The Gospels state that Jesus is the Messiah, "Son of God", and "Lord and God", sent to "give his life as a ransom for many" and "preach the good news of the kingdom of God." The Gospels also state that Jesus travelled as a wandering rabbi and performed various miracles, including healings, exorcisms, walking on water, turning water into wine, and raising several people, such as Lazarus, from the dead.
The Gospel of John describes three different passover feasts over the course of Jesus' ministry. This implies that Jesus preached for a period of three years, although some interpretations of the Synoptic Gospels suggest a span of only one year. The focus of his ministry was toward his closest adherents, the Twelve Apostles, though many of his followers were considered disciples. At the height of his ministry, Jesus attracted huge crowds numbering in the thousands, primarily in the areas of Galilee (in modern-day northern Israel, though he was unsuccessful in his hometown and Perea (in modern-day western Jordan), most notably in Capernaum. Jesus led what many believe to have been an apocalyptic following.
Some of Jesus' most famous teachings come from the Sermon on the Mount, which contains the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. During his sermons he preached against anger, lust, divorce, oaths and revenge. Some aspects of Jesus' teachings were traditional, but other aspects were not. He advocated and adhered to the Law of Moses. According to Matthew 5:17–19 Jesus stated, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." However, Jesus also expounded on Mosaic Law and taught what he said was a new commandment. Jesus advocated, among other things, turning the other cheek, love for one's enemies as well as friends, and the need to follow the spirit of the law in addition to the letter.
Judaea and Galilee at the time of Jesus
In the Synoptics, Jesus often used parables, such as the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Sower. His teachings centered on unconditional, self-sacrificing love for God and for all people. He also preached about service and humility, the forgiveness of sin, pacifism, faith, and attaining everlasting life in "The Kingdom of God". He preached an apocalyptic message, saying that the end of the current world would come unexpectedly; as such, he called on his followers to be ever alert and faithful. The Olivet Discourse is an example of this.
In John, Jesus speaks at length about himself without using parables. He defines his own divine role in secret speeches to his disciples. Instead of speaking of his Second Coming, he assures his followers that spirit will abide with them.
He taught that the first would be last, and the last first; also that "anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it"; and that non-violence should be used to combat violence. He said that he gives peace to those who believe in him, yet he warned that he was bringing strife to the world, setting family members against one another.
Jesus also debated with other religious leaders. He disagreed with the Sadducees because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees is more complex. Although Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, he also dined with Pharisees, taught in their synagogues, specified their teachings to his followers, and counted Pharisees such as Nicodemus among his disciples.
Jesus' critics claimed he was a drunk and a glutton, who often shared meals with society's outcasts, such as prostitutes and publicans (Imperial tax collectors despised for extorting money), including the apostle Matthew; when the Pharisees objected to meeting with sinners rather than the righteous, Jesus replied that it was the sick who need a physician, not the healthy. According to Luke and John, Jesus also made efforts to extend his ministry to the Samaritans, who followed a different form of the Israelite religion. This is reflected in his preaching to the Samaritans of Sychar, resulting in their conversion.
In the Synoptics, Jesus enjoins demons and mortals not to reveal his identity as the Son of God (see Messianic secret). In Mark, the current generation will be given no sign to demonstrate Jesus' authority (8:12). In Matthew and Luke, the current generation would be given only one sign, the Sign of Jonah. John portrays Jesus performing a series of miracles specifically as signs (in the so-called Signs Gospel).
All four Gospels record Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the end of his ministry. This was during the Passover Feast (15 Nisan; in the spring) according to John 12:12–19. The Hosanna shout and the waving of palm fronds were ordinarily part of the feast of Sukkoth (15 Tishri; autumn), but appear to have been moved by the followers of Jesus to Passover, perhaps because of their Messianic associations.