PARTNERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LX

PARTNERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LX

In Samuel’s day, the leaders of Israel asked for a king to be like the other nations (I Samuel 8:5). The Herods were the first and the last to fit the Jews into the world. But, the Jews believed that God would fit the world into their tiny shoes (Zechariah 8:20-23). The hope that someday a Jewish kingdom would attract people from all over the world was also on Jesus’ mind. However, the Jews who rejected Jesus, were not in that gathering in the future kingdom (Matthew 8:11-13; Luke 13:22-30). The fact that, with the Herods in power, Judea already was in the hands of the heathen, who gave more freedom to the Jews than the Jewish orthodox leaders. The Herods were not interfering with Jesus’ preaching and healing until the Sadducees and Pharisees raised their imaginary fear that they would lose their kingdom, if they let Jesus continue to influence the public (John 11:45-53). It was senseles to think! For the Romans already had taken over Judea, and they were tolerant and even kind towards the Jewish religious and political structure, as well as to their traditions. It was not the Christians who angered the Romans, but it was their Jewish stubbornness and their Jewish religious behavior. 

HEROD’S LEGACY

For one hundred and seven years, under the umbrella of Rome, Herod and his descendants managed to be the royal family of Judea. To please his overlords, Herod the Great, or Herod the First, had to please his benefactors and offend the Jews. He insulted the Jewish tradition by sponsoring quinquennial games and built an amphitheater in honor of Caesar. For himself, Herod built a plush palace. Herod rebuilt the temple of Solomon with more splendor, which including also a court for women, and he expanded the Judean territory beyond what David and Solomon had achieved. And like his political predecessors, Herod rebuilt fortresses and the heathen temples, a harbor, and a city called Caesarea. What Herod had built benefited the Jews and the Romans; however, that did not earn him their trust nor did Herod trust them. He had two of his son live in Rome with Caesar, to do what, but spy? When Herod went on business, he had his uncle Joseph put his mother-in-Alexandra and his wife Mariamne, with whom he had four children, under lock and key, with orders for them to be terminated, should he not return. He had a son with his first wife Doris (Antipater), one son with Markamne II (Philip 2), two sons with Malthace (Archelaus 3; Antipas 4), and one son with Cleopatra (Philip 5). There was no trust within the family, only jealousy, rivalry, and even murder.  When Herod died, he ordered that people be killed so that they would mourn for him.

Herod impacted Christianity through his children. His son Archelaus by Malthace caused Jesus’ parents to settle in Nazareth and not in Judea (Matthew 2:22). Herod (Antipas), who beheaded John the Baptist, was no different from his father, Herod the Great (Luke 3:18-20). This Herod was the first  Mariamne’s second son Aristobulus. He had taken the second Mariamne’s son, second’s wife Herodias and her daughter Salome for his own pleasure. It was Herodias, who demanded John’s head (Mark 6:14-29). He also was the governor of Galilee whom Jesus called a fox (Luke 13:31-35), and he was the Herod to whom Pilate had sent Jesus to be sentenced, and it also was this Herod who sent Jesus back to Pilate (Luke 23:1-12). Archelaus died in 18 A.D., and Herod Philip V, a son of Herod I and Cleopatra, became king. He was the one who killed James the brother of John, and he also jailed Peter and John. However, Peter and John escaped before Herod could execute them. It was this Herod who drove the Christians out of Jerusalem into the Gentile mission field (Acts 12). Herod Agrippa became king of Judea after Herod Philip V. This was the king Agrippa and Bernice who heard Paul’s defence (Acts 25-26). Herod Agrippa reigned for four years, and he was replaced by a brother, and in 56 A.D., he was replaced by his son Agrippa II. In 70 A.D., at the fall of Jerusalem to the forces of Rome and Herod Agrippa, Judea ceased as a nation, but Agrippa II was delegated to govern Palestine for Rome until his death in 100 A.D. At that time, the dynasty of Herod came to an end (The Interpreter’s Dictionary Of The Bible, Abingdon Press New York, V. 2; pp. 585-594).

JESUS’ REAL ENEMIES WERE NOT THE HERODS

Jesus was born under the Herods. And Jesus died while the Herods were guarding Judea for Rome, but they were not able, nor were they willing, to lay a hand on Jesus. The same was true of the Romans, who had no reason to harm or oppose Jesus, until the Jews insisted and demanded that Jesus was a rival to Caesar (John 18:28-19:22). Luke, in his research of Jesus, found that on the day Jesus told the Nazarites that He was the one who was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, his own people tried to kill Him (Luke 4:16-30). According to Matthew, the editors of the Gospel softened the encounter and he tried to hang the blame on Herod. And that Herod would do to Jesus what he had done to John the Baptist. It was not the Herods nor the Romans who rejected Jesus, but it was the Jews themselves who rejected Jesus (John 1:11). The Jews have yet to say that Jesus was and that Jesus is the “Blessed one of God” (Luke 13:35).

And when Jesus had finished his parables, he went away from there, and coming to his own country he taught them in their synagogue, so that he were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s sons? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? Where then did this man get all this?” Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” And he did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:53-58).

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus; and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist, he has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because John said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and pleased herd, so that he raised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Promoted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it; and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns (Matthew 14:1-13).

At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him (Jesus), “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered our children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. ANd I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luke 13:31-35).

HOW LONG WAS JESUS ALLOWED TO MOVE FREELY?

John Mark’s introduction to Jesus’ brief life was more realistic for the hostile Jews, to whom Jesus was sent to preach; however, they did not believe in Him, nor did they accept Him. According to Mark’s knowledge and report, Jesus lasted only twenty one days. I can identify with Mark because my family and I lived in Poland when the Germans invaded Poland, which lasted less than twenty one days. We were Polish citizens, but not Poles by race. My father was a Polish soldier facing Germans and all our people, who could physically pose any threat, were incarcerated, mistreated, and some even were killed. Our mother and us three boys, I was nine years old at the time, went into hiding in different places every night, until the war with Poland had ended. If it had lasted any longer none of us would have survived. To think that Jesus could have lasted in a very hostile environment for three years is unrealistic. Mark followed Jesus from the day that Jesus announced, in Nazareth, that He was the “One” Isaiah spoke of, who would bring “Good News” to Jerusalem and to Israel. Mark knew that his people would not accept a “pre-existent Messiah,” who would live on earth as a man, and then return to “His pre-existent state,” where He was “One with God.” Mark left that task of linking the Christ to “God and Eternity” to Matthew, John, Paul, Luke, and others. Mark, gives his fellow pilgrims a skeleton and a frame on which and in to which they could embellish their Gospel of Jesus Christ. To Mark, Jesus was the Son of man, like Moses, Elijah, and Ezekiel. 

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts,and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:1-15).

JESUS TO MARK WAS IN A HURRY TO FINISH HIS MISSION

In opening the Gospel, the word immediately (euthus) pops up over and over. Jesus lives and acts in a constant state of urgency. He has no time to explain the Kingdom, the Gospel, or what repentance and believing entailed. All those things would become clear when one becomes a disciple of Jesus. The first thing Jesus did was to enlist students, whom he would teach to carry on after him; for, Jesus’ stay of earth was brief. On his first search for men, Jesus only found four. The second thing was that Jesus needed a place from where He could begin His Mission. Jesus chose Capernaum because Nazareth rejected Him and Jerusalem would kill him (Luke 4:28-30).

And passing along the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them,”Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.

And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee (Mark 1:16-28).