethabara,” which means, “the town of the ford,” that is where one could wade across the river; and “Bethany beyond Jordan,” to keep it distinct from the other Bethany near Jerusalem, where Martha and Mary lived.
The twelve disciples were with Jesus at Bethabara, and some who came with him from Jerusalem and Judea. Also when the news went abroad in Galilee that Jesus was at this place, many more hastened to meet him; so that soon a large number of his followers gathered around him. Jesus was now near the border of the land on the east of the Jordan, known as Perea. This word means “beyond,” and the land was so named because it was “beyond the Jordan” from Judea.
Jesus had never visited this land, although he had preached in every other part of the country; in Judea on the south; in Galilee on the north; in Decapolis on the northeast; and even in Samaria, where the people were not Jews but Samaritans. He made up his mind now to go through Perea preaching, as he had preached in all the other parts of the land. But in Perea, his time must be short, because now only three months remained before the Feast of the Passover, and at that time he must be in Jerusalem. In order to make the people of Perea ready for his coming, and to bring together as many as possible to hear him, he chose the places in that land to be visited. Then he called seventy men from among his followers, and sent them by two and two to these cities and the villages around them, to preach to the people and tell them that Jesus was soon to come among them.
To these seventy preachers, Jesus gave the same commands that he had given to the Twelve some months before, when he sent them out to preach in Galilee. He said:
” Do not take with you a purse of money, or a bag for food, or an extra pair of sandals. Do not stop to give greetings to any who meet you on the road. Wherever you go into a house, first say, `May peace be to this house!’ Then if one is there who is in the spirit of peace, your peace will rest upon him; otherwise it will come back to you. Stay at that same house while you are in that city, and eat and drink whatever they offer you, for the workman has a right to his wages. Do not move around from one house to another. Whatever town you visit, if the people give you welcome, eat what is given you; cure those that are sick; and be sure to say to the people everywhere, `The kingdom of God is coming very soon.’
“But whatever town you visit, if the people will not receive you nor listen to your message, go out into the streets of that place and cry aloud, `The very dust of your city that clings to our feet we wipe off as a sign against you; but be sure of this, that the kingdom of God is coming to you soon.’ I tell you that in God’s day when he will judge men, the punishment of Sodom will be easier to bear than the punishment of that town!”
The seventy men went out from Bethabara, going in pairs, two men together, making thirty-five pairs. They visited all the cities and villages in the country of Perea to which Jesus had sent them, the places which he was expecting to visit later; gave to the people the message of Jesus, that the kingdom of God was soon to appear, and thus aroused the people everywhere to an interest in the coming of Jesus. Their errand was finished in a few weeks, for thirty-five pairs of men could soon visit many places; and when they came again to Bethabara, they found Jesus still there.
They told Jesus what places they had visited and how they had wrought many cures in his name and through the power which he had given them. With great joy they said to Jesus:
“Master, even the evil spirits obey us when we use your name!”
And Jesus answered them, “Yes, I have seen Satan, the chief of the evil spirits, fall from heaven like a flash of lightning from the sky. Remember, I have given you the power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and to trample under your feet all the power of the enemy; nothing shall in any way do you any harm. Only, do not rejoice merely because the evil spirits submit to you; but rejoice more because your names are written in heaven as the children of God.”
While Jesus was at Bethabara, many people came to see him and to hear his words. As this was one of the places where John the Baptist had preached three years before, they compared Jesus with John, and many of them said :
“John the Baptist never gave any wonderful works as signs that God had sent him; but he spoke about this man; and all that he ever said of this man was the truth.”
And while Jesus was at Bethabara many people believed in him and became his followers.