Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pre-Rabbi Jesus

Jesus lived with his mother Mary and his adoptive father Joseph and he grew to be a good man.  He had a good reputation with everyone and he increased in wisdom.  Above all else, he desired that God’s will be accomplished.  He obeyed his parents and God’s command in everything he did.  And he studied God’s word to know what God’s will was. 

But Jesus also saw that God’s will was not being accomplished on earth.  He saw God’s people disobeying God in important areas.  And he saw that God had made many promises that were not yet fulfilled—God’s spirit had not yet descended upon his people to cause them to do His will; a righteous king had not been chosen to lead his people and to bring justice; God’s people still suffered in need.  God’s will was not accomplished.  And Jesus determined to do all he could to change that.

John the Baptist was a powerful man of God.  He lived in the wilderness at the Jordan River, eating wild honey and locusts.  He wore rough clothing and preached.  Perhaps at first he preached to the twigs and flowing river, but soon he had many people listening to him.  He told them to repent, for God’s promises were going to be fulfilled.  “God is going to quickly judge his people—get ready for it!  You are all doing wicked deeds—change your ways and God will forgive you!” 

Those who committed themselves to repent John brought to the Jordan river and led them across it.  He was reenacting the crossing of the Jordan and of the Red Sea long ago.  If they were going to repent, they needed to be swallowed by the destructive water and be made alive again by God.  In this way, God was making a new people, a new generation that would be obedient to him.

Jesus came to John in order to be led across the Jordan.  John saw Jesus and said, “You don’t need to be drenched by water.  You are already righteous.”  Jesus replied, “We must do it in order to accomplish God’s will.”  So John led Jesus across the Jordan and caused him to be drenched by water, as a repentant one of God’s new people. 

Just as Jesus was baptized, a revelation from the spirit world came upon him.  The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and filled Jesus.  And the voice of God came from heaven, saying to Jesus, “You are my son, whom I love, the king of my people.  I am pleased with you.”  No one heard this but Jesus and John and the powers of the spirit world.  They all knew that Jesus was selected by God to lead God’s new people.

Immediately after this, Jesus left the Jordan and the Spirit lead him into the wilderness.  While Jesus had water in the wilderness, there was no food, so Jesus fasted for forty days, relying on God for his needs.  After many days of waiting before God, Jesus became very hungry.  At this point, Satan visited Jesus, in order to test him and to get him to disobey God and so become disqualified from being God’s king.  Satan told Jesus, “If you’re hungry, why don’t you turn these stones into bread?  You’re the Son of God, the king of God’s people—surly you can do that if you want.  Why go hungry?  God certainly wouldn’t want you to be hungry, would he?”  Jesus was weak and could only respond with Scripture he had memorized.  He weakly but firmly replied, “Scripture says, ‘Man cannot live by bread alone but by every word which comes from God.’” 

Satan was determined to cause Jesus to disobey God, so he said, “So you are the king of God’s people. But who is going to acknowledge you?  Certainly no one will pay attention to you.  Let me help you.”  Satan transported Jesus to the very top of the temple in Jerusalem.  “Here you go.  If you throw yourself off of the temple, you won’t be hurt—aren’t you the Son of God?  The Scripture says, ‘He will command his angels to keep your foot from being harmed by a stone.’  So throw yourself down, the angels will assist you and all of Jerusalem will acknowledge you as having come from God.”   Jesus replied, weakly, “Scripture says, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’”

Satan was running out of ideas.  So he said to Jesus, “Here, let me show you something.”  And he showed Jesus all of the great nations of the world—the civilizations of India, China, the Aztecs, the Huns and powerful Rome. “Do you want to rule all of these powers?  Look, I’m in charge of them all.  They gave me their authority when they rebelled against God and God handed them over to Death.  Aren’t I in charge of death?  And when they worshipped their gods instead of just acknowledging their authority, they were placed under my judgement. Do you want to rule over them? Look, I can give them all to you.  They are all yours—just bow before me and I’ll give them to you.”  Jesus replied with strength, “Scripture says, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God alone and serve him only.’  Satan, get lost!”  And Satan left Jesus until a better time.  God, meanwhile, sent angels to feed Jesus after his ordeal.

After Jesus gained his strength back, he began to visit synagogues in Galilee.  Every time he visited a synagogue, he was given an opportunity to tell news or to say something of significance.  Jesus stood in front of each synagogue and proclaimed, “God’s government is coming!  Get ready for God’ revolution.  Repent from your sins.  Obey God.  And be faithful to God’s victory that is coming soon.” 

From Luke 3-4, Matthew 3-4 and Mark 1

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