The King of Stories -- The Forerunner of the King

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

The Forerunner of the King

(With all the prologues now completed, the Disciple and the Scholar are newly joined by the Follower in telling the story; soon to be joined again by the Evangelist, too.)

Jesus continued to grow in wisdom and strength, in favor before God and men.

(His cousin John, son of Zechariah, also) continued to grow, becoming strong in the Spirit, and he lived in the wastes until the day of his public appearance in Israel--which happened (says the Scholar) in the fifteenth year of the (Imperial) government of Tiberius Caesar: when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; and Herod (Antipas, son of Herod the Great) was tetrarch of Galilee; and his brother Philip ruled as tetrarch of Iturea and of the Trachonitis district; and Lysanias ruled as tetrarch of Abilene.

The beginning (says the Follower) of the gospel of King Jesus, Son of God, as it is written (in Malachi):

"Behold, I send My messenger before Your face
who will prepare Your way before You!"

During the (Jewish) high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas (adds the Scholar again), the Word of God (i.e. Jesus, as in the Scholar’s introductory paragraph to Theophilus) came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness of Judea, as he was preaching a baptism of willing choice for the sending away of sins, saying (joins the Disciple):

"Change your minds! For the kingdom of the heavens is near!"

For he is the one of whom it is written in the scroll of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

The voice of one imploring,
"Make ready the road of the Lord through the wilderness!
Make the highways straight"
for Him!
"Every ravine shall be filled,
every mountain and hill leveled;
the crooked shall be straightened
and the rough places smoothed to roads;
and all the living world shall see the Salvation of God!"

John traveled up and down the banks of the River Jordan, (but especially) in the region of Judea (down south near Jerusalem); wearing a shirt he had woven from camel's hair, girding his loins with leather, and eating wild locusts (or possibly pancakes) and honey. People came to him from all over Judea and the city of Jerusalem alike, confessing their sins and being baptized in the River.

But seeing groups of the Pharisees and Sadducees (two strong Jewish political/religious groups) coming to be baptized by him, he said to them:

"You sons of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come!?

"So, bear fruit in keeping with a change of heart; and don't start saying to yourselves 'Well, we have Abraham for our father!' For I say to you, God can raise up heir-children to Abraham out of these stones!

[Footnote: a figure of speech also regarded among the rabbis as meaning “from the Gentiles”; or “from those whose hearts are hard like stone”. Keep watch for numerous thematic links to this later!--including shortly afterward in this scene.]

"But the axe is already laying at the root of the trees; and every tree that does not bear good fruit is therefore chopped and thrown into the fire!"

And the crowd was questioning him, asking, "How shall we do this??"

So answering he would say (things of this sort) to them, "Let the man who has two jackets share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise."

When some tax-collectors (men who collaborated with the occupying Romans, who were allowed and encouraged to keep part of whatever extra they could squeeze from their fellows) also came to him to be baptized, they asked: "Rabbi, what shall we do?"

And he told them: "Exact no more than you have been ordered to do."

"And what about us?" asked some soldiers (seeing that even tax-collectors were being accepted in charity and fairness). "What shall we do?"

And he said to them: "Do not bully money from others; do not testify falsely against other people; and be content with your wages."

It was during this time, that Jesus came down to John from Nazareth in Galilee, to be baptized in the Jordan River.

But John (adds the Disciple) restrained Him, saying: "I need to be baptized by You; and yet, You are coming to me?"

Yet Jesus answered him, saying, "Permit this now!--for in this way we shall be rightly fulfilling all fair-togetherness."

So, John permitted Him; and in the Jordan he baptized Jesus with all the people (for the commitment to sending sins away).

Now Jesus rose up from the water, praying, and immediately, as He went up out of the water--look! the heavens are opening to Him, and He sees the Holy Spirit descending, appearing physically as a dove, coming to rest upon Him; and listen, there is a Voice from the heavens saying: "You are My Son, the Beloved in Whom I delight!"

Then Jesus, being led by the Spirit, went up into the wilderness.

But the people are reasoning among themselves--about John! For they were wondering if perhaps he was the Anointed King whom they were expecting!

John answered them all, proclaiming: "There is One coming after me, Who is mightier than I! And I am not even fit to untie the strap on His sandal. I am baptizing you all in water for repentance; but He will be baptizing you in Holy Spirit--and in fire! Now His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor, gathering up His wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire!"

So with these and many other exhortations, John was bringing the good news to the people...

(...while bringing upon himself the coming wrath of Herod, tetrarch of Galilee.)

Matthew 3:1-17
Matthew 4:1a
Mark 1:1-12a
Luke 1:80
Luke 2:52
Luke 3:1-18
Luke 3:21-22
Luke 4:1b

[Next time: First Adversaries]


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