Saturday, February 1, 2020

200202 Beginning Jesus’ Ministry

Joseph, the adoptive father of the baby Jesus, had the responsibility of protecting the child and his mother. That protection had to begin as soon as he knew about her pregnancy! If he renounced responsibility for the unborn child the religious leaders of his community would have, in all likelihood, ordered her to be executed. Joseph obeyed God and made Mary his wife. In the eyes of the community that very likely meant Joseph allowed the community to believe he was the father.
Luke, in his gospel, tells us that Mary visited her relative Elizabeth who had conceived a child about three months before God in Mary conceived Jesus. Mary went to visit her and stayed with her until it was time to deliver Elizabeth’s son. That child was to become the prophet who prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry.
We do not know exactly how closely related Mary and Elizabeth were. I believe Mary’s mother was not alive. If she were, I believe, Luke would have given some explanation for Mary spending the time with Elizabeth rather than her own mother. We believe that Elizabeth and Zachariah lived near Jerusalem. The distance from Jerusalem to Nazareth is about 65 miles. We know that the adults in the family made the trip every year at the Feast of the Passover. At the age of 12 Jesus joined them. During that visit Jesus confirmed his identity by going into the temple that he called “my Father’s house”! We have no record of Jesus going to Jerusalem again until he was about 30 years old. That is not to say Jesus didn’t make the trip. Just that there is no reliable account of such visits. If Jesus made the trip either he never crossed paths with his relative John or else John was shielded from the knowledge of Jesus as the Messiah.
In the gospel record there were two men named John. The first one we are introduced to is John the Baptist. The second is John the brother of James who was one of Jesus’ disciples. John the brother of James is the author of the gospel identified by his name. He also authored the short books of 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John as well as the book of Revelation. Side
It was this John whom we turn to for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
God introduced John the Baptist to Jesus at a place called Bethany on the banks of the Jordan River where John was baptizing. Let’s look at John’s record…
 John 1:29-34 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
I have often thought about this experience for John and his disciples. He had been baptizing people based on their repentance. John tells us that he did not know Jesus. I lean towards the idea that John knew who Jesus was but that day beside the Jordan his spiritual eyes were opened.
Luke tells us that “the word of God came to John the son of Zachariah in the wilderness” (Luke 3:2) and as a consequence “he went into all the region around the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).
The synoptic Gospels all bear witness to Jesus being baptized by John. And immediately after Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit sent him, or drove him, out into the wilderness. He was there for 40 days during which time he was tempted by Satan. The 40 days of prayer and fasting during which time he was ministered to by angels remind us of the 40 years the people of Israel were tested in the wilderness. Also, Moses and Elijah both experienced 40 day fasts! If you recall, Moses and Elijah were the two Old Testament characters who met with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. That’s another sermon.
With the baptism of Jesus, John the Baptist’s ministry came to an end. He had confronted King Herod with the sin of adultery who then had him arrested. Later, John was beheaded at the insistence of the false Queen Herodias (Mark 6:14-29). That is also another sermon.
Jesus had the same message that John had proclaimed. John’s message recorded by Matthew was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2).
According to Mark’s record, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15).
I believe we have the stage set to officially begin Jesus’ ministry. Remember, John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching while he was baptizing near Bethany beside the Jordan. John had been told how he would identify the Messiah. He knew his job was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. I can just imagine John standing on a large boulder so that he could see the huge crowd gathered to hear him. Then out in the crowd he must’ve seen Jesus! Realizing who Jesus was he announced “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” It is interesting to me that John, the disciple, did not write that Jesus was baptized. The synoptic Gospels all record that fact.
The next day after the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah “John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37). With that, Jesus began to gather his disciples. The two disciples of John the Baptist were the first. Andrew is the first named disciple. John, the disciple, does not mention his own name. Very likely he was the other one of the two mentioned here.
The very first thing that Andrew did was seek out Simon Peter his brother. When he did find his brother he immediately told him “We have found the Messiah” and he brought him to Jesus. Who said to him, “You are Simon son of John. You shall be called Cephas” which means “rock” in Aramaic. Peter means “rock” in Greek.
Two days into his ministry and Jesus has three disciples. The next day they went to Galilee. When they arrived there Jesus found a man named Philip and he said to him, “Follow me”. Philip immediately found a friend of his named Nathaniel. Philip assured Nathaniel that he had found the Messiah! Nathaniel was surprised that Jesus came from Nazareth. He asked his friend, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip had the answer “Come and See!” Let’s take up John’s account again… Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:47-51)
We should begin to see a pattern here. Jesus walks past John and Andrew. John the Baptist points out Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! With those words John and Andrew followed Jesus. Immediately Andrew found his brother Simon. They spent the night and went to Galilee the next day. In Galilee Jesus found Philip who found his friend Nathaniel. Notice how becoming a follower of Jesus immediately results in a desire to introduce other people to Jesus.
It seems that, on the way north, Jesus was invited to a wedding where he blessed the event by turning water into wine.
Very likely, James, John, Andrew and Peter took a couple of days to go to the lake of Galilee and continue their fishing because it was their profession.
We will take up Matthew’s account to see Jesus pull them back together.
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)
Now Jesus has assembled his itinerant seminary. For the next three years he would have large crowds following after him. Most of them would fall by the wayside every time there was serious persecution by the Jews or the Romans. It appears that healing, casting out demons and preaching the good news was what it was all about!
It appears that the first Passover after Jesus’ baptism was marked by his proclaiming authority over his father’s house. Only John records this event. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17) About three years later he would do it again! At that time the Jews began to demand some kind of sign that he had the authority to do these things. The evidence Jesus promised was nothing less than his resurrection from the dead.
Only John tells us the story of Nicodemus. Nicodemus was one of the rulers of the Jews. He has received criticism because he came to Jesus at night. This is not established by the written account. I believe Nicodemus was a very busy man with many responsibilities. During the day he would have had his time taken up by his governing responsibilities. Jesus, in the same manner, was surrounded by crowds during the daytime hours. If anyone wanted to have a discussion with Jesus the best time would be at night. What he received was the first recorded gospel message.
Nicodemus recognized that Jesus came from God because no one can do the things that he did unless God was with him. Jesus ignored Nicodemus’s kind words and moved into the needed message. You must be born again! Causing Nicodemus to question — How! Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”(John 3:5-8).
It was in Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus that he spoke what is very likely the best known Scripture reference, John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Have you believed in him? This could be your day!

 All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

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