Jesus heard that John had been arrested. Now after John was arrested, when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples).
He left Judea and departed again for Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)
[Blended Gospels, Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14a; John 4:1-3, 44 English Standard Version (ESV)]
After Jesus’ blockbuster statement to Nicodemus that God actually loves the whole world, not just Pharisees, He made His way to the most despised people in the area.
It seems that after one of the Pharisees went to talk with John the Baptist’s disciples about purification and baptisms, the rest of the Pharisees became involved in comparing Jesus’ ministry to John’s, and started keeping count on who had more followers. This was the reason Jesus left Judea: to avoid the growing controversy.
In fact the word John used for “left” is actually even stronger in the Greek. John said Jesus “forsook” or “abandoned” Judea. He was not going to have anything to do with all this legalistic controversy over baptism.
Instead, the Lord headed up to Galilee, going straight through Samaria to get there.
(Next: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, The Story