Luke 2:47 says that at age twelve Jesus amazed people with His words; we see in Matthew 13:56 that the people who saw Him grow up were amazed at His words and wondered where He got them.
“And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” Luke 2:47
“And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” Matthew 13:56
To say that He did not speak openly because it was not His time would not explain the account found in Luke 2. One must wonder what happened in His life during those eighteen years of silence. What was life like for Him as He grew up? Was He shunned or ignored? Did He stop sharing in between? What happened in those eighteen years of silence? Did the people not pay attention to Him because He was a youth? Did they write Him off because He was a carpenter’s son, or because a carpenter Himself?
Though the scriptures are silent we are left with only fragments that shed some light on what life might have been like before His revealing at the river Jordan. Still we are left to speculate and wonder at what it was like for the darling of heaven as He lived in silence in Nazareth.
The name Nazareth is thought to derive from either the word na·tsar (נָצַר), meaning “to watch,” or ne·tser (נֵ֫צֶר), meaning “branch”, “flower”, or “offshoot”. If the latter then that would possibly shed light on Matthew 2:23’s prophecy.
“And came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:23
If it is ne·tser then that would mean Jesus could say “I come from the Branch” or “I am of the Branch”. If this train of thought be true then it is possible that the prophecy that Matthew was alluding to was that of the Messianic Branch.
“In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and adornment of the survivors of Israel.” Isaiah 4:2
“Then a shoot will spring up from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1
“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He will reign as King and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.’” Jeremiah 23:5
“‘In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth.” Jeremiah 33:15
“And the angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, 7‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here. 8‘Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you— indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch .” Zechariah 3:6-8
“Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord.’” Zechariah 6:12
In Isaiah 9, Isaiah prophecies over two the tribes of Israel, Zebulun and Naphtali, that their reproach from the Lord would soon come to an end and great glorious blessing would come to them. A great light will come to the people by way of the sea, most likely the Sea of Galilee, this light being Jesus. This is the region where Jesus grew up and here lies Nazareth. Once again this too could be the prophecy that Matthew spoke of.
“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. 2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Isaiah 9:1-2
Nazareth lies about 63 miles north of Jerusalem and during the time of Christ is thought to have been a more fertile farming land than a desert. Mount Megiddo lies about 11 miles west of Nazareth. Jesus would have grown up within a few miles of where the Battle of Armageddon was to take place at the end of the age. What was that like for Him?
“for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15(“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) 16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.” Revelation 16:14-16
Following boy Jesus’ in the temple (Luke 2:41-51) Joseph seems to drop out of the picture. The main reason being that throughout Jesus’ ministry he is not seen or heard from and ultimately at the cross he is not there. Along with his absence Jesus on the cross hands over His responsibilities as the eldest son to His disciple John, this included watching over His mother Mary. If Joseph was alive or around still then this act would not be needed. The main reason why the idea of Joseph leaving the family is not logical is primarily with how he is remembered by the disciple Matthew.
“And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man…” Matthew 1:19
Along with His cousin John, Jesus also grew up with four different brothers and multiple sisters (the number is not mentioned). Jesus being the eldest would have had the responsibility of taking care of the family if Joseph were to die.
“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” Matthew 13:55-56
From what we see at the cross His mother Mary was still actively involved with His life even to the point of the cross, and His brothers would go on to be leaders in the New Testament church.
-Go to school or get a job?
Jesus is known as the son of the carpenter which points to that He would have worked under Joseph.
“And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Luke 4:22
Though He is not openly called a carpenter it is highly suggested that He worked as one instead of going to school. This would explain why the people were confused on where His wisdom and understanding came from. This leaves us with the notion that He grew up very simple. He was known in His hometown which means there were probably not a lot of carpenters, thus the son of one would be easily remembered, especially if He had worked as one as well.
Given their relationship as cousins it is likely that both John and Jesus knew of each other. Though the question of how acquainted they were with each other still remains in question.
“Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ Matthew 3:14
What we do know is that when John saw Jesus coming up to him he seemed aware of who Jesus was to some degree. But at the same time he did not recognize who He fully was.
“This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me. 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.’ 32 John testified saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:30-33
However John makes it clear that John the Baptist did not recognize who Jesus really was until he saw the sign of the Holy Spirit descending upon and remaining upon Him. Given the two accounts it would seem as though John knew that Jesus was special to some degree, though at the same time not fully until the sign was given. This could be that as a youth his parents would tell him of the uniqueness of his birth as well as the uniqueness of his cousin’s. It could also be that they at one point would interact with each other while growing up and/or before they started their ministries. Another reason is that while in the wilderness John had received some form of revelation about His cousin. Or even at the point of seeing Jesus walking up to him the partial revelation of the uniqueness of Jesus came to him, but was not fully revealed until the sign of the Holy Spirit’s descent upon Jesus.
“Regarding the tension between Matthew’s account and John’s account (the former implying former knowledge, the latter implying none) can be resolved by postulating that John was aware of the promises given at Jesus’ birth and His greatness, but had not yet received the sign given him by the Father to confirm that Jesus was in fact the one he had called to prepare the way for.”
As previously discussed; during the silence John had received the word of the Lord and was now proclaiming repentance. More than just any message of repentance but one declaring that the coming of the Lord and of His Kingdom drew nigh. He was also drawing in many to be baptized; which was the ritual washing for those who desired to convert to Judaism.
According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus would begin His ministry about thirty years of age. Given their approximate six months difference in age, this would leave John to be about thirty years old as well.
“When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age…” Luke 3:23
This would then mean John to be just a few months into his ministry.
Down at the Jordan
While baptizing in the Jordan River John saw Jesus approaching him, having come from Nazareth in Galilee where He had spent the last thirty years. After roughly eighteen years of silence concerning the life of Christ everything begins to shift. Suddenly out of Nazareth a man came to the Jordan River to be baptized. It was the Christ
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan” Mark 1:9
-The Two Accounts
In the Gospel of Matthew John tries to stop Jesus from approaching him to be baptized by acknowledging that Jesus was of a higher rank than he.
13“Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ 15But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he *permitted Him. Matthew 3:13-15
In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist states that the Lord had given him a sign to reveal to him who the One who was to come after him was. John goes on to state that when Jesus approached him that he did not recognize Him until he saw the sign of the spirit descending and remaining upon Him.
30“This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me. 31I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.’ 32John testified saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:30-33
Here we see a contradiction where Matthew says that John recognized Him and John says that he did not recognize Him. It is in my opinion that both are right. I would say that Matthew is right because, John in some way would have known his cousin, of His miraculous conception and birth. I highly doubt those stories would not have been told to him. Thus he would have grown up knowing there was something special about his cousin Jesus and that He was destined for greatness. John would be right in if John the Baptist was given a sign to reveal the One who came after then He would not know fully who it was until he saw the sign. Though it would be safe to assume that he was constantly searching and asking the Lord of the One who was to come, to where when Jesus would walk forward his antenna would be up because of previous experiences with Him.
As previously discussed concerning John’s baptism, it was a call to repentance and to become real Jews that are circumcised of heart and not just flesh. This was offensive to a Jewish man or woman, as they were being told they were not true Jews.
With that being said why would Jesus who has never sinned take part in the baptism of sinners? I have heard some say that Jesus was being spiritually washed as a priest, but that would be inaccurate as that was not what John’s was. His baptism was very specific in nature, hence why John at first wanted to resist. The reality is though Jesus never sinned, He did receive the baptism. It does not say He repented, because obviously there was nothing to repent too, it would seem that it was merely a sign of solidarity. In other words He would simply be saying, “See I am both circumcised of heart and of the flesh” or rather that He both agreed and partnered with John’s message of repentance and circumcision of heart.
13“Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ 15But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he *permitted Him. Matthew 3:13-15
-Behold the Son
Coming up from the water we see the famous Trinitarian scene. Here we see the Holy Spirit show up in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father declaring His affection upon His beloved Son.
16After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’ Matthew 3:16-17
Here at the baptism we see the Father respond to both the humanity and the deity of Christ. Before entering into the temptation of the wilderness where Satan will attack His Sonship, the Father affirms Christ as His Beloved Son.
In addition the Father responds to the humility of His only begotten Son by declaring how proud of Him He is. Upon seeing the humility of the Beloved Son as He submitted to the John’s baptism was a thing of beauty. What was heaven like seeing the Word made flesh make His declaration of submission to purity and circumcision of heart through John baptism? He did not have to but still He did. He knew no sin yet He submitted to the call of circumcision of heart. He knew John was the one who had been leading the call to repentance and circumcision of heart and that He would need to submit to the one who was entrusted to lead in the moment. Along with that, but in order to begin His ministry He chose to come under John’s method of baptism.
Oh the beauty of the humility of the Beloved Son who chose to submit Himself to the current spiritual leader John and to His baptism. No wonder heaven could not be silent, no wonder the Father could not keep quiet, and no wonder why the Holy Spirit could not restrain Himself.
Matthew states that the Father says “This is My Beloved Son…” where as Mark and Luke say “You are My Beloved Son…” Though Matthew disagrees with the language used by his contemporaries, it does not interfere with the story. Whether it is the declaration to the Son or to the audience, the point still remains that the Father is proud of His Beloved Son.
21“Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’” Luke 3:21-22
9“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’” Mark 1:9-11
In order to fully grasp the profundity of this moment one must take the time to truly soak it all in. Here in this one scene we see the greatness of Christ’s humility, the Father’s overwhelmed affection towards His Son and the Holy Spirit’s desire to draw near to the lowly. If the humility of Christ’s baptism is not enough then surely the thirty years of hiddenness and His subjection to His earthly family is truly a thing to cause one to marvel. Just one scene captured in the gospels or not should cause one to be left reeling in awe.
Into the Wilderness
Following this remarkable moment, Jesus led by the Spirit enters into the wilderness to fast and pray for forty days and nights enters into temptation. Having been affirmed in His Sonship by His Father, Jesus enters into the hardest temptation ever. While at His weakest, Lucifer himself shows up to tempt Christ at the end of His forty day fast.
“Immediately the Spirit *impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.” Mark 1:12-13
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.” Matthew 4:1-2
For the sake of not going into a deep Christological discussion, though Jesus in His divinity could not be tempted, in His humanity could be. How that works is a mystery. All we can say is that Jesus did endure a real temptation, it was not easy but nor was it hard.
“This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:32
“By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,” Ephesians 3:4
Have some bread-
Satan’s first temptation was to focus in on Christ’ physical hunger as an attack on His physically weakened state, being found in his human form.
3And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:3-4
Wanna go for a jump-
For Satan’s second temptation he attacks Christ’s identity as the Beloved Son. In the first two temptations Satan says “If You are the Son of God…” this being an obvious attack on Christ’s identity as a Son, but the second is directly focused on His identity. Satan is in essence saying “Prove that You are the Beloved Son.”Jesus in His weekend state would most likely be leaning into the audible voice from His father just forty days earlier. Notice that here Satan is quoting a scripture at Christ and as is Christ’s method He responds by leaning into the truth of His Word.
5“Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:5-7
I’ll make You famous-
For Satan’s final attempts, he seeks to tempt Christ with all the wealth of nations, if He would only worship him. This is an attack on Christ’s patience because he knows Christ will inherit it all and more, if He remains patient. For the patient one will receive a great inheritance when they remain in subjected to the will of their Father. Satan is in a way seeking to get Christ to abandon service to His Father and get a cheaper, lesser and impure inheritance than that which He was meant to have; this is similar to that of the prodigal son. One could say that Jesus is the Son who remained unlike the prodigal and did not become jealous of the younger (us) like the older did.
“And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” Luke 4:5-8
8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” 11Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.” Matthew 4:8-11
With all three temptations Christ leans into the truth of the Word, as that which sustained Him.
‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
In the Temptations we see Christ resisting His own fleshly desires for food, wealth and glory or rather gluttony, greed and pride. It is safe to say that He endured the temptations of all seven of the deadly sins.
- Sloth- He did not give in to lethargic spirit but pressed in, in prayer.
- Lust- He did not lust or covet the kingdoms offered him.
- Greed- He did not demand anything that was not His but looked to that which He was to inherit.
- Pride- He did not give into the temptation of proving or rather boasting in His identity.
- Wrath- He did not get into the fleshly anger.
- Gluttony- He resisted the hunger of the flesh.
- Envy- He did not envy Satan’s control over the kingdoms of the World, because He knew it would become His.
Following the temptations the angels come to minister to Him. To say that the temptations and the fasting of Christ was nothing more than a walk in the park is a statement of ignorance. Christ was exhausted and weak. He was tired and hungry. He was in need of someone coming to minister to Him.
What a site that must have been for the angels to look down and see the Darling of Heaven drained. To see Him exhausted and in need of help. O’ the humility of God to once again be in need of creation to help Him. When beholding the beauty of this scene one cannot simply read through it without taking the time to soak in the magnitude of what has transpired. God fought on behalf of creation.
Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:11
When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13
A key thing to notice is in Luke it says “…until the opportune time.” This clearly points to a future temptation/attack from Satan. It would be safe to say that it was most likely pointing to the temptation to give in, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the trial or the Cross.
-Correlation between the Temptations and The Garden of Gethsemane
-In the Temptations Christ
- Christ is tempted to give in to His own fleshly desires/will.
- He is left alone.
- He must trust in God’s will that He would inherit all things without needing to compromise. He resists the fleshes will of shortcutting.
- Afterwards angels come to minister to Him.
- A transition happens as His ministry begins.
-Garden of Gethsemane
- Christ is tempted to give in to His own fleshly desires/will.
- Everyone falls asleep and He is left alone.
- He must trust in God’s will and not His fleshes will.
- Afterwards angels come to minister to Him.
- A transition happens as His ministry is coming to an end.
To Be Continued- The Beginning of Christ’s Ministry
 Stephen Venable, Life of Christ in the Gospels: Session 05- Emergence, p24
Having destroyed the antichrist’s army, leveled his kingdom and thrown both the antichrist and his false prophet into the lake of fire Jesus will institute his millennial reign. This is the story of a king from the east who stood against the antichrist in those last days and now watches Jesus rule from Zion (Daniel 11:44 & Revelation 16:12).
In those days I King Chan II of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea; having seen the atrocities performed by that wicked king, who ruled with unquenchable hatred slaying all who spoke out against him, have now also seen his wicked tyranny come to an abrupt end. It is here that I write, in the second month of the thirty-first year of my reign as sovereign lord and king over my kingdom, in the fiftieth year of my life. I King Chan II recall that horrific time when that wicked man slew so many. It was by the end of his wicked and short reign that over half the population of the earth had fallen to war, pestilence and famine. Where once the earth had known such beauty and prosperity now knew destruction and famine. Where people once covered the earth, now through his wickedness both destruction and death had come to the earth.
I still recall when that wicked king came and sought to destroy Zion, yet no matter how small she was, she fought much more valiant than ever an army I have seen. I remember when he sought to make war against us kings of the east, as well as the fear that had gripped many of our hearts. That we might fall like so many nations had done so far. If it wasn’t for his struggles to overtake Zion we might have been swept away in his wrath. It was just enough of a distraction for us kings of the east to seek one final valiant attempt to flank him from his side. If ever we were to have a chance it would have been then, but alas even then his might was enough to hold us back. Still as I was there in the battle against that king, it was miraculous how that one tiny nation of Zion could stand as long as she did against his wrath. When many other nations had fallen so quickly, she stood defiant to the end. I would say it was the most magnificent display of might since the legend of the Spartans in Thermopylae; if it was not for Him who came to her rescue.
I will never forget that day when He showed up. It was as if He came out of nowhere. Never has a King shown up in such splendor and majesty, nor has there ever been an army so vast and so strong. If it was not enough for Him to show off His might that He Himself rode off to war to defend Zion. With a military like His, He simply could sit in the back and not even worry about fighting yet it was Him I remember who fought in the front lines at the battle for Zion. The way He fought, it was as if He had been consumed with a fiery jealousy in His heart, much like a husband whose wife had just been assaulted before their gaze. The anger in His eyes from the destruction that had befallen Zion was as if someone had poked the apple of His eye. His gaze alone was enough to cause the strongest of warriors to quake, yet it was the way He fought that set Him apart. It was nearly as if He didn’t even need His army as He slew that wicked king’s military. This Man fought with such tenacity that His garments were dripping with the blood of His enemies; surely there was more to this Man than what meets the eye. It was not until after that great battle did I hear the cry of Hosanna to the Son of David. It was there long-awaited King, King Jesus.
The people of Zion as well as those who served Him that were not from Zion greatly rejoiced and celebrated the return of their great and mighty King. Over the years things began to change as soon as the King returned and set up His throne He surprisingly went straight to work in establishing His Kingdom. His Kingdom grew so fast and so beautiful as He began to restore all that had fallen to destruction during the wars against that wicked king. I have even heard the rumors that the poor are all being fed and clothed in His Kingdom.
I King Chan II in the eleventh month of the sixty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have seen much over these last thirty years of this King of Zion. It is said that already that much of the deserts of that region have turned into oasis’s as if it were all just one big garden. Not one negative word have I heard about the King of Zion. It would seem that all of His people both love and adore Him. Word has reached my ears that His people volunteer freely to serve Him and His Kingdom. What is His secret? Surely He must be doing something to get them to serve Him in this manner. I must continue to observe this King of Zion.
I King Chan II in the fourth month of the eighty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have lived these last one hundred years, yet it would seem as though my body is growing younger. Or rather I should say it is as if I were returning to the days of my strength. I find that I feel, look and even have the same strength and speed as though I were in my late twenties. What is this? I feel as though it all began when He established His throne in Zion. It is not just me but my family and subjects are all experiencing it as well.
I King Chan II in the fifth month of the one hundred and twenty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have received word that the King of Zion has found the cure for every known disease. There is no sickness known to man that can stand in His Kingdom. I must discover what kind of medicine they are using; perhaps He would help me with bringing healing to my people. I shall go and seek Him out in person, for perhaps I will get some answers to the questions I have about Him in the process.
I King Chan II in the ninth month of the one hundred and twenty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write what transpired of my visit to the King of Zion. Never have I seen such beauty, for the houses of His own subjects was enough to make the palaces of the kings of the east to be shamed. When I entered His throne room it was decked with the purest of gold and ivory. The music that was played in the throne room was as if it was filled with joy and peace, for never have I experienced such joy and peace. As I approached the King on His throne I saw Him high and lifted up and adorned in beauty. The splendor and majesty of His throne room was enough to cause my heart to tremble in His presence, yet at the same time I felt as though I was being strengthened.
As I approached the King I began to bow before Him with my gift of silver and gold in my hand, to pay homage to Him. I knew it would mean nothing to Him for it pales in comparison to His great halls. Nevertheless as I bowed and offered it before Him, to my surprise I glanced up to see Him arise and begin walking down from His great thrown to me. I was both shocked and afraid as this great King approached me. Out of fear I began to bow lower, when unexpectedly He stretched out His hand to me to stop me from bowing. He brought to me a chair made of the purest of gold, silver and ivory and bid me to sit in it. The chair alone was far greater than the thrones of the kings of the east. I began to ask myself “Is He trying to humiliate me with this great chair?” “Is He trying to show off His great wealth and power?” Nothing would have prepared for what was to happen next, for he pulled out a golden bowl and said to me “My first rule for all that enter into my throne room, is that I get to wash their feet.” With a smile He began to take my shoes off. I sought to resist Him at first because of how frustrated it made me, but something kept me from doing so, call it fear or curiosity whatever it was I let Him proceed in washing my feet. As He washed my feet His gaze met mine and it felt as though His eyes were reading my soul. As He continued He began to tell me how much He loves me and just how much He loves my people. I had no clue just how to respond. Afterwards He returned to His throne and asked if I was thirsty. One of His servants entered dressed in the finest of linens; they came in full of joy to serve us wine. I found it quite odd that He had no royal cupbearer to taste the wine to make sure it was not poisoned such confidence. I found the wine to be the best tasting wine I have ever had; it brought such joy and pleasure to my heart.
Soon after the King asked me what was on my heart, so I asked Him what His secrets were. How had He made the land become so prosperous and beautiful? How did all poverty in His land end? How has He cured all forms of disease? How did He amass such a military on the earth to defeat the wicked king? For it was as if there were more in His army then there were on the earth prior to their appearing at the battle for Zion. Finally I asked Him if He knew why it seemed as though people began to regain their youth shortly after His reign began, and since then it was if the aging process took much longer. As He answered each question it was as if I felt He was encouraging and strengthening me with His gracious words. After my meeting with Him I felt as if I were leaving with more questions in my heart than before. As I left to return back to my kingdom I found myself continually looking back at His Kingdom wondering. I feel that I will wonder about this great King of Zion for many years.
I King Chan II in the third month of the two hundred and fifteenth year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea; much of the world has changed over the last two hundred years. The Kingdom of Zion has vastly expanded; I have heard that there is peace among Assyria, Egypt and Zion. It has reached my ear that the Kingdoms that choose to make war against this great King of Zion quickly fall; however, I have also heard that those who have chosen to submit to this great King are shown mercy and even rewarded. It is not just the kings that are rewarded but their subjects who willfully choose to submit to this King of Zion. What is His secret?
I King Chan II in the seventh month of my three hundred and thirty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: Famine has hit my realm, yet it would seem that the Kingdom of Zion and all who are in subjection to her are experiencing bounty. Having desired to know what His secret is I have sent word to Him to let Him know that I desire to visit with Him. However, on the day of my departure I heard a great uproar in my city. As the cries in the city grew louder and closer I heard some saying “It’s the King of Zion!” Quickly I arose to gaze out the window to see for myself. Expecting to see some great parade of soldiers with the King, I simply saw the King of Zion and handful of men on horseback. This was hardly what one would expect. The men with Him were not guards dressed for battle, rather they were in the finest of linens and not one carried a sword. As I ran to my throne to prepare myself, began to ask myself “Why is He here?”
As He entered my throne room He came in dressed so elegantly that His garments made mine look as mere rags. It would somehow seem as though He had grown more majestic since our previous meeting. He walked towards my throne with such strength and gentleness. As one of my servants introduced Him in my court I realized that His men were nowhere to be seen; however, what He did next was the biggest surprise. He bowed before me. Though His bow was not one of showing fear or timidity in my presence and it was not one of insecurity. In fact as He bowed it seemed as though it was done in confidence knowing He was more powerful, thus no need to show off out of insecurity. In truth it seemed as though He was attempting to honor me as one would a friend. His first words were words of apology for His sudden and uninvited arrival. He began to tell me that upon receiving my letter of the state of my kingdom that He and His companions set off immediately to come and offer aid. I felt so humbled and honored to see this great King come in all haste to personally meet with me. As He continued He said these words which I will never forget, “When I said I loved you and your people, I truly meant it.” His words were as though someone had taken a double-edged sword, and plunged it straight into my heart. As I was still reeling from His words He began to ask me if I was free to show Him around the city so He could get a better idea of what all I need help with.
As I took Him up on His request, I led Him down into the city to show Him the beautiful places. I began to wonder where His companions were but before I could ask He revealed to me, how they dispersed to go through out my city to help the people in whatever way they could. Shocked by these words, I was even more thrown back when said to me; how He did not desire to look upon the beautiful places. It was the broken down places that He desired to see, that He might rebuild the ashes into beauty. So of course I began to show Him where the places were that had been most impacted by the famine. I showed Him the districts where the poor lived, to my surprise He began to go to the people and give to them water from His own bottle. The most astonishing thing was is that it never seemed to run dry as people flocked to drink from His water bottle. He even seemed to have enough bread, fruit and nuts in His bag to feed all the people who came to Him.
When He finished with all who came to Him we continued going about the city until He saw the sector of the city that had been most destroyed by the riots. At this point He stopped me to tell me He had seen enough and was ready to start helping me rebuild and take care of my people. To my astonishment He rolled up His sleeves and walked straight over to where those doing construction were and began to help them. As I sought to stop Him to let Him know we had workers for this such job, He simply smiled and told me “I told you I came to help you and your people out because I love you all; besides I know My way around carpentry.” I had no clue how to respond. I simply watched Him for a bit in amazement. Who is this great King who is willing to feed the poor and get His hands dirty with manual labor? I even felt the fear and insecurity rise up in my heart that the people may turn on me and choose Him. However, something in me leads me to believe that He would not take my throne unless I gave it to Him freely.
I King Chan II in the eighth month of the three hundred and thirty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: It has been nearly one month since He arrived in my city to offer assistance. If He was not helping to feed my people then He would be seen helping to rebuild the areas that had fallen to ruin. At first I was quite skeptical of His agenda; I was not sure if He was secretly trying to spy out my land or even try to turn my people against me with His great wealth by feeding them all. Alas I am beginning to feel as though He really is just here to help serve us, simply because He loves us. This is so new to me, however, I do fear as though that the people may begin to revolt or all leave when He eventually returns to His Kingdom. Nevertheless His help has been quite helpful as the famine has ended and the Kingdom is now starting to stabilize again. The repairs to the houses and business, as well as the new wells and farms have made the land more fertile and left the people in better condition.
On one particular day as I was sitting in the great halls having a meal of celebration with the King of Zion and His companions; when a great commotion was heard as the captain of my guards entered. As he entered into the great halls he began to rejoice aloud declaring that they had finally found the man who had murdered my father over three hundred years ago. The man had worked as an assassin for that wicked king and poisoned my father when I was eighteen years old. I had always hoped we would eventually find the man, though I had expected that he had since then died. As my guards brought the man in before us, I knew it was him as soon as I saw his face. How could one forget the face of the man who murdered their father? As I began to question where they had found him I kept one eye on the King of Zion to observe how He might react. My guards informed me that they had found him among the inner city districts feeding the poor and even served in their reconstruction. As I began to send him to the dungeons, the great King stopped me and asked me if He might hear this man’s story as to why a former assassin was now serving the poor.
This in short is what the man said: “After I assassinated my king’s father the previous king for that wicked king, I continued performing assassinations for him. Whoever would offer a high enough price would have my knife at their command. However, as time went on I was beginning to see the chaos I was helping bring to the world and thus withdrew from helping the wicked king. After the great war for Zion I found myself working as a thug for local gangs and spending most of my time and money in taverns and brothels. I honestly began to desire death, as I would spend hours trying to drink the faces of those whom I had killed away. However, I began to notice something strange and that was I was in a sense getting younger and now ageing much slower. I felt as though I had been cursed to live and unnaturally long life with the faces of my victims continually tormenting me.”
“One hundred years following the great war for Zion I found myself hitting rock bottom and lying in a ditch as a man named Stephen had found me and began to help me. The man was so noble looking in appearance as well as dress that I thought he was some great lord of a land. He had glow about his face that just left me stunned. He began to help me by feeding me, clothing me and even helping me to sober up. He had a companion with him, a man named Paul who looked just as majestic as he. They seemed to be the best of friends. Paul would ask me many questions about my life and my past; for some reason he never seemed offended or shocked when I told him of all the wickedness of my past. Even when I told him of people I had murdered in my past, he would just begin to tell me of how he can relate. Then he would just go on to tell me of how he used to do the same, but he found redemption and from then on his life began one of blessing and giving life rather than taking it. Stephen would just be smiling beside him, as though he was thinking of something or rather remembering something from long ago. I found it hard to believe that this man could ever have done the horrible things that I had once done, but for some reason even in my doubt something told me to listen to him and believe. These two were quite the pair of friends in how they interacted with each other and how they served me, each other and others. They seemed to have some history of brotherhood that was unlike anything I have ever seen. Words could not put to words how they interacted with each other.”
“After I parted way with these two I began to search out forgiveness for all my wickedness by helping others in hopes that I would eventually find redemption for my sins. For the last two hundred years I have traveled the world helping others in hopes that I would find redemption for my sins. My Lord Chan I beg thee that thou would please forgive me. It seems that my travels have brought me to your feet for forgiveness for the father I stole and the life I destroyed. I know I have wronged you, your family and your people and willingly receive whatever punishment you deem worthy, for I know I have sinned.”
As I rose up to sentence him to the gallows, the King of Zion rose up and began walking towards the man and stretched out His hand towards him and helped him up. “Today,” said the King “Today mercy has triumphed of judgment. If you will allow King Chan I would like to claim this man for myself, call it payment for everything I have done; for I can see in his heart that he has truly changed. My son today you shall know redemption. Today I have bought you for Myself that you may know freedom.” Before I could say anything the King looked at me and His gaze felt as though He was reading my soul. Suddenly out of nowhere I began to remember all of the wicked things I have once done in my life. I felt as though I was unable to pass judgment upon this man for I too have done so much wickedness and am deserving of judgment.
Later that night I met with the King alone in my study and began to talk with Him. I began to ask Him all the questions I have had building in my heart about Him and His ways. One after another He would answer them and in some way I felt as though new questions would arise in my heart. It was though each question was a head of a hydra and with each answer a head was cut off for two more to replace it. Eventually the King stopped me and asked me why I would not just go ahead and ask Him who He was. I realized that this was the chief question of my heart. “Well my Lord who are You?” Suddenly His eyes began to change and look as though they were far older than the world itself and far wiser than all the wisdom of the world. He told me “It begins with a God desiring a family and His Son’s pursuit of a bride.”
Then He began to tell me about the prophets of Israel from the days of old, about the creation of world, humanity’s plunge from grace and how redemption came into the world on a cross. It was as if He was telling me some kind of fairytale though in my heart I somehow knew this one was true. As He went on I found my heart beginning to experience a burning sensation. I did not know what this was but I knew it was connected to His words and thus I did not want Him to stop speaking. Suddenly He paused stared into my eyes and told me how much He loves me and how He has longed for this day since before the dawn of time. His words left my heart reeling. “My Lord,” I said “What does this mean for me? What do I have to do with Your story?”
“My child,” said the King “I am the One who stood in that garden with your ancestors. I am the One who wept as they turned their backs on Me, and had to leave because of their sin. I am the One who sent messengers to them time after time in hopes that they would turn back to Me. I am the One who wept while watching the people of the earth fall into greater depravity, which resulted in so much death. I am the One who formed a nation of people, endued with My promises, to be My representation to the people of the earth. I am the One who wept as they rejected Me. I am the One who sent more messengers calling the people of the earth to return to Me. I am the One who came and bore all of the sins of the world both past, present and future on a cross; so that they may receive redemption from their sins if they would just turn to Me. I am the One who rose from the grave having conquered death, hell and the grave. I am the One ascended into heaven and waited until three hundred years ago when it was time for My return. I am the One who came and fought to deliver my people and the people of the earth from that wicked king. I am the One who has loved you since before the dawn of time and I gladly stand before you.”
At once I began to fall to my knees in reverence to worship Him, but before I could even get to my knees He caught me and pulled me up and began to hug me and tell me how much He loves me. I felt as though my heart was about to burst with love and affection for this great King. After He let go of hugging me for what seemed like an eternity of ecstasy, I looked into His fiery eyes as I took a knee and swore my allegiance to Him. “What is mine is Yours, my kingdom is Your Kingdom, my throne is Your throne and my life is Yours my Lord, my King.” With a smile He raised me up and told me to govern New Korea on His behalf as His appointed governor over the realm. Afterwards He began to share with me some of the secrets of His heart towards me, as well as how to better improve the realm.
For the next week I would always be by His side asking Him questions and listening to Him. At times He would ask me questions or tell me stories and at other times He would share of His love for art, rock music, coffee, and turkey bacon. At times He would look at the clouds and ask what I see and after I responded He would simply say “That is awesome” and then go back to walking. He never seemed down, but always seemed filled with joy. It was always delight to be around Him. After that week He had to return back to his Kingdom but before He departed He bid that as His appointed governor that I govern justly, show mercy and walk humbly. “My Lord,” I said to Him “What is to come of my father’s murderer who You ransomed from me?” “Do not worry about Him My son,” He said “for I tell no one anyone’s story but their own.” With a smile He departed with his companions. The man who had murdered my father rode on the horse beside the King; I could only wonder what marvelous things He might have shared with him.
I Chan II in the twelfth month of the eight hundred and seventy-sixth year of my reign as governor of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: It has been over five hundred years since that night with the King of Zion in my studies. Often I have found myself thinking about the things He shared with me during that time. Over these last five hundred years I have had multiple meetings with Him, though most would be about politics as He would ask for a report of the realm. Though every time He would start encouraging me by telling me just how proud of me He was and how I am doing a good job.
I am beginning to feel old, though each time I feel it I find myself laughing when I realize that I am eight hundred and ninety-five years old. Who would have thought that I would ever be this old? I can just picture the King of Zion just looking at me with a gentle and infectious smile of His and tell me that “I don’t look a day over four hundred.” Though I have aged, He still remains filled with youth, vigor and beauty. It would even seem with each encounter He looks more beautiful and more glorious.
I Chan II in the second month of the one thousand and thirty-first year of my reign as governor of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: I am getting quite old though even in my old age I still feel like a child on the inside when I think upon my King. Over the centuries we have become close, I have found a true friend in the King of Zion. He has never done me wrong, and oh how pained I was when I heard that some of the kings of the earth had chosen to revolt against Him. It was so painful when these men asked me to join in their revolt. How could I have betrayed my King, whom I have faithfully served these many years and He has done me no wrong? How could I betray this one whom has won my heart? I watched them submit themselves to that demon and follow him to war against my Lord, my King. Oh the wickedness in their gaze as they sought to oppose my King. When the battle was over there was not one left standing in their military and not one dead in my King’s military. It was such a bloody battle. I remember seeing the King weep as he slew those wicked kings. I could see the pain in His heart as these whom He had loved so dearly betrayed Him.
I Chan II in my one thousand and fiftieth year write as follows: Shortly following battle there was a time of rejoicing as the age of my King transitioned to the age of His Father who was coming to the earth to rule and to reign. It was at this point that both the living and those who had died were to be summoned to stand before the King, that they might be judged according to their deeds.
When it was my time to stand before the King He sat on His heavenly throne looking even more glorious than ever before. He had beside Him a book in which He began to open it and read from it, each line in the book was concerning a point in my life. There were many things that He told me that brought pain to my heart concerning my own failings. There were also many other times that He told me of things that I did that brought joy to His heart, such joy that I felt it in my heart as well. I remember as He went through my life and then stopped at one point and began to speak about the man who had murdered my father. He said “You chose to show mercy and forgive the man just as I had chosen to show you mercy and forgive you. Now hear of part of what happened after you forgave him.” I began to think about how I thought I was not allowed to know anyone’s story but my own. As I thought this the King said to me, “My child this part of his story is yours as well, for all the good things He did from that point on you were to share in them as if you did them as well; for it was your forgiveness and mercy that allowed him to do so.” All of a sudden I began to see the man and all the people he touched behind him each one with tears in their eyes saying to me “Thank you!” Many times the Lord would do this with other people who I had touched or forgiven in some manner and the reward that I shared in their lives. He kept telling me that it was an investment made in wisdom. With each time I found myself falling to my knees weeping tears of joy for the good points and tears of sorrow for the times I had failed; each time He would stop, walk down towards me and knell down to wipe away my tears, all the while telling me “I love you!” When it was all said and over I must say it was the hardest, most sober, most healing and most joyful experience I have had so far. This great King of Zion, has won my allegiance. This God-man Jesus Christ has won my heart, and I will forever love Him and serve Him; for never has one been so gentle and so merciful to me a sinner.
1“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” Luke 3:1-2
Once again Luke has come through for us to help set the backdrop for our story. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar the word of the Lord comes to the son of Zacharias. Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus became the sole emperor of Rome in the year 14 AD, however, two years prior in 12 AD he became the co-regent with his adopted father Caesar Augustus who was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. If Luke is counting the two years of Tiberius’ co-regency then that would place us at 26 AD. Luke states that Tiberius is “in his fifteenth year” thus he has not finished fifteen years but on the way. Now if we take the date of 26 AD then that would place both John and Jesus at age 30 if the birth dates that have been previously been established are accurate.
Pontius Pilate ruled as the governor of Judea from 26 AD to 36/37 AD. Herod reigned as the tetrarch of Galilee from 4 BC to 39AD while his brother Philip the reigned as the tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis from 4 BC to 34 AD. Concerning Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene there is much speculation as to his true identity. History tells of a man named Lysanias who ruled the region was put to death by Mark Antony 36 BC. If this is the case then it is quite possible the one Luke is mentioning was one of his descendant.
Annas was the acting high priest from 6 AD to 15 AD and Caiaphas who was the son-in-law of Annas acted as the high priest from 18 AD to 36 AD. Though Annas was no longer the acting high priest during the time of the ministries of John and Jesus, he had however once held the office. Therefore, Annas would have still carried the rank of high priest much like Bill Clinton still has the rank of “president” though he is not in office. This being said that is why in various times in the Gospels we see both Annas and Caiaphas mentioned as high priests, one is acting the other has already served. Also since Annas was Caiaphas’ father-in-law and former high priest he would have sought him for advice on difficult matters.
2“…the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;” Luke 3:2-3
1“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 3:1-2
After about thirty years of silence, following the birth of the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth there appeared a man out of nowhere. This man came preaching a baptism of repentance and declaring that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. This message came out of nowhere. This message was calling the children of Israel to repentance from her sins. The act of full body immersion was required for those seeking to convert to Judaism, thus this message was ultimately calling Jewish men and women to repent and become true Jews (i.e. followers of YHWH as their forefathers). This message would have been incredibly offensive as it was calling people as fake and the same as the pagan gentiles.
4“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.” Mark 1:4-5
This man’s name was John and he came wearing a garment made of camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His diet was that of locusts and wild honey. This man for a period of time dwelled in the wilderness, though we are unsure of how long one thing we do know that it was there that the Word of the Lord came to him.
4“Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.” Matthew 3:4-6
Why is John so important?
Though the primary focus in the Gospels is the life of Jesus the second most mentioned is clearly that of John. The four writers of the Gospels each focus briefly on different aspects of his life; from Luke’s account of John’s birth to Matthew’s account of his beheading each paint a picture of John’s life. If that is not enough Jesus testifies of only one man, that being his beloved cousin John. Surely this must be enough for us to consider and examine this man’s life. Why did the God-man call this one the greatest man born of a woman? What was it about him, his life and his ministry that distinguished with such a title? John the Baptist, the greatest man to ever walk under the Old Covenant. This should cause us to scrutinize John’s life and ask the question “Lord what must I do to be as great, and even greater in Your sight?”
“Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11
What happened for those thirty years of John’s life?
Following the events of John’s birth and his father’s prophetic utterance the scriptures only give us one verse on John’s life, until the time of his revealing thirty years later in the wilderness. However, we do know from Zacharias’ angelic encounter that John was called to live out the Nazarite vow.
“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.” Luke 1:15
“And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” Luke 1:80
For John his life would be one of separation from the things of the world and from the noise of city. It would be one of loneliness forcing him to lean into God for fellowship. For many years John’s life would be thrust into barrenness and silence as he would be left to seek the Lord.
It is widely considered that the reason why John grew up in the deserts or wilderness is that with his parents being advanced in age would most likely have passed away earlier on in his life. This would result with someone else raising John, some would even go on to speculate that he was raised within an Essene community, specifically that of Qumran. However, the Essene’s are not mentioned in the scripture, but the historian Josephus wrote of them as one of the primary Jewish sects along with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The assumption of John being associated with the Essene’s is merely superficial at best. With no evidence to prove this it is merely based on shallow similarities and only endures because of a lack of understanding on the Essene lifestyle and observance. Below is quote from Alfred Edersheim, who being a trustworthy guide on the subject due to his extensive knowledge on the topic.
“But of one thing we may feel certain: neither John the Baptist, and his Baptism, nor the teaching of Christianity, had any connection with Essenism. It were utterly unhistorical to infer such from a few points of contact – and these only of similarity, not identity – when the differences between them are so fundamental. That an Essene would have preached repentance and the Kingdom of God to multitudes, baptized the uninitiated, and given supreme testimony to One like Jesus, are assertions only less extravagant than this, that One Who mingled with society as Jesus did, and Whose teaching, alike in that respect, and in all its tendencies, was so utterly Non-, and even Anti-Essenic, had derived any part of His doctrine from Essenism. Besides, when we remember the views of the Essenes on purification, and on Sabbath observance, and their denial of the Resurrection, we feel that, whatever points of resemblance critical ingenuity may emphasize, the teaching of Christianity was in a direction opposite from that of Essenism.”
Another thought concerning his upbringing would depend on his age when his parents would have passed away, for if he were still young he would have needed for someone to watch over him meaning they might have taken him to the desert. Though the other side of the coin being if they died when he was of age to live on his own it would be much harder on him to then leave his parents to go to the desert having lived a life with some measure of money given his levitical birthright. With both of John’s parents being levites descended from Aaron it would be clear to others that this one was called to the priesthood. Thus his desire to up and move to the wilderness would be shocking to say the least to those around him.
No matter the case it is clear that from the joyful annunciation of his birth to his barren and age parents; John’s life would be plunged into many years of seeking the Lord in the wilderness until the time of his revealing.
John the Prophet
The Resurgence of Prophetic Language
Many consider John to be the last of the line of O.T. prophets and that which escorts us from the O.T. to the N.T. From Luke’s introduction of how John received the word of the Lord it is much a kin to that of both the O.T. major prophets and minor prophets
1“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” Luke 3:1-2
“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” Isaiah 6:1
“In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zachariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying,” Zechariah 1:1
In each of these we see that the prophet who is receiving the word of the Lord or vision is described in similar fashion. Luke being a learned historian most likely seems to trying to make a point using the same language as seen in the O.T. prophets when describing when and how John received the word of the Lord. No other time in the book of Luke or Acts does Luke use this kind of language which then backs up the idea of him likening John to the O.T. prophets.
The Appearance of a Prophet
As stated briefly earlier John came dressed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt and ate locusts and honey. Though this may seem to be quite odd for a prophet it was not the first time.
“John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.” Mark 1:6
“They answered him, ‘He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.’ And he said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’” II Kings 1:8
“Also it will come about in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies, and they will not put on a hairy robe in order to deceive;” Zechariah 13:4
Not only did john dress in this manner but it seems that Elijah did as well as Zechariah points out that it was custom for prophets to dress in such a manner.
Those that testified of the prophet of the Most High
Zacharias at the birth of his son prophesies of his son’s destiny as a prophet of the Most High.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;” Luke 1:76
When John was still imprisoned he sent some of his disciples to question Jesus if He was the One. As Jesus responds He makes the point of testifying of John as a prophet, and even more.
“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet.” Matthew 11:9
Finally just two days following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Christ’ final week leading up to the cross, some of the priests and religious leaders came up to Jesus seeking to trap Him. The day prior He had just cleared out the temple for the second time of His ministry, the day before that was His triumphal entry and now they are seeking to trap this One who is causing an uproar. However, Jesus in all wisdom turns the tables on them with the question about John the Baptist and his message.
“But shall we say, ‘From men’?’—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet.” Mark 11:32
John’s Prophetic Calling
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1
Through the mouth of His servant Malachi the Lord reveals to us that He would send a messenger before He came. This messenger would prepare the way for the Lord. This promise is much a kin to the one Isaiah had prophesied concerning “A voice is calling.”
“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.’” Isaiah 40:3
Right before the four hundred years of silence the prophet Malachi declares not only of the coming of the King but also of his herald, the one who would go before Him. Jesus in Matthew 11 ascribes these prophetic words to John as the one who was to come before Him.
“As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about john, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in king’s palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’’” Matthew 11:7-10
The Priest before the Prophet
Before John became the prophet filled with the word of the Lord, he was called as a priest. John was the progeny of two Levite parents who both were descended from Aaron, thus making John born into the priesthood. From the point of his miraculous birth John was destined for that of the priesthood. By birthright John was destined to be one who would stand, serve, minister and burn before the Lord.
“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense.” II Chronicles 29:11
For John the context of his ministering to the heart of the Lord would look far more different from what was common for priests of his day. Instead of ministering to the heart of the Lord in the temple among men; John would choose the place of hiddenness in the wilderness. It is in this place that the priest would become more than a priest but a prophet as well, much like Moses (a Levite who became a prophet) and Samuel, Jeremiah and Ezekiel (who each served as a priests but became prophets).
“Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.” I Samuel 2:18
“The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin,” Jeremiah 1:1
“the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar…” Ezekiel 1:3
At the end of John’s life in one of his last recorded words by the Gospel writers, John reveals that it is His joy to stand and hear the voice of God. It would seem that he is not limiting it to just the few times his paths crossed with Jesus, but also all those times in the wilderness as he sought the voice of God and the joy he experienced.
“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.” John 3:29
In the secret place of the wilderness a priest was found ministering to the heart of the Lord and would eventually emerge a prophet filled with the Word of the Lord.
“But who has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? Jeremiah 23:18
“The one who is a voice is first one who hears.”
The End of Silence and the Dawn of the Word of the Lord
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but ratherfor hearing the words of the Lord.’” Amos 8:11
Following the prophet Malachi, the last of the prophets, the land of Israel went into a season barrenness. The words of Amos had born their fruit as Israel entered into four hundred years of silence; a time of famine for the word of the Lord was nowhere to be heard. This land that had grown accustomed to being saturated with the words of God had become starved. For hundreds of years the nation of Israel would see empires rise and fall all around her. They would fall under subjection from one empire to another all the while longing for God to speak to her with words of comfort. The religious leaders would fall into further corruption and puppet kings would be put over her. Somewhere deep down inside the people knew that there was something missing, the word of the Lord. That word that was like bread from heaven.
Suddenly after the four hundred years of famine, a man came preaching in the wilderness. His words were laced with authority unlike anything they have ever experienced. These words cut them straight to the heart, bringing conviction and a renewed hope. The hearts of the people like a dry mouth longed to drink from this well in the wilderness that overflowed with words of hope. No wonder why people left their homes and traveled from all over Judea to hear this man in wilderness. Just as a man starved near to death would travel and do anything for some sort of nourishment, so the people traveled to hear the words of John. These words that gave them hope that a King was coming. If the thirst and hunger were not enough to compel the masses to come to John, the sheer astonishment of the reality that a man has been found that has an anointing on his words. The curiosity of the people to hear that a man in the wilderness seems to resemble those they grew up hearing about like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi.
After many years in the wilderness we know that Word of the Lord came to him. From that point on he began to preach the message of repentance. This message was so impactful to the people who the Jews were “converting to Judaism” through the baptism of repentance. Though another sign of just how impactful this message was is the fact that he did not go to the people but rather the people came out to him. Though John remained in the wilderness by the Jordan River, people from Jerusalem, people from all over Judea and those living near the district of the Jordan River were coming out to be baptized. The Jordan River lies approximately 20 miles to the east of Jerusalem; though this seems like a short distance it is quite the opposite if you are on foot. Multitudes of people were making this trip to go hear a man tell them of coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and how they needed to repent, be baptized and ultimately become true Jews.
The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness
2“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY; THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.’” Mark 1:2-3
4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. 5‘EVERY RAVINE WILL BE FILLED, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL WILL BE BROUGHT LOW; THE CROOKED WILL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; 6AND ALL FLESH WILL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.’” Luke 3:4-6
Concerning John the three synoptic Gospels, they each use the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 to describe John. The minor difference is that Mark adds an introductory phrase which is not actually apart of Isaiah 40 and Luke adds Isaiah 40:4-5 (though the language is a little different). However in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist actually quotes Isaiah 40:3 when asked who he was. John identifies himself as “the voice crying out” that Isaiah had prophesied about.
This title as “the voice crying out” really sets the stage for what his ministry was to look like, one of making way for the coming of the Lord. John, the voice of one crying out stands in the wilderness declaring to the people who there is one coming who is name is the Lord. Even the Hebrew word for Lord being used here is YHWH. John was declaring to the people who God was coming and that they should get ready. Though this message would seem to be treated as merely messianic, but in reality it is so much more. John was not saying that he was just preparing the way for the messiah but for God. He was stating that YHWH was coming. The one who dwelt in the burning bush was on His way. This is why they would be called to repent.
The Message of the Voice Crying Out
3And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;” Luke 3:3
1“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 3:1-2
The message of John was a call to repentance as he declared the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was unto preparing the way of the One who was to come. The language of the “Kingdom of Heaven” would only appear to be referenced in the book of Daniel, specifically in chapter two. It is in Daniel chapter two that Nebuchadnezzar has his dream of the statue and the rock that destroys it. Daniel prophecies of a kingdom established by the God of heaven and this kingdom will destroy all of the other kingdoms and it will never be destroyed. This prophecy is connected to the Messianic prophecies for it is the Messiah who was to bring forth this Kingdom made by the God of Heaven.
44“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” Daniel 2:44
Though John is not recorded of quoting from the book of Daniel, it would be safe to say that he is probably preaching with the prophecy of Daniel chapter two in mind. Thus, when John preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand he was declaring that the Messiah was on the way. This message would have brought courage and hope to those hearing as they longed to be free from the Romans. This message would have brought conviction to their hearts as no one would want to miss out on the coming Messiah. Their mindset of the Messiah was one who would be like a second David, which would make him a warrior king who would usher the people into a golden age, and no one would want to be found sinful or even miss this. The people were looking for the lion but John came to proclaim of the lamb (John 1:29).
“…Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” John 1:29
As stated earlier the message of repentance through baptism called the people to be converted into true Judaism. Thus once more become converted into Judaism before the Messiah comes, sets up the Kingdom of Heaven and you get swept away.
In summary John came to prepare the people for YHWH’s coming by calling them to a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John was warning the people, that the ‘Stone’ that Daniel had prophesied was coming to destroy the nations. This why he declared to them “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The people knew that the “Stone’ or Kingdom of Heaven would be ruled by the Messiah. However, what they seemed to not get was that the Messiah and YHWH would be united in one man, the one who was to come after him, Jesus.
7“And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’” Mark 1:7-8
A Day in the Life of John
John begins to address the people
7So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
As John preached in the wilderness many were coming out to him to receive the baptism of repentance, even the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance.” Matthew 3:11
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” Matthew 3:7
As John saw the masses coming out to him to be baptized he began to call the people and the religious leaders a brood of vipers, those bound in sin. He continues to ask them who even warned them to flee from the destruction that was coming their way? No matter the case he calls them all to walk out their repentance by bearing the fruit of repentance; for their ethnicity will not spare them from the path of hell. Even if all the children of Abraham on the earth were to fall down the path of destruction and there were none left on the earth, then the Lord would raise up children of Abraham to replace them from the stones. Destruction was at the door step of all the children of Israel if they do not begin to bear the fruit of repentance. The axe was now at the root ready to chop down every tree that does not turn into the merciful heart of God lest they become fuel for the fire of His justice.
The People Ask How to Bear the Fruit of their Repentance
“And the crowds were questioning him, saying, ‘Then what shall we do?’ 11And he would answer and say to them, ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.’ 12And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ 13And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.’ 14Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, ‘And what about us, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.’” Luke 3:10-14
The people begin to question John how to walk their repentance out. John’s response in short is preview of a message that would be preached by the One to come after him, the Sermon on the Mount. In summary he tells them to love others by sharing with them, by not stealing from them, nor lying about them.
John’s personal compare and contrast with the One to come after him
“Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’” Luke 3:15-17
The people begin to question whether if John was the Messiah and most likely through the spirit of prophecy knew this, and told them that he was not but the One who comes after him is of a higher rank than him, or rather the One who comes after him is the Messiah. The One to arise after John was so much greater than him that he was not worthy to untie his sandals. This says much as kings and emperors will even have the lowest of slaves washing their feet. The One who was come not only was greater than John but also has existed before him.
“John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” John 1:15
John he came to call the people to repentance so to be ready for the One who came after him, this was the point of his baptism. The One who was to come after would baptize with more than just mere water but with the power of the Holy Spirit (and all that comes with this salvation, fellowship with God and power). The One was to come next was coming to separate the righteous from the wicked. He will gather the righteous wheat into His house and reward them. However, the wicked chaff will be thrown into the fire of His justice. The Gospel of Matthew calls the wheat as ‘His’ thus belonging to Him.
“…He will gather His wheat into the barn…” Matthew 7:12
John would continue to preach the Gospel many other times to the people until John rebuked Herod the tetrarch of his sins, which led to John’s beheading.
18So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. 19But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, 20Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison. Luke 3:7-20
I. The First Witnesses
8In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14
There in the middle that winter night were some shepherds tending to their sheep unaware that Great Shepherd of Israel had just been born. It would seem to be quite fitting that the first to be invited to see the Holy Child would be shepherds. “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.” Ezekiel 34:23.
Shepherds in first-century Israel were of such low regard that they would be the furthest from nobility. These shepherds were left to watch another’s sheep in the middle of the winter night were of the lowest in rank in first-century Israel. The Father sends His messengers to decree of the beauty of this unimaginable event, that His Son the Second Person of the Holy Trinity has plunged Himself into the story of humanity in the form of a child lying in a manger. Off all of people in Israel and on the earth, the Father sent His messengers to invite the outcasts who were left to watch another’s sheep in fields under the winter starlit sky. This reality that the Word now incarnate in the form of a child’s first invited visitors are of the lowest of class should leave us reeling in awe.
Now if it truly is winter, as we have previously suggested, then the shepherds were most likely watching the sheep for the Temple sacrifices. The sheep for the Temple sacrifices were the only ones to be kept in the open fields throughout the entire year, and given just how close Bethlehem is to Jerusalem only strengthens probability of this idea. However, the more profound importance of this suggestion hardly needs to be mentioned in order to be felt. Also let us not forget that it was thousands of years ago in these hills that a man named Samuel found a boy named David watching some sheep.
The First Invitation
While the shepherds were out watching their flock in the middle of the night suddenly there came an in breaking of light. As the shepherds gazed at the light the angelic messenger standing and bringing good news of great joy which will be for all the people.
The angel declares to the shepherds:
- “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” First the angel declares to the shepherds words of comfort to not be afraid but that he had come to them to give them good and joyful news that was meant for “all people.”
- “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”In the city of David which is called Bethlehem a savior was born for “you.” The angel makes this personal by directing the proclamation that salvation was for them and His name is Christ the Lord. Joel 2:32 says that salvation would come to those who called upon the name of the Lord.
He is the “Christ” also known as the “Messiah” or the “anointed one” this one was to be anointed for a function. The anointed one was to be anointed to be king over Israel. On top of this it was also known that David was promised by the Lord that there would be one who would sit on his throne forever. This messiah was to sit on the throne of David forever and lead Israel into a time greater than that of David. The messiah was anointed to lead Israel on the throne of David into freedom from her enemies and into a time of prosperity and this time would be forever.He is the “Lord” this Lord is YHWH this is the One who brings deliverance and salvation from Joel 2. This is the Lord that David prophesied of in Psalm 110 “My Lord said to my Lord” which Jesus would later go on to identify Himself as.
- “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The angel says the sign is a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, this truly is a sign because in that time it was not a common thing to see.
13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Right after the angel gives his message “suddenly” a multitude of angels appear on the earth worshipping the Lord. This moment is very significant for multiple reasons.
- First heaven is invading earth, YHWH has entered into the story of humanity and dwells on the earth and now the angels are following Him to earth to continue worshipping Him. Both John the Baptist and Jesus both testified to the in breaking of the Kingdom of God in their preaching. When Jesus would later goes on to pray “Let Your Kingdom come,” He calling the church to pray for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come. He knows that at the point of His birth it had already begun and the angels on the earth worshipping God testify to that reality.
- Second unless mistaken this is the first time recorded in the Scriptures that a multitude of angels are “on the earth” worshiping. In other passages where we see a multitude of angels they are either there for battle or in heaven. Worship is now on earth as it is in heaven, in a whole new way.
- Thirdly when the angelic choir begins to sing it is not “Holy, Holy, Holy” but it is a new song and in fact is the first time recorded in the bible for the angelic choir to sing something other than “Holy.” At the point of the birth of Jesus a new song goes forth from the angels that in my personal opinion is a foreshadow of the new song that would go forth at the end of the age “Worthy are You to take the scroll and loose the seals.” “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals…’” Revelation 5:9
- Finally in this moment God has pierced through that wall of separation like a needle through a curtain. Though it might be small God has invaded and the beginning stages of the tearing down of the wall had begun. As a man on the earth had created that wall through sin even so one would pierce through the wall and destroy it from the earth. Just like when a needle goes through a curtain and then light shines through that hole so it was with the birth of Christ and soon that curtain would fall 33 years later.
One can only wonder what the angels were thinking as they were watching the birth of Jesus. The anticipation in the angels as they watched from heaven as they only took their eyes off of that manger to look at the Father on the throne as He smiled with tears in His eyes. One can only imagine the angels looking at the Father saying “Can we go now?” and the Father responding “Not yet, just wait a few more minutes.” Then suddenly as Jesus was born heaven went from silence and anticipation to suddenly an uproar of worship as they watched the beauty of God’s humble love as He was born from heaven. At the same time one can imagine the Father saying “Go now and worship!” Then suddenly in a violent rushing and yet poetically beautiful rush the angels pierced through the wall of separation to invade earth and worship.
“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” Luke 2:15-20
As soon as the angels had departed the shepherds went in a hurry to Bethlehem to see that which the angels had told them. When they beheld the babe lying in the manger they told all who were there what the angels told them. The language in the passage hints that there could be more than just Joseph, Mary and Jesus there. Those that heard the shepherd’s testimony in that manger wondered and Mary treasured all these precious moments in her heart. As the shepherds departed they left worshiping and giving glory to God for all they had heard and seen.
“And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” Luke 2:17. Though this one verse may seem unimportant it is actually quite important for multiple reasons.
- First point of importance is that this helps us with dating the events of Jesus’ life. Though Jesus did not have to go to the Temple to be circumcised but just a priest the proximity of their location and the need for Mary’s time of purification would point that they would go to Jerusalem. Plus the following events of the Holy Babe take place in Jerusalem leads us to say eight days after His birth he was circumcised in Jerusalem.
- Secondly the verse is also truly profound, as God in His faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham, Himself bore the sign of the covenant. God remembers the promise of His covenant with His friend Abraham two thousand years ago and takes on the sign of circumcision as a testimony that He had not forgotten. He is bound to His covenant. In addition this is a sign that His circumcision of the flesh points to His circumcision of the heart. “And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.” Genesis17:11
22And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”), 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.” Luke 2:22-24. The time of Mary’s purification was forty days that were to be spent in Jerusalem; this would leave Jesus about a month and a half old. Though she could have done the circumcision and purification separately it would be highly unlikely to do all the extra traveling. If this be the case then that would mean they went from Bethlehem to Jerusalem within the first eight days of Jesus’ life. We will mention this view later on.
The other fact this passage reveals to us is that Joseph and Mary offer the sacrifice of a poor family and if this is the case that would mean they would not have been visited by the magi and thus not yet receiving the gifts that would have increased their current wealth. This means they were in Bethlehem twice. We also will come back to this point later on in the notes. “But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.” Leviticus 12:8
Oh Jerusalem little did you know that the babe who would grow up to be your Savior and King had just passed through your gates. As the priests beheld the babe to be circumcised little did they know that it was YHWH the one who dwells between the cherubim.
III. Jesus Presented in the Temple
Truly one of the saddest points of this part of the story is that the religious leadership as they held the babe and presented Him to the Lord did not know who He was. The ones who were to know God the most and teach the rest of who He is could not recognize Him even when in His presence and holding him and yet there were two who would recognize Him. The Holy Spirit would reveal the identity to two different people at the Temple in Jerusalem and the fact that it is two is very significant for the law states that it takes two witnesses to validate something and here we have two. One could even add to this that they were standing as foreshadows of the two witnesses at the end of the age. “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” Deuteronomy 19:15
Simeon “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.27And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; 30For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.” 33And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:25-35
While in the temple in Jerusalem the family met a man name Simeon whom the Lord had promised to him that he would not die until he had seen the promised one, the Christ. The scriptures recognize this man as being “righteous and devout” which is similar to the description of Joseph whom the word calls “righteous.” In the midst of the multitudes of people in Jerusalem, Simeon was of the remnant of those who still served the Lord with their whole heart. Simeon being devout means that he would have been faithful to the law and a true Israelite who knew the Lord, as he clearly recognizes Him as a babe while he is under the Holy Spirit. Led by the Spirit the man entered into the temple and there met Joseph and Mary as they were bringing in Jesus to have Him presented unto the Lord.
Upon seeing the family Simeon holding the babe and prays that he knows the Lord has now fulfilled His promise to him and that he was now released by the Lord to die in peace. Though the passage does not give his age or anything of the sort as it will with Anna it is assumed that since He had been waiting for the consolation of Israel for a while and that he prays that he can now die in peace alludes to the fact that he is an older man.
Upon holding the babe Simeon states that his eyes have now seen the salvation of the Lord which was prepared in the presence of all people. This child whom he and many in Israel had longed for was prepared in the presence of all people, which simply means that the Lord had been orchestrating everything over the centuries to bring forth the anointed one of Israel as the nations around them were raging. This anointed one was to bring forth the revelation of God to the nations(Gentiles) or rather the light was not meant just for Israel but it was to touch all the nations. He was to be the glory of Israel which like David, He was to bring forth Israel into another Golden Age and it would lead to the promises that God made with Israel to be fulfilled.
Joseph and Mary upon hearing this proclamation stood amazed at the words being spoken of their newborn son. Simeon ultimately was rephrasing that which Gabriel had told them both separately, that which Elizabeth testified to and that which the shepherds had spoken to them about concerning their own angelic encounter regarding the babe. If you had been in their shoes you too would have stood amazed at the words being proclaimed to you by a total stranger. By this point they must be saying to themselves “Something is going on here bigger than we can even grasp.”
Simeon goes on to bless the family and then single out Mary and begins to prophesy of Jesus’ ministry and ultimately that she would see the death of her first born son. The fact that Joseph is not singled out with a prophetic word only strengthens the idea that he would no longer be in the picture when Jesus steps into His ministry most likely because he had already passed away.
“ 36And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38.
The next person to meet the babe and recognize Him is an elderly woman named Anna. Anna is recognized as a prophetess who had given herself to the place of night and day prayer and fasting in the Temple. This woman was a true friend of God who had given herself to communing with the Lord after being widowed at an early time in her life. Anna was of the tribe of Asher which shows us that there was a remnant of the northern tribes that still lived as well as still loved the Lord.
This friend of God who had a life of prayer and fast for over fifty years recognized the babe as the Christ as soon as she saw Him. At this point Anna begins to worship the Lord and began to testify of the babe to all who had been longing for the anointed one to come. In other words the very first evangelist and preacher of the New Testament is a woman who is known as prophetess and one who served in the house of the Lord. There is much to be said concerning Anna in relation to the deceptive message in much of the church that women are not called to lead or preach to others. If the Scriptures highlight Anna as this prophetic messenger, than it would mean the other passages we use concerning women preaching must be reevaluated in order to find what the true context is in those letters to the church, but that is an issue for another point in time.
“ 39When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.” Luke 2:39
After their brief time in Jerusalem which would have lasted about a month and a half the family departs for Nazareth. The family has now completed all their rituals which being the purification of Mary and the circumcision of Jesus as they depart back home for Nazareth. Now this would leave one huge chunk missing, that being Matthew’s account of Jesus’ time as a baby. It is my opinion as well the opinion of many scholars that the events of Matthew’s gospel take place shortly after the family returns to Nazareth.
As we mentioned earlier that when they performed the sacrifice that they did the sacrifice of a poor family (Luke 2:17-24) and if this is the case then they could not have received the gold from the magi. Also if the magi had already come why would they then go to Jerusalem where Herod wants to kill the babies from Bethlehem? If this is the case then Jesus would have been in Bethlehem twice as a baby. However the confusing part is that Luke says they went straight to Nazareth after the events there. So the question is what happened when?
It is a very strong possibility that they went back to Nazareth for a short time and then moved to Bethlehem to raise the babe. Seeing as how they had to travel there very quickly for the census, they probably did not have the time to take their stuff with them. Nazareth would be a great place for them to raise the babe as they would be free from the scandalous conception of the babe which they would have endured in Nazareth. If this is the case they would then move to Bethlehem where they would probably have friends and family there. Before their trip up to Jerusalem they probably would have also secured a place to live in Bethlehem. If what we have suggested is true then they would probably be leaving from Jerusalem to Nazareth around the end of January beginning of February. They would probably be back in Bethlehem by the end of February 4 B.C. (dates are approximate).
IV. Enter the Magi
1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’” 7Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” 9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. Matthew 2:1-9
While back in Bethlehem the family would finally starting to get situated when suddenly a drama begins. For many of us who grew up being told this story it was three wise men or three kings. However, the scriptures do not call the men kings and does not say that there were three. We guess three because there were three gifts. The truth is there were most likely more than three people showing up in Jerusalem. Though King Herod was a very paranoid man would not have paid much attention to three men coming into Jerusalem with three little boxes of gifts. The scriptures say that both Herod and the people of Jerusalem were troubled by the arrival of these Maji, this leads us to the conclusion that it must have been more than just three men on camels. These Magi who were men of authority and influence would not have left home unguarded and especially not if they were carrying the gifts they were. They definitely would not have gone in search of a king to bring him some small gifts. They would have loaded down camels of gifts and thus requiring more guards to protect the treasure from robbers. Using sheer logic one can simply guess twenty to a hundred armed guards with these maji to protect both their lives and the gifts that would have stood out.
“Here we must enter even further into speculation. All that is certain is that the Maji arrived in Jerusalem prior to Herod’s death. It would seem some time has passed, perhaps months, but there is no reason necessarily to assume an extended period. Herod’s command to kill all infants two years old was based solely on the Maji’s report of the appearance of the star prior to any knowledge on their part of the One they were seeking and how the star correlated to the birth. Thus Herod had every reason to overestimate the age because of the ambiguity of his knowledge. A date for the birth of Christ toward the end of 5 B.C. retains a high level of plausibility, but dating the event earlier would allow for greater flexibility in the arrival of the Magi.”
Little is known of these Maji other than they came from the East having followed a star in search for the newborn King of the Jews. It could be said of them that they are those who knew the times and the seasons in which they lived, as they were aware of the star and its significance. The following comes from Stephen Venable’s notes on the Maji:
Acts 13:6,8- the same term is used and translated magician
Daniel 2:2- in the LXX the word is used to describe a magician
1 Kings 4:30- Solomon’s wisdom is said to exceed all the men of the East.
As a result of the setting of the Book of Daniel, and the identification of these men is coming from the East, it is likely that the concept of wise men developed therein provides the most accurate portrait of their identity. The Magi first appear in approximately the 7th century B.C. in the Median Empire. At the time of Jesus they were an ancient priestly caste practicing a form of astronomy that incorporated what we now know as astrology. Magi formed the upper house of the council of the Megistanes, whose duties included the election of the king of the Parthian Empire. They were adept at interpreting dreams and were thought to possess knowledge of mysteries.
One must remember that these there were still a large amount of people still living in the Parthian Empire. It would not be surprising that some of them would be within the priestly aristocratic class, nonetheless they Jewish population in the Parthian Empire would have held a strong impact on the culture. Let us not forget the favor of Daniel in Babylonian and Persian Empires with the people and leaders.
As mentioned in a previous session King Herod was ruling from Jerusalem over Judea. Herod though he sat as king in Jerusalem was not the rightful heir of the throne; he was not of Jewish decent let alone in the line of David. Herod was actually an Edomite which simply means he was descended from Isaac’s eldest son Esau. Herod was also notorious for being paranoid as he had known only betrayal and assignations in his family and with those who also had once sat on the throne prior. Herod when taking the throne went as far in his paranoia had his wife, rivals and supposedly some of his own sons put to death.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Matthew 2:1-3
As the Magi enter into Jerusalem they begin to ask where the one born King of the Jews is. We’re are not sure how these event fully began whether they went straight to Herod or just entered into Jerusalem and began to ask the people, no matter how it happened the news still reached the ears of King Herod. As Herod hears the news he is deeply troubled and enraged as well as the people. We have already mentioned why Herod would be upset but the question we are left with is: why are the people? It quite possible because the people know that Herod is a paranoid tyrant and are afraid of what he might do having now heard the news. The people might be pained at the fact that they had missed the advent of their Lord whom they had been looking for. This would be exceptionally painful for the Jewish people since it was gentiles who knew He had come. The people could honestly be afraid of another tyrant.
“Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’” Matthew 2:4-6
Whatever the case is Herod is troubled and calls for the scribes and chief priests to find out where this new born king was to be born. The chief priests and scribes know where the Messiah is to be born. Though scripture is silent of how they responded we can safely assume that not much was taken into deeper consideration by the spiritual leaders that would lead them to visit and see for themselves.
“Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” 9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.” Matthew 2:7-9
When they answer the question where the newborn king was to be born the Magi leave to go worship Him, but before they can leave Herod calls them secretly. When Herod meets with the Maji he seeks to find out how long the star had been around as well as that they would come back to him with news of the location of the child. We know from the story that Herod doesn’t truly want to come worship the new born king but rather desires to have Him destroyed. After leaving Herod and Jerusalem they begin to follow the star to Bethlehem which would be about six miles out.
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.” Matthew 2:10-12
When the Magi came upon the house where the star rested they were filled with great joy and began to rejoice as they had finally found the one whom they had been searching for. When the Magi came to where the star rested they approached the ‘house’ and saw the Child with His mother and they began to worship Him. It says they were in a ‘house’ and not a ‘manger’ which would seem to back up the argument that they have moved to Bethlehem and were now set up in a more permanent residency.
As they entered into the house and beheld the Babe with His mother they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. One can only imagine what it was like in that moment for Mary and Joseph when the Magi entered into their house and began to worship their newborn Child. These men of great wealth and power falling on the floor in their home as they worshipped their Son. This truly must have had a might impact on their hearts. Then the Magi opened their treasures and presented to Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Falling on the ground before the babe these men adorned in wealth fall before this babe with gifts stretched out before the Babe. What a powerful scene.
The first four people to see and recognize the Babe:
- The poor and outcast- Shepherds
- The old who have stood as a faithful remnant- Simeon
- The friend of God who spent their life communing with Him- Anna
- The rich and powerful who knew the times in which they lived- The Magi
After their time with the Holy Child they chose not to return to Herod like they originally planned due to being warned by a dream.
V. There and Back Again
The Flight to Egypt
13Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” 14So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.” 16Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.” Matthew 2:13-18
After the Maji had left for some time, most likely would not have been long, Joseph has a dream in which the Lord tells him to get up and flee to Egypt with his wife and Child, because Herod was about to search for the Child in an attempt to destroy Him. Right then Joseph awakens and does as the Lord had commanded on the spot. By this point in their lives Joseph and Mary had enough faith not to question or doubt but instantly fled as the Lord had commanded. They remained there until the death of Herod. Matthew says that the flight to Egypt was so fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Hosea in Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.” However, this passage would not have been normally considered a Messianic passage but as a reflection of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. According to Matthew however it would seem this passage in Hosea would have a duel fulfillment.
When Herod discovers the Magi had decided to not come back to him he went into a rage. Herod remembered that Bethlehem was the town the Messiah was to be born and that the Magi had first seen the star two years ago. Thus, he released a proclamation that all boys two and under in Bethlehem and in the vicinity were to be killed. Matthew points out again that this was all done to fulfill the word which Jeremiah had prophesied in Jeremiah 31:15 “Thus says the LORD, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.’”
The Return to Judea
“But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20“Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” Matthew 2:19-23
Herod died around the end of March and before April 12th (which was right before the Passover) of the year 4 B.C. It was after Herod’s death that the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to let him know it was time to return back to Judea for those that threatened the Child were now dead. However, Joseph became afraid when he had discovered that Herod’s son Archelaus who was a wicked man was king. As they began to return to Bethlehem that the Lord appears to Joseph in a third dream and told him to take his family to Nazareth where our story had begun so that they Child would be safe from Herod’s son. Matthew points out another prophecy that this was all to take place to fulfill yet another prophecy. There is no clear understanding as to what Matthew is referencing where as the previous prophecies were clearly referenced.
- It is possible that this prophecy he was referencing was on an oral tradition much like how Paul quotes a saying of Jesus in Acts 20:35 “…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” However this saying is not found in the four Gospels thus this was quite possibly an oral tradition or the less popular idea is that it is from a lost letter.
- Matthew uses the word “prophets” in the plural sense which leads to the idea that he is pooling an idea from multiple prophecies from multiple prophets.
- It is also considered by multiple scholars that it is a play on words from Isaiah 11:1 as the word ‘Branch’ from Isaiah 11:1 along with the word Nazareth in Hebrew are both derived from the same root word.
It would be safe to say that the Lord foresaw their need to flee to Egypt suddenly without being able to take their things with them and thus the need for funds which the Magi’s gifts would perfectly suffice. Joseph would have had a hard time finding work in Egypt and thus the gifts would have easily funded all the sudden traveling as well as help fund their time in Egypt. This would also help strengthen a later time for Jesus birth which would lead to a short period in Egypt. If it had been a longer period then they would easily have time to work but here they have to lean on their new funds to support all their sudden traveling.
VI. In His Father’s House
“Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; 43and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, 44but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” 49And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:41-52
Twelve years later Joseph, Mary and Jesus go to the Passover feast in Jerusalem whuch they did every year. However, this time when they were on their way back home Jesus’ parents realized that He was not with them. Already being a day out they return to Jerusalem to find their lost Son. Three days later they find Him in the Temple. They found Him sitting among the teachers listening and asking them questions. These tears of Israel truly had no clue that the One whom they studied and taught on was now in the form of a twelve year old boy and was questioning them.
All of those who were in attendance and heard this mysterious Boy were amazed at both His understanding and His answers to their own questions. When His parents found Him they were astonished at the scene they beheld and Mary asked Him why He had ran away and that they were left worried about Him. Think of the emotions and the thoughts racing in Joseph and Mary in this moment. They had already had so many supernatural confirmations concerning the specialness of this Boy that easily would have enhanced there concern for Jesus. Jesus in His beauty responds “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” what a powerful statement and it is clear that at this point He knows to a degree who He is as the Son of God. But as Luke has made it clear that He still in His full humanity had to grow in knowledge.
40The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Luke 2:40
If this moment could not get any more beautiful Jesus chooses to continue to subject Himself to His mother and followed her and Joseph back to Nazareth. Mary sees the greatness of her time with her Son and it says that she treasured it all in her heart. Jesus who is both fully God and fully man grows up in stature and wisdom and favor among God and man. Though the fact that He is both fully God and fully man is not hard enough to grasp He who knows all as God had to grow in wisdom as a man. He who is God grew in favor with God. He who created man grew in favor with His own creation. After their return from Jerusalem the Scriptures go silent until the time of His revealing eighteen years later. One can truly wonder what it was like for Jesus growing up as well as His family. And so we will end it with Max Lucado’s “25 Questions for Mary”
What was it like watching him pray? How did he respond when he saw other kids giggling during the service at the synagogue? When he saw a rainbow, did he ever mention a flood? Did you ever feel awkward teaching him how he created the world? When he saw a lamb being led to the slaughter, did he act differently? Did you ever see him with a distant look on his face as if he were listening to someone you couldn’t hear? How did he act at funerals? Did the thought ever occur to you that the God to whom you were praying was asleep under your own roof? Did you ever try to count the stars with him … and succeed? Did he ever come home with a black eye? How did he act when he got his first haircut? Did he have any friends by the name of Judas? Did he do well in school? Did you ever scold him? Did he ever have to ask a question about Scripture? What do you think he thought when he saw a prostitute offering to the highest bidder the body he made? Did he ever get angry when someone was dishonest with him? Did you ever catch him pensively looking at the flesh on his own arm while holding a clod of dirt? Did he ever wake up afraid? Who was his best friend? When someone referred to Satan, how did he act? Did you ever accidentally call him Father? What did he and his cousin John talk about as kids? Did his other brothers and sisters understand what was happening? Did you ever think, That’s God eating my soup?
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name as Mary. 28And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:26-30
Mary’s Visitation of Good News
The only thing we really know about Mary is that at the time of the angelic visit is that she was a virgin and betrothed to Joseph, of the descendants of David. However, four times in Luke chapter one Mary is acknowledged as one who is blessed. This creates the question: “What is so special about her that would catch the eye of God?” It truly makes one wonder as to what God values. But whatever it was that caught His eye we do know that Christ chose a teenage girl of no reputation to entrust His humanity.
In my opinion Mary’s favor goes beyond her being entrusted with the babe but also that she would divine favor even in the midst of the ridicule and mockery of man during her pregnancy with Jesus and after. This idea can be seen in multiple areas from Joseph staying with her instead of sending her away, the finding of the manger, the financial provision from the magi, the two angelic warnings to flee from danger and even Jesus making sure at the cross that she would be taken care of so to fulfill His duty as firstborn. The angel makes it clear that not only does she have favor but the Lord is also with her. This is seen in that the Lord is with her to watch over her much like He did with Joshua son of Nun and in the midst of everything no harm comes to her.
A peculiar point of interest is that she is perplexed by this greeting, the ESV Bible says that she was “greatly troubled” by this introduction. One can only wonder what about the heavenly compliment troubled her. Was it because an angel sent from the Lord was before her or perhaps because she remembered all the other times someone in the O.T. had an angelic visitation and suspected a hard season a head.
“Ever since Eve women have believed for a son, One who’d reverse the sin caused curse.” –Justin Rizzo chorus. Truly since the fall women had been looking for a seed, a child, a son that would crush the head of the serpent and bring forth redemption. For the first promise of redemption was spoken of a promised seed to come from woman. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:15 This child who was promised at the fall would be great and now it was finally time for the child to come forth. The child of promise was finally drawing nigh. Redemption was finally at hand and Mary was to be the chosen womb that redemption would come through.
The Annunciation of the King
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:31-35 In this prophecy that Mary is receiving we see the identity of the baby she was to birth. Multiple facets are revealed of this Child, though there main facet that is revealed of Jesus not only mentioned twice but as the first and the last thing to be said of Him and that being His Divinity.
“…and you shall name Him Jesus.” Jesus or Yeshua means “The Lord saves” which is synonymous with the Old Testament name Joshua. This name is not only significant for what it means but also because of the two Joshua’s in the Old Testament that are foreshadows of Christ.
Joshua the son of Nun was Moses successor as well as the only one of two to make it from Egypt to the Promised Land. Joshua was both a mighty warrior and a good leader in that the people followed the Lord under his leadership as well as was able to raise up godly leaders to replace him. It was said of Joshua that even when Moses would leave the tabernacle Joshua would stay. This shows us that he was both priestly and a warrior. The messiah is also considered to be a second Moses. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” Exodus 33:11…“except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully.” Numbers 32:12… “Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” Deuteronomy 31:23…“Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel.” Joshua 24:31…“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me(Moses) from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 18I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you(Moses), and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Deuteronomy 18:15,18
Joshua the son of Jehozadok who was the priest of the Lord that was crowned king. Joshua being both priest and king was as a foreshadow of the two offices being united together through Christ. “Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. 13Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’ 14Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the LORD to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen the son of Zephaniah.” Zechariah 6:12-14
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High”(His Divinity). The first thing angel reveals about the baby after giving His name is His divine identity. This Child will be great and will be the Son of God, the greatness defines His identity as the Son of God. Finally the One whom David encountered in those hills in Bethlehem was to finally come forth, the one who was the LORD’s chosen King that the nations were to be given too. The One who is to sit at the right hand of the LORD as His enemies are made a footstool was finally to come forth. “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7“I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. 8‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’” Psalm 2:6-8…“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’ 2The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’” Psalm 110:1-2
The Lord highlights the Divine Identity of the Child over anything. This is first and foremost who the Child is, the Son of God. This child is YHWH! First she finds out that she was to bear a Son and name Him Jesus, and now she is being told that it would be God’s Son. This in itself must have caught Mary by great surprise. Mary was to carry God, YHWH inside her womb. The magnitude of this is beyond what words can express. The humility that it would create in Mary is great, yet the humility of this act for God to become a human fetus and dwell in a sinful human for 9 months and then be raised by a human couple is unmatchable and unthinkable. We cannot just merely write this off but truly should take time and just reflect on this reality of how humble God was to come.
“the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (The Promised King). The Babe’s second identity that being the descendant of David. The Lord has not forgotten His promise that He gave David that His throne will be established forever. The Lord in His great love for His friend David came in the flesh to fulfill His promise to His friend on His own. “Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me…” 2 Samuel 23:5 This Child was born to sit on the throne of David, and from there He shall rule. He was destined to be as His father David but in a far greater way. This is the child of promise that the Lord had promised to David and that the prophets spoke of.
“He will reign over the house of Jacob forever” (The Eternal King). This Child will sit upon throne of His father David forever ruling and reigning in the City of David, in Jerusalem. He will never die nor be replaced as King. Israel will finally have a king again but this king will be unlike any other king that Israel or even the world has ever seen before. For upon the throne of David, God in flesh will reign forever. Israel’s long awaited King has finally come and it is God Himself. Where men had failed in times past to lead His people rightly God Himself in His great love and humility has come to rule and reign forever. He has come to lead His people Israel Himself upon the throne of His friend David.
“His kingdom will have no end” (The Conqueror King). His Kingdom will truly have no end. He will not be defeated and it will be expansive. It will not cease to grow. His Kingdom will grow in strength, power and economically. Though those areas may not look the way they do now we do know this Kingdom will not stop expanding. The Roman Empire was the most vast and strongest of the ancient kingdoms but even Rome was stopped from expanding. Jesus Kingdom will not be stopped but will overcome and conquer all opposition.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (The Lord will bring forth redemption). This will not and could not happen on man’s own strength but God in His loving power is showing His strength and bringing forth redemption. This is not man’s doing but God’s. God in His great love is doing this. God is showing His power in bringing forth redemption. In doing this God is in essence revealing not only His great love and power but His great humility.
“ for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Once again we are reminded of the Divine Identity of this Child. This is such an important fact that the angel mentions it at the beginning and the end. The people had been waiting for the descendant of David to rule and reign as king, but the idea of God in flesh being this king was foreign. The Lord found it important that Mary would know who this Child was that He had the angel say it twice. This is not some mere child but this is YHWH. This Child is the promised One that Isaiah had prophesied of. The One that was to come and establish an eternal Kingdom.
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7
The Sign of Confirmation and Mary’s Yes
36And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:36-38 After the angel Gabriel gives the prophecy, he gives Mary a sign of confirmation. The sign being that her relative Elizabeth who in her old age was no longer barren but now six months pregnant. This was word was given to confirm that which she had just been told. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” God in His matchless strength, power and wisdom can do anything. Nothing can hinder Him, for He who spoke creation into being holds all power. “…for wisdom and power belong to Him.” Daniel 2:20
The Annunciation marks the beginning of a new season in Redemptive History. It is the announcing of the beginning of another era in Redemptive History. The Messiah’s long awaited arrival was finally drawing nigh. “As the fall of man was a free act, so too the Redemption had to be free. What is called the Annunciation was actually God asking the free consent of a creature to help Him be incorporated into humanity.” “And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38
 Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1958), p 17.
“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ 4And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4 The high and lofty One of Isaiah 6 is the Lord, it is God pre-incarnate. Jesus is the express representation of the Father because He is God. He is Yahweh. He is the One whom the angels since the moment they were created have cried “Holy.” He is the One who stood beside His Father as a master craftsmen. He is the One whose robe fills the temple. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Shepherd of Israel. “Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him,” Proverbs 8:30
When approaching the Gospels it is important to see Jesus in His divinity. This not some mere man, an angel or some lesser deity, but this is Yahweh. We risk grave error if not first coming to grips with the reality of the truth that, Jesus is Yahweh. He is the one who dwelt between the cherubim in the Holy of Holies, who stood beside the Father as a master craftsmen, who burned in a bush, He is the Great I AM the very Shepherd of Israel. One cannot merely seek to understand the importance of the Word becoming flesh unless they know who the Word was and is. This is why it is important that we become students of the Old Testament and not just the New Testament as it all points to who Jesus is. “Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Luke 24:27
II. Understanding Who God is
When we go to understand the divinity of Christ we must ask the question of how the disciples went from following their rabbi to worshiping their Lord, creator and God. In seeking to understand the divinity of Christ we must look to see how the Bible defines divinity and God. This comes down to the question: “How does Scripture define the uniqueness of God?” or in a simpler way “What makes Him God?”
The typical answer to this question is usually drawn upon by Greek philosophical categories, which theologians call incommunicable attributes (which are often indicated by the prefixes “omni”, “im” or “in”). The inspiration behind bringing definition to God in this way is the philosophical assumption that the divine “nature” or “essence” is entirely different to the “nature” or “essence” of all created things. This is a thoroughly Platonic idea and entirely foreign to Biblical thought. The result of defining God’s uniqueness in this manner for the last 1500 years has often brought a very abstract, distant, vague, ethereal conception in our mind when asked to imagine Him.
The Hebrew mindset from the Old Testament viewed God with reverence along with simple, tangible, concrete ways. He is holy, involved and near. He is YHWH- the One who Is, the living God: who stands as the ruler over all things, made a covenant with Abraham, delivered His people from Egypt. He alone is the One who is worthy of all worship for by His word all things exist. 15Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands 18and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 19Now, O LORD our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD, are God.” 20Then Isaiah…sent to Hezekiah saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard you.’ 21This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him…” 2 Kings 19:15-21
III. Understanding the Divinity of Jesus
Now that we have defined Divinity through the Old Testament let us then look for a moment at how the New Testament relates to this. Though most of us think and read in a profoundly ‘Greek’ manner, we must consciously shift our thinking to that of a Jewish mindset. We must keep in mind that much of the New Testament was written by Jewish men thus they would have a Jewish mindset and would not be thinking in Greek philosophical ideas. It would not have been hard for the disciple to understand God having a form as on more than one occasion in the Old Testament we see God having a form. This was not something hard for a Jewish mindset to grasp however to take on flesh and die was the hard part. “Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.” Genesis 18:4-5 “Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent…” Numbers 12:5 Thus when Peter and John realized that Jesus is God, they would be thinking this is the God of Genesis 1 and Isaiah 6 and not some Greek philosophical idea that makes God detached from reality. John makes it quite clear as to who Jesus was in his opening chapter of the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5,14
In John chapter one, we see the New Testament mindset of Jesus being God and that He was in the beginning with His Father and created all things. John not only makes the point of Jesus’ divinity but also makes the point that God became a man. This is more than God just having a form because He clearly already had one in times past, but this means that God became human. He now carried the restrictions of human flesh, meaning: He would get tired, hungry, sweaty, have to go to the bathroom, etc.
The reality that the high and lofty God would go so low and take on flesh was truly inconceivable to the Jewish mindset.
IV. Understanding the Incarnation
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” Philippians 2:5-9 Paul in his letter to the church of Philippi breaks down the incarnation in this manner: Christ existed in the form of God, did not consider being equal to God something to cling to, humbled Himself, became a servant to God, became a man, and became obedient to the point of dying on a cross. First off this does not mean at the point of emptying Himself that He ceased to be God but rather He laid aside His privileges of being God: meaning He would now experience what it meant to be human and need food, sleep, air to breathe, etc. Paul makes is clear that Jesus existed in the form of God prior to taking on flesh. This means He was not limited to the limitations of humanity. Jesus did not consider His equality with God (the Father) as something to cling to. He did not see His divine form as something to cling to or hold on to, but rather was willing to give it up. Thus Christ emptied Himself and became a man. He took on flesh and became a bond-servant to the Father, His Father. In His humility in becoming limited by flesh was not enough, Jesus became obedient in His humility to the point of death. God could not redeem humanity by just coming in His divine form, thus He had to take on flesh and this was still not enough but He had to die and shed His blood. Though in the midst of all of this He still remained fully God even after He laid aside His divine form. This is what it meant that God became a man.
Paul in his second letter the church of Corinth said that the Second Person of the Trinity was rich and became poor for our sake. Christ in divine form and nature became poor or rather took on flesh that we would become rich. “…though He was rich yet for your sake He became poor so that you through His poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 The Second person of the Trinity laid it all aside and became poor that we may be made rich. The high and lofty God took on flesh became a baby to a poor family that we might gain it all. He became poor on His own volition for the sake of love. This is why Jesus had both the right and the ability to tell the Rich Young Ruler to go sell all and give to the poor because He had already done so. Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. Mark 10:21-22
When we look upon the Gospels and see the incarnate God we see the ultimate example of humility. God who both dwelt before time began and spoke creation into being has chosen to walk among and become like His creation by binding Himself to flesh. My prayer is that the Gospels would never be a collection of stories of our Savior, but would be the story of God in love with humanity. Oh, that which amazed and astonished the disciples when they saw Jesus turn water to wine, walking on water or healing the sick and raising the dead never cease to amaze us. I pray that even more than these moments, that the love God had for humanity that drove Him to plunge Himself forever into our story by binding Himself to flesh forever never cease to amaze us. That we would never stop marveling at the fact that God, the Great I AM willingly went to the cross and died for creation.