THE FIRST CENTURY
The year was 3761 on the Hebrew calendar. There was nothing special going on, except in Bethlehem, where a group of Shepherds that spring had a heavenly encounter, or so they told everyone. They said a host of Angels told them that the Messiah had been born and they could see Him lying in a manger in Bethlehem! They left their sheep and ran into town and worshiped Him. They told their story to anyone who would listen, but after awhile nobody paid much attention to them, that is until the year 3763 when a convoy of eastern Kings and Princes showed up in town to honor the new King of the Jews. A short time after they left, in the middle of the night, the boy and his parents, Joseph and Mary disappeared, just left without telling anyone. No one knew anything until shortly after their disappearance King Herod’s soldiers came into town and began killing all male children 2 years old and under.
Matthew 2:17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
Matthew 2:18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Then there was the return to Nazareth, as directed by the Angel, which we discussed in Chapter two, and then a period of silence until Jesus reached the age of 12, (year 3773) when under Jewish law He stopped attending the services at the Synagog with His Mother, and began attending with His Father as an adult male.
Notice how Jesus followed all of the laws and traditions as a good and Godly son, as proven by scripture.
Luke 2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
Luke 2:41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
Luke 2:42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
Luke 2:43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
It seems that Jesus stepped aside from His family to speak to the doctors of the law, or in other words He start His ministry by trying to get the leaders of Judaism to seek the truth concerning the Messiah. Then His parents found Him in the Temple:
Luke 2:49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
Luke 2:50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
Luke 2:51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
I think it is noteworthy to see how Jesus, the second person in the Trinity, held His God-ness in abeyance while His human body took a normal time to mature, and to reach the 30th year of human life when according to Jewish custom, He was allowed to read Scripture and teach in the Synagog. It wasn’t that He didn’t have the knowledge to be able to teach, He already proved that He was capable to teach and to expound on the Scriptures when He was 12 years old. But rather, with the advancement of age, He would be accepted to a greater degree according to their custom.
If Jesus felt that was important in His ministry, perhaps we should do the same. Allow ourselves to wait for the appropriate time to expound on the word of God. I have seen too many well meaning people enter the ministry before they were ready.
What did Jesus do during the first 30 years of His humanity? Well, we know both His earthly father and mother were aware of who He was, and teaching Him the Scriptures personally as well as in the synagog school for Jewish boys was a given,and extraordinarily important as we can be sure the Holy Spirit of God hovered over the human Jesus from conception to crucifiction, just as He hovered over the earth in Genesis 1:2 and as He did over the throat of Hell, waiting for the three days and three nights to be completed while Jesus was in Hell paying for your sins and mine, and for every human from Adam to the last sinner at the end of the Millennium,
As a young Jewish boy, it was expected that he learn a trade, so no matter what may happen in the future, he would always be able to support his family. Since his earthly father was a carpenter, so would Jesus be. And as was noted above, He was subject unto them.
The years between the trip to Jerusalem at age 12, and the beginning of His ministry were filled with normal growing up activities. He had to take the position of the father of the family when his father died. His younger brothers and sisters were subject to Him as the leader of the family. He had to live with the never ending stories of being a bastard child because his mother had become pregnant before she and Joseph had “come together” as husband and wife. Those kind of things don’t go away as you mature, they are attached to you like a leech. This is one of the reasons it was so hard for his friends and even his siblings to accept him as the Christ.
But before we get into the the ministry of Jesus, let us look at the day it all started. The following is me taking literary license to see what happened:
WHEN JESUS THE CARPENTER BECAME JESUS THE CHRIST
The Day Before
The widow brought a tray of cakes, some dates and a pitcher of wine to her boys in their carpentry shop. She set it down and told them to take a break, rest and refresh themselves. The oldest son, Joshua, smiled and said, “Thank you mother.” “Come on brothers, as father used to say, when mother brings a reason to rest it must mean we need it.”
The boys, men all, with the oldest just now 30 shook the wood chips and dust from their garments and sat down to eat. There was the normal shop talk of which jobs would be completed when, and what was coming up to be done, then almost as if a new train of thought was introduced, Joshua spoke to the next oldest, James;
“I will go to Gauis’ place this afternoon to complete our agreement and to lay out the position of the barn he wants built. You need to start taking materials to him tomorrow. Our other work should be done before this Sabbath, so his can be started next week. Oh, and James, I have the books all brought up to date in father’s desk. You’ll know what to do to collect our pay at harvest time.”
Joses said, “Joshua, you sound like you won’t be here to help on the barn.”
Joshua replied, “Well, if all other work is done by weeks end and if you two plus Simon and Jude will work together you can complete Gauis’ barn on time without me.” “And James just make sure mother receives my share of the profits, as well as her own.”
With that, Joshua stood up, ending their rest and the conversation and went back to work on his project, which brought Simon to say, “He gets more like father every day. He won’t answer our questions if he doesn’t want to.”
After the noon lunch Joshua left the shop and walked north out of town to Gauis’ place. He always enjoyed these times of solitude. It gave him a chance to meditate on the word of God and to recite the Psalms. He also spent time in prayer, sort of walking and talking with God.
Gauis had been a good friend of their father and his son Lucius had been Joshua’s friend for as long as he could remember. Although on this day Lucius was not home but on a trip for his father. Gauis said he expected him home on the morrow. Although they were Greek and their Hellenistic culture was evident in all they did and said, they nevertheless had accepted Jehovah as their God and were converts due to the life and witness of Joshua’s father.
Gauis worked with Joshua to lay out the position of the barn and then they completed their arrangements. The barn would be paid for with grain at harvest time. This was the normal type of payment but that meant there were times Joshua and his brothers had to wait for payment due to poor crop yields or a prolonged rainy season. In fact they had even had to help with more than one farmer’s reaping just to make sure the grain made it into the barns before bad weather set in or they could not have been paid.
By the time Joshua got home the sun was setting, the shop was closed, his brothers were gone, and his mother had supper ready for him.
It seemed to him that she had prepared a special meal for this night, almost a feast. She waited until he was finished eating, then started a rather nostalgic conversation. It began with the often-related story of his birth, how very special he was and the joy she had experienced being his mother all these years. There were pauses when each in their own way mused on the past. There was laughter at some of the silly things they had experienced and some of the joys. Joshua interjected his thoughts and perspectives in a way he couldn’t remember doing before. His mother seemed to particularly enjoy his comments. She continued through each phase of her life recalling the trials and triumphs ending with the day she became a widow. She sighed then with a loneliness only known to those who have lost a loved one.
Joshua listened, letting the evening unfold. It seemed to him she needed to do this just now, and perhaps, just perhaps, he needed to as well.
Does she know? Does a mother know when her son is about to leave home?
At last Joshua arose and said, “Mother I need to walk awhile I feel a need to pray.” he hugged his mother, wrapped his cloak about his shoulders and disappeared into the night.
Well after midnight, the front door creaked, and Joshua quietly slipped over to his sleeping place. As he spread out his mat a low moan escaped his lips and he groaned obedience, “Yes Father, I will. I know it’s time.”
His mother awoke with the door creak and then heard her son’s prayer, spoken in pain. She quietly arose, opened a drawer and removed a package. She laid it on top of the chest her husband had made so many years ago as a wedding present.
She lay back down to await the morning and her son’s announcement. Then she whispered her prayer.
“Yes, Lord God, I know it’s time. Thank you for lending him to me. I give him back to you now.”
It seemed as if a sword pierced through her own soul as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
Sleep did not come to either of them that night, only an occasional drifting in and out of a twilight rest until morning.
It was time.
Joshua awoke from one of his twilight dozes but waited to open his eyes. It was that frozen moment in time just before the darkness of night was required to flee chased by the rising sun. It was his favorite time. The rooster would crow the signal for all God’s singers, the birds, to try to outdo each other singing praises to their creator. To open one’s eyes now seemed to him to profane the moment. The other senses would be subdued if sight were allowed to reign. How could he smell the dawn if his eyes were open? It was as if God made special air, brand new air, for smelling at dawn. And the sounds of dawn! Of course, everyone heard the birds. The soft tweeting of a summer’s afternoon that could lull a shepherd to sleep, came from the same throat as the screaming of dawn. They sounded like an orchestra tuning up before playing the concert of daytime melodies. The other sounds he listened for were the gifts of patience at dawn’s first light, the insects’ sounds, some nondescript, others musical. He listened for the cows asking to be milked, the she goats with the same request, the bleating of lambs wanting breakfast, the braying of a donkey and the distant cry of a hawk on the wind searching for food to feed its young. Each animal in turn announced its entrance into the world of awareness.
Then there were the mother sounds. He wondered if he had ever in his life awakened before her. In thirty years, he could not remember even one time. He knew she had already started a fire, made the dough and had the breakfast cakes in the oven, he could smell them. When he sat down everything would be ready as it always was.
Wait, not yet. Take one last breath. Inhale deeply. Live for one more moment in the breathless, sightless wonder of the sounds of dawn. At last he opened his eyes to this new day. He was blessed with a window that faced east just above were he slept and as he did every morning, he stood before it to enjoy the rising of the sun.
“Thank you father for again allowing me the joy of your presence and the glory of your creation.” he stood for a long time this morning, absorbing the beauty and drinking the nectar of dawn.
At last he rolled up his mat, stowed it away, and stepped outside. When he returned he washed his face and hands and prepared for breakfast.
“Good morning mother.” he gave her a hug and kissed her cheek. Although she had been a widow for some time now, was still young enough and very attractive, she was adamant about not remarrying. Her children had encouraged her to find someone to spend her later years with, but her response was always the same: “Who could ever replace your father!” Finally, the children gave up, honored her decision and no one mentioned it anymore.
Her daughters had all married and were busy starting their families as had her sons, all that is except Joshua. Now it was just mother and son, and they had drawn even closer to each other.
One element of their earlier family life continued. Their mother insisted on the “boys” having lunch with her each day since the carpentry shop was connected to her house and it was the family business. It made her feel like they still lived at home.
Now as Joshua sat to eat with his mother, they bowed their heads and Joshua prayed;
“Almighty God, Jehovah, who provides all things for life, we honor you, we give you glory. We pray for your will to be done in our lives and hearts even as you have purposed in heaven. Supply all we need for this day. Forgive us as we forgive others. Lead us in the paths of righteousness and deliver us from all evil. We give you all praise and honor for ever and ever, amen.”
As Joshua began to eat, his mind recalled all the mornings of all the years they had eaten together as a complete family. Father, mother and a house full of children. Where had the years gone? When he was a child it seemed he’d never be a man. Now as a man, it seemed he’d never been a child, that childhood had been a dream. Such is life bounded by time, he mused.
Recalling his childhood, he remembered traveling a great deal. He supposed, now that he was older, the trips had been much harder on his parents than they had been on him. But even now he found little pleasure in those memories. He enjoyed life much more after they settled in their village and the carpentry shop was opened. Some of his clearest early memories were of being in the shop with his father playing in the wood chips, and later learning the trade with his father’s guidance. While they worked on the different projects the conversation was always directed to first include, and then be dominated by the scriptures. His father knew more scriptures and could recite more of them for his children’s benefit than any man Joshua had ever known.
As was the custom, at the age of 8 he began his instruction at the Synagogue and had shown an extraordinary interest in the Torah. How he loved the stories of the history of his people, especially the settlement of the promised land. However, no matter how exciting those adventures were there was no question that the writings in the book of Psalms were his favorite. Over the years he had become a very learned expounder of the scriptures and was called upon many times to read in the synagogue. Now that he had reached the age of thirty he would be asked to teach in the weekly assembly as well.
His mind seemed to be continuing the nostalgic travels of last evening only without the interplay of conversation with his mother.
He recalled his bar mitzvah, his first trip to the Temple in Jerusalem with his parents, his questions to the priests and each trip thereafter. He reviewed his life in a panorama of times and events not stopping until today.
His mother noticing his silence spoke first;
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes mother. The business is going well. Jude and James will be here soon and will finish Eli’s plow today. Samuel’s yoke will be done tomorrow, and they will start on Gaius’ barn next week with Simon and Joses. Joshua continued to give an inventory of the planned work of the business, not that she would be personally involved but rather to reassure her that her income from the business would be sufficient to meet her daily needs.
Again there was a long silence.
Finally after he was finished eating, he leaned back a bit and with the start of a frown on his brow he said, “Mother. Today I must be about—”
Mary interrupted him with, “I know son. I’ve known for some time. I’ve been waiting for you to tell me. Wait here a moment for your mother’s sake. I have something to give you before—” with that she left the room and went into her sleeping quarters and emerged with her package of love. In anticipation of this day she had woven a one-piece cloak of white linen for her son. Oh, how long and tedious this labor of love had been, but worth it all now as she presented it to him, holding it out in front of her like an offering to God. He took it carefully unfolding it and letting her help him drape it over his shoulders.
“Son, you will need this against the cold of the nights.”
Joshua turned his back, so she could adjust the cloak and to hide the tears in his eyes. Had any mother ever loved a son as much as his loved him?
My mother. God’s love was greater true, but when I look into her eyes, I see his love shining through.
“Mother, I don’t know when—”
She interrupted again, “God knows. I’ll be here when you want to see me. I’ve always known this day would come. I’ve never feared it, though it seems to me to have come too soon. I’ll miss you very much, but I’ll see you again. For now, I know you must do what Jehovah has called you to do.”
Joshua put his arms around his mother, held her close for a few moments, and thought, “Why does this woman of strength seem so frail now?” then he turned and walked out the door. He didn’t look back. He walked through the town seeing things that had gone unnoticed on other days but now were things he wanted to remember. He drank in each scene and each memory, savoring it and saving it for future recall.
He climbed the hill out back of the village and as he had done so many times in the past he looked out over the pleasant land.
Joshua had become fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek due to the location of their village. Unique in time, their village stood at the crossroads of ancient trade routes from Tyre and Sidon on the west and old caravan roads from Damascus on the northeast. They were a halfway house between Damascus and Egypt, Antioch and Jerusalem. Here competing cultures met, brought by traveling merchants with their goods, and travelers from Rome. Additionally, from the west came the caravans loaded with the cargo of the ships that unloaded at the seaport, Caesarea. King Herod the great had started building the city a half century ago and it took 12 years of intense labor to complete. He had spared no expense using the finest architects and engineers of his kingdom and meant for it to be a monument to Caesar. It had wide underground passageways for transporting carriages and pedestrians alike from the center of town to the magnificent beaches of the great sea. There were the theaters, the hippodrome and of course the marble temple Herod built to honor his god, Caesar.
From the north stretching down into Egypt, were the military roads bringing messengers with news from Rome. Sometimes they carried good news, sometimes bad but always with an effect on the people of the occupied lands of Rome’s conquests.
Mount Carmel in the distance reflected the sun’s rays and seemed to offer glory to God as a reminder of the day Elijah called down fire on the water soaked offering and demanded of the apostate children of Israel, “If God be God, worship him!” From antiquity, the triumph of Elijah rang out as clear as the day the children shouted Jehovah’s praises as they helped Elijah slay the 400 prophets of Baal. He looked to the north at Mt. Tabor and remembered the judge Deborah had sent Barak and 10,000 men against Sisera the captain of Jabin’s army with his 900 chariots and a multitude of soldiers and God gave them a great victory. His heart felt the pain of loss as he recalled that King Saul and three sons died in battle against the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa to the south. His eyes continued further south to the area known as Samaria and wondered at the animosity between their two peoples. Samaritans, the descendants of the “mixed” multitude who came from Egypt with the Israelites, who walked with them for 40 years in the wilderness, were now shunned by them.
To the east was the sea of Galilee with its ring of hills appearing to protect it from the outside world. Herod Antipas, the procurator of Galilee, had built a palace for himself in the hills overlooking the western shore of the sea where the city of Tibereias was built as a tribute to the current ruler in Rome. Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great and half brother of Philip the procurator of eastern Galilee and of Herod the Tetrarch of Judea.
It was about 28 years ago that their father had all male children 2 years old and under killed in and around Bethlehem to protect his kingdom from the possible birth of a new king of the Jews. Another great embarrassment to the Jews was that Herod and his son, the kings of the Jews weren’t even Jews, but Edomites, enemies of the Jews! A shudder shook his body as he thought on the cruelty of man to his fellow man.
Joshua turned his back on his country’s past and started his descent eastward to the river Jordan. He was going to Bethabara on the other side of the Jordan, some 3-day’s journey south not far from the city of God. He had received news from travelers out of Jerusalem of a prophet proclaiming the coming of the “anointed one”, the Messiah, and baptizing those who came to him repenting of their sins against God. His message was, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
He had planned to follow the river south staying away from crowds and off the main highway, the one Rome had built to connect Tibereias with Jericho, in order to have time alone with God, then to pass over to the
east bank of the Jordan near Bethabara to find the prophet. However, as he approached the highway he recognized his friend Lucius on the way home from the trip for his father. It would be an insult not to stop and greet him though he wanted to be on his way. The men greeted each other, Lucius always called Joshua by his Greek name, although no one else in town did. Joshua smiled at his friend’s quirk. They visited about Lucius’ just completed trip and Joshua’s just begun one.
Then as the urgency was there to be on his way, Joshua ended their conversation with, “Lucius my friend, I must continue my journey, there is still a ways to go before dark. I have an appointment with my kinsman John the day after tomorrow, and must not tarry. Take care my friend until we meet again.” he hugged his friend and turned to go. Lucius called after him, “Peace, and may our God prosper your way, my friend, Jesus!”