Jesus’ public ministry, from His baptism to His ascension, was only about three-and-one-half years long. When we compare the length of time Jesus ministered in this world with the lengthy service of a William Carey or a Billy Graham, His time was indeed short.
From a human perspective, the ultimate reason why Jesus’ ministry was so short is that He was crucified—cut down in the prime of life, as they say. Leading up to Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion were a falling away of many followers (John 6:66), a division of public opinion concerning Him (John 7:43), and of course the mounting wrath of the religious leaders (John 11:53). Human wisdom would have advised Jesus to tone down His rhetoric a bit, not rock the boat, and find some common ground with the power brokers in Jerusalem.
If Jesus had wanted to retain His adoring crowds, He could have continued to wow them with miracles every day (especially the edible ones, John 6:26). He could have heightened His mass appeal by crafting a “positive” message, elevating His listeners’ self-worth, or in some other way tickling ears. If He had wanted to prolong His ministry, Jesus could have avoided confrontation altogether—except, then, He would have had no ministry.
The truth is that Jesus’ ministry was short because, in three-and-a-half years, He accomplished everything He had been sent to do. His ministry was no longer than it had to be. Jesus finished the work of preaching the gospel to Israel (Luke 4:43) and redeeming mankind (Hebrews 7:27). Jesus’ ministry was carried out in total submission to the authority of the Father (John 6:38; 7:28). Jesus spoke only what the Father told Him to speak and did only what the Father told Him to do (John 12:49; 14:10). His single-focused goal was to accomplish the Father’s will (John 4:34). And that’s exactly what He did. God sent His Son on a mission, and soon it was mission accomplished.
The crucifixion did not cut Jesus’ ministry short. The crucifixion was the whole point of His ministry. Jesus was born to die, and His life was His to give: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). Just before His arrest, Jesus prayed, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). On the cross, Jesus knew “that everything had now been finished” (John 19:28), and just before He died He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Jesus’ ministry was short, but it did not need to be any longer. The Law was fulfilled, the prophecies were realized, and the salvation of mankind was secured.