Discipleship of Jesus The Baptist to John: Where to look for Historical Jesus?

Discipleship of Jesus The Baptist to John

By Sh. Omar Baloch

Chapter 1: John Teaches Jesus

Jesus’ followers once asked him “teach us to pray as John taught his disciples”, and Jesus teaches them the prayer that he had learned from John and also gives the gist of what the purpose of their movement was about. Lets pause and reflect, why did the followers of Jesus ask him, to  teach them how John prayed to God?

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Master, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  2 He said to them, “When you pray say:” ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.    And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11: 1-4)

Christians of course know by heart the “Lord’s Prayer”,in an expanded version that Matthew gives.  However, this one from Luke’s Q source is the shorter, more original that most likely came to Jesus from his teacher John.  Why are people coming to Jesus to learn what John had taught his disciples’?  The reason is simply that Jesus was his disciple. They wanted to learn from Jesus what John had taught his disciples and who else to go to but a disciple. Christian theology has tried very hard to make a separation between John the Baptist and Jesus the Baptist.  The truth is they were both had the same mission, they both had the same enemies, they both had the same followers, they both had similar terminology and message, and both were prophets of God.

The reconstructed Q source also preserves a significant sample of John’s preaching, where he tells the people, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none, and he who has food, let him do likewise” (Luke 3:11). Such a saying has become so characteristically associated with Jesus’ teachings that a few seem to notice that it originates with John.  In the same way, the “kingdom of God” is first mentioned by John.

A Closer look at the following text will help in the understanding of what John’s message and mission was.  (The underlined portions of the text are of direct relevance throughout the book.)

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ”
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
(Matthews 3:1-10)

John teaches the following in this passage.  First, if you don’t change your behavior then the “ax is already at the root of the trees” and “flee from the coming wrath”. Second, saying to yourselves ,”We have Abraham as our father” will not save you if you do not repent.  Third, unlike what Paul taught about the justification of faith, you have  to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”.  Fourth, John baptized & people came to repent to him from all over.  Fifth, “a voice in the desert” is trying make things “straight” for “him” shows him as a Hebrew prophet. Sixth, all this was for the “Kingdom of God” on earth as it is in heavens.

Now if we look at this passage we may be surprised to notice how similar the message of Jesus the Baptist and John the Baptist is. For instance, the parable of the “fruit of the tree”, “ax on the roots”, Jesus also applied parables of agriculture.  Other commonalities between the two include; having a more then upset attitude towards the religious elite, calling for the kingdom heaven, preaching mostly in places where people would have to come to them, taught about how difficult it is to get into heaven, taught that saying you are the children of Abraham is not enough, taught that the people of Israel will be cast out of God’s promise if they don’t repent.

The promise of God was conditional as also Jesus taught:-

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

(Matthew 8:8-13)

Once John has been introduced into the narrative, both Matthew and Luke have him immediately described as meeting a group of people, and calling them a brood of vipers, urging them to repent as seen above. Mark does not contain this lecture while the other two synoptics do; this has led scholars to believe that this section comes from the Q document. Luke has John addressing the people that have come to see him in general, while Matthew has him addressing the Pharisees and Sadducee’s in particular.

It seems from extra biblical document in the days of Jesus, John was known more widely.  Matthew and Luke describe Jews coming from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and the areas around the Jordan River to hear John the Baptist preach. This description is considered quite historically credible as it is backed up by Josephus. In his Antiquities of the Jews he says of John the Baptist that people came in crowds to him, for they were very greatly moved by hearing his words. At the time Josephus was writing, around 97 AD, John the Baptist seems to have been an exceptionally more significant figure than Jesus—while John is frequently mentioned, hardly anyone appears to have mentioned Jesus at all, in all of Josephus’ writing, there are only two very short passages which could possibly refer to Jesus, and these are heavily disputed with most scholars seeing them as forgeries. The reasons for this will be explained. One difference between John the Baptist and Jesus the Baptist was John was not so boldly rejected by his own people; the way Jesus was.

As will be discussed later, Jesus was greater then John in God’s mission, but the point here is Jesus and John were both part of the same family, same mission, and both were risking their lives. Upon John’s birth, Zachariah prophesied that John would be a prophet and would “go before the Lord to prepare a way for him and to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77).   Also, Mary and Elizabeth were relatives; therefore, John and Jesus were relatives (Luke 1:36) and mostly grew up together, sharing a lot of the same experiences.

The word (lord) in these passages does not mean God, rather means teacher or master. The word is kurios, which means Master….a word of respect; just as Jesus was called, “Rabbi.”  Even many people who never met Jesus called him “lord” in the New Testament as meaning “Sir” or “Mister.”

What does it mean, “give his people the knowledge of salvation?”  So, did John know the way to salvation?  Yes, in the same way all other Hebrew Prophets knew salvation, by repentance to God.  So it says “through forgiveness of their sins” equals “repentance”.  Repentance at this time was understood to be a personal spiritual connection to God, by trying to live under His Will (God) as much as possible. So, John prepares the way for the master by teaching people to repent.  Why? So then they can establish the Kingdom of God on earth, which will not happen till people repent.  It must be remembered that people were living in a time of great economic growth.  The Romans had started to make ports nearby the cities.  The Roman culture started to come in and invade the teaching of the Torah. For example, many buildings constructed had the Roman pagan Gods.  Now, a person who believed in one God,could not participate in something that broke the first and most important commandment.  The wealth was attractive, but people who realized their mistake came to John and Jesus to repent.  Repenting meant things like working with the cause of the one true God in mind instead of working happily for the Romans; working to get their own independence even if it meant more sacrifice. It also meant not making money from unlawful means. According to the teachings of God, being ready for the Kingdom of God & having loyalty to this state and not the Roman empire. Also, not to work on Sabbath; even if opportunities were missed, it regulated the types of food that one could eat. They had to follow the commandments, all this meant loss of economic gains.  There where even Rabbi’s at that time that believed to deal with coins with pagan pictures was wrong, and to give taxes to the Romans was wrong. So, when people saw their ways as wrong, they repented.  Just like anytime before in Jewish history, when the Prophets asked them to repent.

Now read this passage again with the above in mind

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ”
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:1-4)

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17)

How were they to repent from sins?  The same way the teacher of Jesus was telling others to repent.  Is it not interesting that John the Baptist and Jesus the Baptist have the same message, and both tell others to repent; without teaching how.  This is because every Jew knew how to repent.  It is also interesting that Jesus never teaches that he has to die to save people from sins, but instead he is telling every individual to really turn to God and repent.

Notice the cloths of John the Baptist, (whose father, a prophet himself had been killed by the Romans;) what is he wearing? Clothes of camel’s hair and a leather belt. What was he eating? Locusts and honey–why?  He stood for everything against what Romans stood for.  He would rather be poor then to benefit them in anyway.  This is the reason Jesus is also putting emphasis on statements like “blessed are the poor”. Not because God created a class of poor people and they are blessed by being poor, no, rather they are blessed because they chose a lifestyle of discomfort to please God.  Now when we read the statement of how hard it is for the wealthy to enter heaven it makes more sense. So, Jesus preaches the exact same message as John.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
(Matthew 4:22-24)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:2-4)

The believers who repent have a lifestyle to keep the commandments the keeps them from having a more elite lifestyle. Also, where is Jesus teaching? A church? No a synagogue….Jesus is a Hebrew prophet like John; who wants to bring his people out of the oppression they are in by repentance to God. That is an individual act when someone who turns to God remorseful of ones previous negative behavior , and makes the conviction to live as God wants from then on..

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:9-11)

Despite that they keep the commandments; even through persecution.

Many scholars have discussed the discipleship of Jesus to John. We find discipleship terminology in John the Baptist’s description of Jesus in Matthew 3:11 and parallel passages. Scholar Kendrick Grobel sparked a great deal of debate with his article, ‘He That Cometh After Me’. He argued that erchetai opisō mou means ‘a follower of mine’. Against the traditional interpretation that the phrase relates to a time comparison (that is, ‘he who will come next in time after me’), Grobel argued that the verb is present and should be interpreted as present, though a future sense is possible. Further, opisō is almost never temporal in contemporary literature. Grobel pointed out that John’s later question from prison (Luke 7:18) did not refer to the one who comes after, but simply to ‘ho erchomenos’ because ‘the one who comes after’ would mean ‘the disciple’. Dr. Walter Wink, a Professor Emeritus of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.) who argues that Matthew 3:11 does show Jesus to be John’s disciple, has gone so far as to write that ‘there is no other way to interpret his retention of opisō mou in 3:11.’ Further, Wink argues that Matthew in Matthew 4:12, 17 is clearly showing Jesus as John’s successor, the disciple who outshines his master.

In the times of Jesus if one wanted to ask, who is your teacher, one way  would be to ask, who baptized you?  Just as the Pharisees did not get baptized by John; meaning they did not take  him as their teacher. So, we find in this very problematic part of Pauls writings, Acts 19:1-7―in which Paul in Ephesus discovers some disciples of John who supposedly lacked information about the Holy Spirit. . But notice the question Paul asks them: Not, ‘Who is your teacher?’ but ‘Into what, then, were you baptized?’ Baptism was seen as the entry rite into their discipleship, constituting them as followers of John the Baptist. This passage is also extremely problematic, in that it was John who first witnessed the Holy Ghost on Jesus, the day he was baptized, yet Paul claims that the disciples of John knew nothing of the Holy Ghost. It can only mean that the understanding of the concept of holy ghost was different  between the two; since every Jew knew of the existence of Angles who come to God’s chosen people.  Thus, Paul’s understanding of things was different from all the disciples of Jesus and John.

While it is apparent that John had disciples and that baptism was considered to be the means of entry into that discipleship, it is also true that the baptized formed two groups―those who remained physically with John and those who returned to their homes in far-flung areas. John obviously treated the former group disciples, providing them with rules for
fasting and teaching them prayers, among other things (Matthew 9:14; Luke 11:1). But t hos e who left him and went back to their own towns and villages appear to have been in the majority. If nothing else, we may at least assume that those who left John behind were profoundly influenced by their experience of having repented, been baptized by a prophet of God, and having heard his message. John had screened his candidates and had demanded an ongoing change of ethic. Candidates had probably been interviewed (he appeared to know which of the prospective candidates were evidencing the beginning fruit of repentance)  and had given solemn promises to follow the lifestyle demanded. We may reasonably argue, therefore, that those baptized by John considered themselves to be adherents to his teaching, and thus to be disciples of John, regardless of whether or not they remained at the Baptist’s side. The baptism of John had placed them within a prophetic-ethical teaching demanding a whole new lifestyle. It constituted a people who “believed” John (Matthew 21:25) as Jesus himself called for the belief in John as we shall see.

It has long been held by many scholars that, just as all the others of those baptized by John became his disciples, so Jesus began as a disciple of John. Partial list of this view are as follows:-

David F. Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, ed.
Maurice Goguel, The Life of Jesus (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1933), 269-270;
Oscar Cullmann, The Early Church (London: SC M Press, 1956), 177-182;
John A. T. Robinson, ‘Elijah, John and Jesus’, in Twelve New Testament Studies (London: SCM Press, 1962), 39ff.;
W. R. Farmer, ‘John the Baptist’, Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4 (Nashville:Abingdon Press, 1962), 959;
C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 272-275;
M.-E. Boismard, ‘Les Traditions Concernant Le Baptist’, Revue Biblique 70
(1963), 29;
Walter Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1968), 38, 55; C. S.
Mann, Mark: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Garden City: Doubleday, 1986), 366.

If Jesus did begin as John’s disciple, we could argue that he did so within his role as the Servant, that Jesus as a righteous human being would do the required righteous deed in aligning himself with God’s prophet for his time, and that discipleship under John would guarantee that Jesus
would be seen as being in harmony with John’s teaching and in fact extending John’s message to its fulfilment. We can safely assert that Jesus did accept discipleship under a Prophet of God and history could have worked in no other way.  Had Jesus been his own Master, then we would gone against the Prophet of God at that time.

Reading the passages about Jesus baptism; John had indeed
recognized Jesus as the Coming One, we would wonder what other response he could have made than to object, ‘I need to be baptized by you’, that is, ‘I need to become your disciple.’ Jesus’ counter-argument that he needed to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15) is congruent with this interpretation, since ‘doing righteousness’, in the Old Testament
sense meant ‘carrying out the will of God’. Jesus, as the righteous man, would naturally see alignment with and submission to God’s prophet as necessary in order to do God’s will. Thus his baptism is not to be seen as a recognition of personal sin, but as the logical act of it righteous man.

Another point to think about is that no biblical evidence indicating that John the Baptist ever became a disciple of Jesus, even though it seems he had plenty of time to do so.  It was one thing that John baptized Jesus, still just as the followers of John became the followers of Jesus; John did not, yet is the one who testifies to his being the Messiah.  This is because John was the teacher of Jesus, and he testified on behalf of God, that Jesus is the messiah.

Zachariah was the father of John, and the one who raised Mary the mother of Jesus.  Zachariah was killed by the Romans just like John, and almost killed Jesus too; so we can trace both John and Jesus back to the same teachers and influences.

More evidence concerning the discipleship of Jesus to John will continue in the details of the coming chapters.  As a last note of this chapter, it can be established Jesus joined the Baptist movement of John the Baptist.

Chapter 2: Messiah not God

Many Christians regard the idea of Jesus as the Messiah equal to God.  The word Messiah means the same as the word Christ, which means the “anointed one” meaning the chosen one.  The Chosen One means not in the divine sense but as a “hero” or Prophet of God.

Ian Wilson, in his book Jesus: Vie Evidence, has one chapter called, “How He Became God.” In it he writes “no Gospel regarded Jesus as God, and not even Paul had done SO.” However according to Wilson, the deifying of Jesus was primarily a product of the fourth-century Council of Nicea, not the belief of early Christians. — When an everyday Christian reads this statement the first reaction is one of disbelief that such idea was even uttered.  Let’s let facts speak for themselves.

It is therefore necessary to sort out the historical details related to Jesus’ alleged messiahship and deity. Did He think of Himself as Messiah and Son of God? What did the term “Son of God”  mean especially when he uses the term “Son of Man” more then 71 times at least; the single most used designation Jesus used for himself personally? What did the people understand Him to mean? In order to answer these questions, we first must understand what the people expected the coming Messiah to be like.

For about a hundred years, beginning in 164 B.C., the Jewish people tasted independence. Professor Jim Fleming, reflecting on the final loss of Jewish national sovereignty, states:

Although this period had found its abrupt termination with the campaign of the Romans and General Pompey (63 B.C.), hope for its restoration had never been given up completely. Jesus was born into a time when the people anticipated the coming of the Messiah (cf. Song of Songs 17) and freedom from the Roman yoke.

One of the best analyses of first-century messianic expectations has been done by Geza Vermes. He observes that at this time there was both a widespread popular belief about what Messiah would be like and a number of minority splinter opinions. It was clear that the the people were expecting a Messiah is clear, what was not clear was how this would manifest itself.  Among the many opinions of the Messiah the most common one was that he would establish rule of Torah on earth.

In order to determine what kind of Messiah the Jewish masses generally expected, Vermes advises, “A reliable answer is to be found in the least academic, and at the same time most normative, literary form: prayer.”
Therefore, one of the best surviving sources regarding messianic expectation during this time is the Psalms of Solomon (a book of Jewish prayers), probably written just after the Roman conquest of Judea in 63 B.C. These psalms (obviously not written by Solomon) reflect the common view of a righteous, reigning Messiah who would militarily reestablish Israel’s sovereignty and restore a just government over the nation:
Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David … And gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers … With a rod of iron he shall break in pieces all their substance, He shall destroy the godless nations with the word of his mouth … And he shall gather together a holy people … He shall have the heathen nations to serve him under his yoke … And he shall be a righteous king, taught by God … And there shall be no unrighteousness in his days in their midst. For all shall be holy and their king the Anointed (of) the Lord.

Psalm of Solomon 18 speaks of God’s Anointed who will “use His ‘rod’ to instill the ‘fear of the Lord’ into every man and direct them to ‘the works of righteousness.’ ”

Vermes concludes:

Ancient Jewish prayer and Bible interpretation demonstrate unequivocally that if in the intertestamental era a man claims, or was proclaimed, to be “the Messiah,” his listeners would as a matter of course have assumed that he was referring to the Davidic Redeemer and should have expected to find before them a person endowed with the combined talents of soldierly prowess, righteousness and holiness
.
It is therefore understandable why, especially in view of the Roman occupation of Israel’s land, most Jewish people would not see in Jesus what they expected of the Messiah it his after-maths as history is seen today.  Meaning in calling people to the Kingdom of God, he is very much like a Messiah, but the confusion happened in its after math as we will see.

Millar Burrows of Yale wrote, “Jesus was so unlike what all Jews expected the son of David to be that His own disciples found it almost impossible to connect the idea of Messiah with Him.” This is a mistake, this only happens when the idea of “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” that Jesus and John taught is considered to be a spiritual place and not a actual manifestation of the laws and the divine rule of God “on earth”.  Only with a carefully reading of the text without imposing a certain theology on the text does this become clear. The next chapter will deal with the laws and kingdom of God in some detail. The truth is Jesus was everything they expected the Messiah to be. Vermes observes,

In addition to the royal concept, messianic speculation in ancient Judaism included notions of a priestly and prophetic Messiah, and in some cases, of a messianic figure who would perform all these functions in one.

The big problem was the Romans. They were completely aware of the popular messianic expectations of the Jewish people. Tacitus (writing at the beginning of the second century A.D.) reports: “There was a firm persuasion … that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judea were to acquire a universal empire.”

At about the same time, writing about the decade following the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, Suetonius wrote, “There had spread over all the Orient an old established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world.”

It is obvious that the Romans were ready at a minute’s notice to squash any messianic uprising. No wonder Jesus did not go around blurting out, “I am the Messiah.” As we will see, He had much more effective ways of making that announcement.

The Gospels often reveal the messianic expectations of the people. From the beginning of Jesus’  life, when Simeon in the Temple identifies Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, to the end, when many honor Him as Messiah at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Gospel accounts accurately reflect these expectations.

So, the Jewish people were expecting someone to come and save them from the oppression they were in by the Roman empire.  When Jesus made the call to the “Kingdom of Heaven” he was like the Messiah they were expecting; but they denied him because they were not able to make the sacrifices needed to bring the Kingdom of God as will be discussed in the coming chapters.  The kingdom was conditional as was discussed in Chapter 1 and is the main theme in the chapter 3. However, his being a Messiah did not every mean to be divine as Pauline Christianity as made into.  Rather the Messiah is what the word means “the annoint’ed’ one”—anointed by God.

The most clear verse of the bible about Jesus  own claim to be king of the Jews’ is

But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.” (Luke 19:27)

A statement made by Jesus during the triumph entry into Jerusalem.

Chapter 3: Keeping the Commandments Brings The Kingdom

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:18-20)

The kingdom of heaven has to do with a time and place where the poor of today who keep the commandments will be free one day to practice the faith they have in full richness in the future. Now read the full context

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:17-21)

Keeping the law in a compromised way that undermined the way of the Prophets and the commandments of God was not enough.

What is this kingdom exactly?

your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:9-11)

It is the Will of God on earth…this is the Good News; that a time will come; humans will be able to enjoy the Kingdom of God on earth.

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
(Revelation 11:15)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matthew 6:32-34)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 7:20-22)

Further,Jesus teaches others, as his teacher taught him

As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
(Matthew 10:6-8)

But this good news came at the condition of true repentance.  So he says

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
(Matthew 12:24-26)

If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?
(Matthew 12:25-27)

He tries to explain the Kingdom of has conditions:

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
(Matthew 13:18-20 )

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.
(Matthew 13:23-25)

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. (Matthew 13:31)

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33)

The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,
(Matthew 13:37-39)

There are many, many more examples of Jesus trying to explain the Kingdom of God has conditions, it is near if you all repent.  Notice how Jesus uses the same type of teaching as John when he employs parables from agriculture.  Why is this important?  The reason is to show that John the Baptist & his student Jesus the Baptist had the same two main themes, “repent” & “Kingdom of God”.

Chapter 4: The Mission

Another example of how Jesus the Baptist was part of the John the Baptist’s movement is in the following passage

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judea countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison. (john:3:22-24)

So Jesus goes to the south with his disciples (who were with John at first) to Judea countryside, and does what? “And baptized”.  So, Jesus baptizes, gives talks similar to John the Baptist and teaches them the central Christian prayer, which he learnt from John the Baptist.  So Jesus is Baptizing in the south side of Israel while John is doing the same in the North side near the sea of Galilee.

Here is a good place to make us consider a few more things.  What was the purpose of this baptism?  Was it done in the name of “the father, the son, and holy ghost?”  Clearly, historically speaking that is something neither Jesus the Baptist nor John the Baptist would ever recognize.  If Baptisms today are different from the one Jesus was doing, what does that tell us?  Also, John and Jesus both are Baptising together?  Again, this shows they were both Baptizers; but John baptized Jesus!

When Jesus first encounters John the Baptist at the Jordan River, the Gospel of John informs us, five individuals who end up being part of the Jesus inner council of twelve—namely Simon, Peter, his brother Andrew, Philip and Nathanael–were already disciples of John the Baptizer.  (John 1:35-49). The People saw Jesus on the mission as John, and used John to legitimize Jesus as we see in some detail.

29 All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John. (Luke 7:29-30)

Ironically, the masses started to repent, but not the the so-called people of God.  The pharisees and the experts did not feel they needed to be purified and repent.  They felt since they know the scriptures themselves they don’t need the help of the Prophets sent by God.  This is the very Arrogance that did them the most harm.

The same Pharisees and law experts who refused to be baptized by John at first were the same ones to cause trouble for Jesus later on. After John is killed and the focus shifts to Jesus, they were now out to harm Jesus and were trying to hurt his reputation, and ask him in what authority does he do this, Jesus responds

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”  Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. (Matthew 21:24-27)

Meaning if John’s Baptism authority is from heaven, and Jesus was baptized by John and was left in charge of his disciples after his murder; therefore what Jesus is doing is by God.  Perhaps, these Pharisees were jealous that the masses came to listen to John the Baptist, after his death. It was good time to challenge the new leader (Jesus); so Jesus asks them what authority did John have? They refused to answer Jesus on this question. Clearly, the people understood by what authority to mean, authority from God…like being a prophet, not being God.

The closeness of the two companions can also be seen from this perspective.  The only people considered for the office of the twelve disciples, as Acts puts it, was the group who had been with Jesus and the group that had been with John from the “beginning from the baptism of john” would be legitimate for this office.  (Acts 1:22)

So the Mission Jesus was part of started with the John the Baptist, and then its leadership went to Jesus the Baptist.  This was a movement that called for the Kingdom of God, starting with repentance and then being ready to pick of the cross (details soon to come) and to be willing to die for the cause.  No one wants to die for a doomed cause, they had to find the messiah.

Chapter 5: Where is the Messiah?

So who did John think Jesus was?  This is a very important question. Since John is the most important person to give testimony about Jesus, then we may very well ask what is this testimony.  Upon further reading, it will become clear, that people were waiting for someone appointed by God to bring them out of the miserable state of oppression they were in. So, some leaders among the Pharisees, fearing the oppression of the Romans, came to John, thinking he is the person that the people are waiting for to take them out of the terrible situation they were suffering.  He was the son of a High Priest and Prophet, who was killed by the Romans, and he was boldly speaking against the Romans and was considered to be a Prophet himself; so some started to think, John is the Messiah.

This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
(John 1:19)

So we see here, people were waiting for a Prophet (Art thou that prophet ) He replied he is not the messiah. However, we know they were expecting a special prophet, but who has John?  So they asked, Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” If you read the text above carefully it says “he confessed” but he “denied he was the messiah”.  What did he confess?  He confessed he was a Prophet of God.

“The voice of one calling for the desert”, in biblical language means ” a voice of the prophets”.  As we find in Isaiah 40:3, “ a voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD (master) in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Lord here is not Jesus, rather, it is God himself.

So, John also saw himself as a prophet and Jesus as the awaited Prophet. Yes, a Prophet of God, not God himself. Further we find, John refers to Jesus as the chosen one from God, not from his own observation, but from a revelation he got from God, which clearly shows him be a true Prophet of God.

33 And I did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining—this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have both seen and testified that this man is the Chosen One of God”
(John 1:30-34).

Yet again, notice the similar language between Jesus the Baptist and John the Baptist, “The one Who has sent me”.  Now lets also make it clear here, “Chosen one of God” is in direct opposition to “Being God”.  So, Jesus was “that” awaited Prophet people were asking John about.  Jesus in John’s testimony is the “Chosen One of God” NOT God. In fact, Peter being one of the main disciples of Jesus refers to God and to Jesus differently & makes it clear that Jesus is not God. Peter was a witness to John’s testimony, therefore John’s view of Jesus, and Peter’s view of Jesus makes it clear how they saw Jesus.  For Peter always turns the title God away from Jesus.  Take the following references for example:

“God has raised this Jesus…” (Acts 2:32)

“God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both teacher and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36)

In both passages, the title God is turned away from Jesus.  So why did he do this if Jesus was God? As mentioned earlier, “lord” for Jesus means teacher or master. For Peter, Jesus was a servant of God.  Peter said: “God raised up his servant…” (Acts 3:26).  The title servant refers to Jesus.  This is clear from a previous passage where Peter declared: “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.”(Acts 3:13).

If we don’t take the testimony of John, on whose name Jesus defends himself against false allegations,then how about the testimony of the one on whose the authority is the claim that the church is built? Peter.

How the Gospels have worked over time to take the role of John the Baptist away to bring  Jesus to the center stage is very evident when we look at what happens from the first Gospel to the last.  In Mark, our earliest account, Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized by John, but John tells the people that the one coming is more mighty then he, whose sandals he is not worthy to stoop down and untie (Mark 1:7).  In Matthew, John tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized, insisting that instead Jesus should be baptizing him (Matthew 3:13). Luke mentions that Harod had John shut up in prison, then in the next verse writes, “Now when all the people were baptized and when Jesus was baptized……”as if to imply that maybe John himself did not even baptize Jesus–since he was already locked up (Luke 3:19-21).  Finally, in the Gospel of John, the last account, John the Baptizer does not even baptize Jesus—it might be implied but not stated. Instead John sees Jesus and declares, “Behold the Lamb of God who take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  John later tells his disciples, speaking of Jesus, that “he must increase I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Why was the role of John the Baptist downplayed over time? The problem of Baptism is that it implies sin, it implies the higher status of the one who is the Baptizer, it also implies the Baptized is a student and follower of his baptizer.  All these issues become even a bigger issue when one considers the view Jesus himself had of John.

In the following passage it seems, Jesus is a follower of John.  When the people who had come from far away to see John, Jesus asks the crowd why have they come?  The answer given by Jesus himself “is, this man you have come to see is greater then a prophet……”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.    Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”  (Matthew 11:7-10)

It seems Jesus is assigning the role of the one who is the “way” to John.  So, Jesus thought the awaited one is John, and John thought the awaited messiah is Jesus. Also, Jesus makes a very important contrast here,  “Those who wear fine clothes are in the kings palaces”….why did he say this?  Because they were the people who were the oppressors of the Jewish community (a community at that time who believed in God; but was beginning to lose the faith because of the Hellenistic Roman lifestyle)….so he says here is a prophet and over there are the palaces of the kings, make your choice.

The author of the book James D Tabor,  “The Jesus Dynasty” writes, “Jesus held Herod Antipas and all he stood for in utter contempt.  He sarcastically spoke of those who dress in fine soft robes and live in luxury in royal palaces. He once referred to Herod directly as “that fox” and when Herod questioned him the very morning he was condemned to crucifixion he refused even to open his mouth to reply.  It was Herod who had brutally murdered his kinsman and teacher John the Baptizer and Jesus had witnessed firsthand how Herod’s aspirations for wealth and power had unjustly oppressed the lives of his countrymen.” (page 107-8)
In another place Jesus says

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”
(John 16:7-10)

Jesus thought John was like Elijah for reasons to come soon.  Jesus teaches “the kingdom of heaven” started with John’s teaching.  He is the one about whom the Prophets prophesied.  This should be efficient to show how they both were on the same mission from God, and both thought the other to be the awaited Prophet Messiah.

A few things to consider here.  Just as we see how each gospel over time tried to change the role of John the Baptist, we will still see some tampering. Though these verses and statements by Jesus attest to John’s greatness, .  We can not ever be sure of how much.  The statement, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” Then according to some scholars the qualifier,” yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” was a later addition.  When we look at the Q source,Jesus says, “Why did you go out into the wilderness?” He rhetorically answers “A Prophet? Yet I tell you more then a Prophet” (Luke 7:26). He then makes the startling statement “I tell you among those borne of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28) Since Jesus is  clearly one “borne of a women”, it is clear in the Q source that Jesus is declaring John to be greater then he.  So the addition of, ” yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” was made, as now is confirmed by the publication of the Hebrew version of Matthew that offers a version of this Q saying that is untouched by the Greek copyists and editors.  Even if we take it as it is why, did not John (who had professed his need to decrease (john 3:30) become one of the “least” ones? Yet both work side by side no matter which version of the Gospels we read, continuing with his own community of disciples. It is how it would normally be in a movement, the two leaders are strategically working in different parts to get the best results, and one of them as the leader of the other.

Chapter 7: More on John and Jesus

The Q document; upon which there is a good amount of scholarly consensus comes right from the center of Judea; not the west nor the east.. The Q document is more about the teachings of Jesus, then about his death.  The Q documents refer to John the Baptist in at least 11 out of 82 statements is extremely significant. This again demonstrates the significant role that both played together. Especially, when considering the Q documents also bring John as forerunner.  As for the message there is almost 100% agreement.  They seemed to differ on the method to get an audience. Jesus also performed miracles and cast out devils, which John did not do.  However, despite that they still had the same audience that responded positively to them, and the same groups that responded negatively to them. Growing up together, having the same message and working with the same audience, only shows that since John was older, he led the movement, and he was the one to baptize Jesus. This is reason for the silence of the missing years.

One significant way in which John the Baptist and Jesus the Baptist were different from rest of the religious leaders and institutions is realized by one saying of Jesus in the Islamic Tradition,

Jesus said, “God likes His servant to learn a craft whereby he can become independent of people, and God hates a servant who acquires religious knowledge and then adopts it as a craft” (The Muslim Jesus).

Both Jesus and John did not get paid or charge for their services for teaching.  This is extremely significant for many reasons including how these two were not part the institutionalized network.  Yet, a growing  number of people adopted their teachings.  And Jesus getting Baptized by John was not out of an institutional need; as if he needed to do this to get the credibility or the approval of the other Rabbis.  Rather it shows free will…Jesus chose to be Baptized by John.  Clearly, they both found strength in each other. Baptism and the Messianic Movement starts with John not Jesus.

In Mark 1:7 we have a further clue to a discipleship relationship between John and Jesus. This is the reference to ‘sandals’ and to John’s unworthiness to untie them. Clear subordination is intended, but it is instructive that Judaism saw the task of untying a master’s sandals as too demeaning for a disciple to perform (b.Ket. 96a). While this reference dates to a later period, there is little reason to doubt that it reflected longstanding custom.

Why did the Jesus and his family get baptized by John the Baptist, instead of only Jesus?  Also, why does it seem from reading the biblical text, as if the two never met till that point in their life?   They were cousins, their mothers knew each other very well, and Elizabeth’s husband was the one who raised Mary as she grew up, and the difference in age between Jesus and John was only six months.  The reason it seems that there is no apparent connection between the two is that the writers feared that John the Baptist would over shadow Jesus the Baptist.  This also explains the problem of the missing years.  From childhood to almost thirty years of age the life of Jesus is missing in the new testament.  Why? It’s as if it would be written it would be filled with John’s role side by side with Jesus.  It would also show that John seems to be in charge of the family, which Mary and Jesus are part of.  It was really only after John is arrested can Jesus be brought to the scene.

Two points need to be clarified.  First, Jesus did have his special closeness to God, and as a Prophet of God.  He was given something that no other Prophet was given, the ability to show the greatest miracles ever shown.  However, with the expectation that such people would repent.  So, Jesus in condemning the cities who saw his miracles and then did not repent he says:-

Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
(Matthew 11:20-30)

Again, we see the main emphasis is to repent.  The same message as his beloved cousin.  Both John and Jesus were rejected by those whose hearts were hardened.   Jesus showed how foolish these people were by comparing them to children who don’t get what they expect. They rejected John for fasting and refraining from wine, and rejected Jesus for eating and drinking.  Their expectations could only result in the categorical rejection of any prophet. They wanted everything given to them, just like a child. They themselves were willing to make no sacrifice. Rejection of the Prophet meant rejection of God. Also, miracles of God is an act of the Prophets of God throughout the bible. According to the old testament miracles made a person a prophet not God.

Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum were cities in Galilee. Even though Jesus spent many months teaching and performing miracles in Galilee, he was still rejected by these cities.  Consequently, Jesus said it would be worse for them in the day of judgement than for Sodom and Gomorrah, whom God destroyed with fire and brimstone. The principle is further amplified in Luke’s gospel. Jesus indicated that a rebellious servant, who knows the will of his master, will deserve more stripes than one who is ignorant of his master’s desires.  Such people did not deserve a person like Jesus among them.

Who were they expecting people to repent to?  To The One God, who created All, and was the God of Abraham? Or was it the God incarnate of trinity who was God in flesh?  If someone is calling others to repent, then we understand repentance is only done after one has at least basic understanding of faith; that is the God to whom the repentance is being done.  Even in the sermons of Jesus the idea of repentance, and to believe in Jesus after seeing the clear signs is everywhere.  Who is this God, that Jesus wanted people to turn to?  Whose Will and commandments did he want people to listen to?  Was it a God who was three in one, a God in flesh? For such a God to the children of Israel would be totally unknown.  According to Paul the followers of John did not even know the Holy Ghost, so how could the holy Ghost be the God that he was calling people to repent to?  How could Jesus be God, who himself prayed to God, himself  did get baptized, considered John his teacher and learnt the Lord’s prayer from him?  Clearly the God Jesus and John called to WAS NOT A NEW GOD, OR A NEW CONCEPT OF GOD FROM THE ONE GOD THAT THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL HAD ALWAYS PRAYED TO.

There is a religion in the world called Mandaeism, this is a religion of people who follow John the Baptist as the main prophet of God.  They reject Abraham, Moses and some others.  There are about 100,000 in the world, they have a semite language, and about 1200 live in the USA. They believe in ONE God who is above time and space, who has no parts.  ( I met one in Chicago not long ago ).  Mandaeans believe in marriage and procreation, and in the importance of leading an ethical and moral lifestyle in this world, placing a high priority upon family life. Consequently, Mandaeans do not practice celibacy or asceticism. Mandaeans will, however, abstain from strong drink and red meat. While they agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.

While many faiths change over time, we can still see these people who believe in John the Baptist as the greatest Prophet who believed in ONE GOD.  He is the supreme formless entity, the same One Being as always understood in the Hebrew tradition and the same one true God called to by all Hebrew Prophets.  That is before false prophets like Paul came along and changed the message itself. The idea that God become Man as God in flesh and man reincarnate is something no one who followed the Hebrew prophets would have believed, and in fact that would have been considered a heresy.  Even the the old testament clearly says, “No Man hath seen God at anytime.”  The whole purpose of saying not to worship graven images, which Jesus has today become, is to make the point, God does not reincarnate as into these images.

Imagine, if the “axe is at the roots”; time is almost up.  People are being asked to repent; but no clarification is given to whom this God is, and how is he different from what the people of Israel knew—how can that make sense?  Yet, if the answer is he is not different he is the same One true God, then what is the importance of the trinity in such a case faith?  It can not be that its the same God, yet trinity is an essential of faith.

One very important aspect related to John the Baptist, Jesus the Baptist and the coming of the messiah is why did people think Jesus was John the Baptist which will be answered in the next chapter.  However, we tried to tie up some loose in this chapter that shed light more on the context Jesus the Baptist and John the Baptist were operating in.

Chapter 7: is John, Jesus or Elijah the Messiah?

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

Jesus lived at a time when people were expecting a messiah.  They were also expecting someone who would go to heaven and come back to the armies of God to bring judgement to the world.

” I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man [Jesus Christ] came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. ”

How could one come to earth from the clouds?  The term used here “Son of Man” is the term used by the Hebrew Prophets to refer to Prophets, and especially Elijah.  There was a concept that the messiah would be one who would escape death.  So, since the times of the messiah had arrived, they were looking for this messiah, and when John was killed, they wanted to know if John had come back.  One opinion may have been that the Messiah could be Elijah since he was taken to the heavens alive on a whirlwind.

There was another Prophecy in play here. That Jesus would enter Jerusalem on an ass or colt in victory instead of the clouds.

9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!     Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,     righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

In his book “Why Jews rejected Jesus” ,the author discusses; that Christians scholars understood if Jesus entered Jerusalem on an ass it meant God was going to reject the Jewish people. If he sent the Messiah from the Clouds, God  would be happy with the people. So, then the two prophecies were brought together by saying Jesus came as the king on the ass already, and when he comes back he will come from the clouds. However, at the time of Jesus it was not clear how the prophecies would work out.

The Kingdom of God that John the Baptist preached was a radical political change from the current situation they were in.  Now as Jesus enters Jerusalem on an ass, and the people are well aware what this action by Jesus politically meant, so as Jesus enter Jerusalem on an ass the

The crowd shouted out ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, (Matthew 21:15)

This was the cry for the coming of the messiah. These are words from Psalm 118:26. The crowd repeated these words because they are about the Messiah. The Pharisees knew what these words meant. They asked Jesus to tell the people not to say such words. But Jesus replied with words from Psalm 8:2. He said this: ‘God can make even little babies able to praise him with songs.’

However, early on before these events transpired, it was still a question, who would be this Messiah?  Could it be Elijah who was taken up in clouds by God?

[ Elijah Taken Up to Heaven ] When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
(2 Kings 2:1)

So there was a chance that Elijah was going to come down as mentioned in the Prophecy of “like the son of man.” Since Elijah was a man of God, like Jesus and John, no one knew who God would choose among his servants to be the messiah. When they come to Jesus they asked him if he  is John the Baptist or Elijah because they knew John was a prophet.  And Elijah they knew was a prophet from the scriptures that they already had.  So, Jesus did not come to the scene till John left the scene.  From the message Jesus looked like John, furthermore, they most likely also  looked similar. One important point here is, the messiah would be someone raised to heaven like Elijah and would be saved from his enemies. We will see from psalms how the messiah would escape death at the last moment and be raised in heaven.

Jesus said, “Search the scriptures, for they testify of Me.”  God tells us He will do nothing significant affecting Israel or the world without first providing prophecies or warnings in advance through His prophets . . .

“Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, UNLESS He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.”                   (Amos 3:7)

This is why they ask John if he is the one, because it was expected that a Prophet would know. Also, as already mentioned one quality of the messiah was that he was going to be saved by being “raised”.

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say ] of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

(Psalms 91:1-8)

So we see from these verses “you will only observe with your eyes” and “He will save you from the fowlers snare” and “He will cover you….” show that he would be saved.

Also when Jesus was being attacked by the devil what did he say to Jesus?

10 For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. 11 And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” 12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4:10-12)

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”
7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” 8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” (Matthew 4:5-10)

So, even the devil understood Jesus is the one who would be protected by the angles.  The point here is that why did people keep asking Jesus who is was?  One reason is they were excepting a Messiah at that time, and Jesus was thought to be one of the Prophets just like John the Baptist,some thought Elijah would come back since he was raised alive, and some thought perhaps John would come back, and then some thought it must be Jesus who would be raised to God, and then come back at another time SINCE HE WAS NO WHERE TO BE FOUND until he physically came to them and showed them he is not a ghost.

Jesus also ate fish and honey after His resurrection to prove that He was not a ghost.
(Luke 24:41-43)

and it continues about the messiah

10 then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

(Psalms 91:10-16)

So we see here the messiah would be saved from all harm. He would be raised by the angles “they will lift you up” only to come down to establish the kingdom of God on earth and His will established on earth.

So they knew the times they were in.  As this was an important subject in those days.  Even Jesus says, “learn to tell the times”

Another passage of the bible worth looking at is the following:-

When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”   11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.”

(Matthew 17:8-12)

They tell Jesus before the Son of Man (which is the title Jesus refers to himself with), Elijah has to come. Jesus tells them that has already happened, Elijah came and they did not recognize him. Instead they rejected him and treated him badly, and the same will be the fate for the son of man.  However the statement, “until the son of man has been raised from dead” is better translated as “until the son of man has been saved from death”.

“Raised” means saved in Semitic languages. This is a very important point.  This has already demonstrated by Psalms that the messiah would be saved.  This also explains why they thought it might be Elijah or that Jesus was John the Baptist. Even Paul acknowledges that Jesus was raised physically. Again we read,

Jesus also ate fish and honey after His resurrection to prove that He was not a ghost.
(Luke 24:41-43)

Again we find that the people were expecting some important prophets to come in history, and those that did not believe just missed them.  We see over and over again how the people saw Jesus in reference to the Hebrew prophets, just as they saw John the Baptist.

Once again we find Jesus being compared to the Hebrew prophets

1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.    said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  6 When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. (Mark 9:1-6)

They fell faced down terrified in Prophetic way of prayer–just as true believers and followers of Jesus today do.  Here again we see Jesus being put in the light of other Prophets.  Again we find people were some how expecting Elijah to come and save the day.

45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi,[a] lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”  48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” (Matthew 27:45-48)

Even though as believers we can never believe Jesus ever said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”….and this is clear from the text itself that he did not say these words.  The passage continues “when some of those standing there heard this they said, “He’s calling Elijah”.

Why would saying “My God My God why have you forsaken me” mean that is he calling Elijah?  Its not–the text shows they were trying to make out what he was saying but were not sure.  But this all begs the question; why did they say “lets see if Elijah comes to save him” and “He’s calling Elijah”?  The reason is they were expecting the Messiah to come in the clouds and save the day.  They were not willing to repent, they just wanted God to help them Himself instead of facing the Roman Empire.

So being raised/saved or coming back from the sky was in the common knowledge to the Jew of the day not as an act of a divine God but a prophesy regarding some of the Prophets.  They thought the same about John the Baptist, Elijah, and later even Jesus.  Jesus, both according to Islam and the Bible, was saved. He is the Son of Man who will return to rule the whole earth; doing the will of God.  John and Jesus were like best friends on a mission, John was the leader, and when he died Jesus took over.  They both worshipped the same God, they asked people to repent to the same God they knew.  There was no need for a new theology.  They were asked to obey the laws of God, to work for the Kingdom of God, but if they failed then they would be the worst of the people.

While John and Jesus preached together, what does Jesus say?

10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”  12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

(Mark 6:10-20)

Jesus & the disciples of Jesus were doing the same work that John was doing.  They wanted people to repent, come back to the practice of the faith, if they refused, “shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them”……they showed so many miracles, yet they refused.  Now as the people refuse God, John is taken away by God. At some point in all of this the people were expecting someone to come back

14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” 16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!(Again raised means dead)” (Mark 6:14-16)

So when Jesus was saved(raised) it was not something new or something they could not understand.  Being raised from the dead was directly associated with being a prophet.  He was the Christ, the messiah.

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”  29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

(Mark 8:27-30)

But this concept of Christ (messiah) was not opposed to prophethood. He asked people not to tell what they had seen, because it had immediate political implications. What they had seen proved without doubt Jesus is the one who is the Messiah to them.

When John is imprisoned he wants to know if Jesus is the one for sure.  Most likely as a last dying wish to know that the fruits of his work are happening.

2 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)

Jesus says “Go Back and Report to John”; this shows John was the leader of the movement.  Yet again, we see someone special amongst the Prophets is expected, so John wants to be sure so he sends his disciples to ask, “Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?”  What does Jesus say, “Good news is preached to the poor” meaning the oppressed have been educated. He continues, “blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”  Meaning blessed is the one who does not deny the truth after seeing it. This state may indicate that some people were denying the truth of the very start. The Jewish community is expecting a messiah; John thinks its Jesus and he was right.  However, the people did not repent so God raised Jesus before they can hurt him.

There were a few lessons in this chapter.  First is the two prophecies regarding the Messiah.  In one he would come in the clouds, and in one he would enter Jerusalem on an ass.  We also learnt of the Prophecy that the Messiah would have to suffer, but he would be raised and saved by angles.  How all these prophecies were going to play out was not clear in the minds of the people.

Chapter 8: Jesus after John

So now when John is killed what happens? John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14)

When John is killed they go and tell Jesus, why did the disciples of John come specifically to Jesus now?  Because the two were on the same mission, one in the south and one on the north baptizing the people.  The people with John knew to go to Jesus because he was next in charge.  “Hearing of this (John death), the crowds followed him on foot from the towns”…so now everyone is seeking Jesus, why?  Because he was second in command.  This is the reason the New testament says nothing about his life until John is imprisoned expect a few sentences that unless are carefully read the whole picture is lost.

We even find the Jesus calls people to believe in John even before himself

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.  (Matthew 21:32)

Let us see where does Jesus go to teach the word of God, not a church but synagogue?  Why? Because he is a one of the Hebrew prophets, he is the “The Holy one of God”….he is not God, but God’s holy one. He goes in solitary in the early hours to pray to God. Now, those who believed in John did not believe in the divinity of Jesus nor did they believe or even have any concept of trinity.

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil[a] spirit cried out,24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”  25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. 29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.  32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door,34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:21-35)

As some find out who Jesus is and start to follow him. Here, yet again you see the relationship of Prophethood and the coming of the expected Messiah. Another example of how people begin to discover who Jesus is.

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)

Another example

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah (Christ)?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:27-30)

John 1:40-44

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is Peter). 43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:40-44)

Once people figured out that Jesus was the messiah, now Jesus had to take an active role, before that he would just teach people the scripture. It does seem from the New Testament that even while John was not yet in prison, Jesus was actively teaching the scriptures.

26  They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” (John 3:26)

This was to make the claim that to be the messiah was to claim to be King of the Jews, and that is what the people were waiting for; the aid of God through the Messiah to find freedom from the Roman imperialism.  Further, we see Jesus following the lead of John the Baptist and baptizing the people.

John expresses joy on the coming of the messiah,

24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew[a]over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. (John 3:24-29)

John says“ I am not the Christ, but sent ahead of him” …this language of “sent”; is again sent by God and common to the hebrew Prophets.

Now the focus changes from John to Jesus.  Jesus had to do his messiahship work even more carefully after the death of John.  He had to “buy time” to bring people out of the lifestyle they were in and accept the way of life given by God.  Only then can they make the sacrifice they need to make.

Chapter 9: Rejection of Jesus

1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John (John 4:1)

Now that the focus of the Pharisees changed, Jesus had to deal with them, and yet again shows to them he is a Prophet, confirmed by another prophet whom they knew to be a prophet. Historically, the Pharisees did not adopt a position of opposing Jesus as a whole; just as the masses did not reject Jesus as a whole.  However, the High Priest and his henchmen, along with support of the Roman army were the ones who felt the largest threat to their self interest. The facts seem to support the Quranic view, that a group of the children of Israel believed in Jesus and a group of them did not.

The author of the book The Mythmaker by Hyam Maccoby writes, “The High Priest would have indeed been alarmed and hostile to Jesus, because his claim to Messiahship and his threat to the temple, for the high Priest was appointed by the Roman to look after their interests.  Claiming to be the Messiah meant claiming to be King of the Jews.  If it had meant that Jesus as merely a harmless lunatic; but meant it something much more urgent and practical than that–it signaled revolt.  Jesus’ threat to the Temple was not subversive of Jewish religion, but it was a real threat to the quisling regime of the High Priest.” (page 48)

John 5:30-35

30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. 31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.
33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.  (John 5:30-35)

“I can of myself do nothing” That’s exactly how helpless a true believer feels before God.  John was light, and he testified that Jesus has been sent by God, not that he is God. Who Sent Jesus?

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form

(John 5:36-37)

“The Father who sent me” about whom the Old Testament teaches“you have never heard his voice nor seen his form”…..so the Father who sent Jesus his servant is God, because God is the one whose form and voice has not been heard. All these miracles do not prove Jesus is God, rather it shows he was doing the work of God.  Jesus  statement, “I have testimony weightier than that of John.” Is referring to God, in contrast he is not saying I am that testimony that is greater then John. Instead he is saying look at all the miracles I am showing you,“(that) which I am doing testifies that the Father has sent me”.

When people reject Jesus where does he go?  The place to find comfort where his dear friend and teacher once was.

39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. 40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus. (John 10:39-42)

They tried to kill Jesus, refused to believe him, listened to him at first, but then refused; he goes to where his teacher was.  Perhaps to think what should be done next, but there he finds some good people who believe him.

The Gospel of Luke includes an account of John’s infancy, introducing him as the son of Zachariah, an old man, and his wife Elizabeth, who was sterile. According to this account the birth of John was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Zachariah. The same story takes place with Mary six months later.  The point being, even the same divine appointment can be seen in case of the both of these great prophets of God. John was born six months earlier, and Jesus was raised six months later. Both had miraculous births, both were filled with the holy ghost, and both had the same message.

Why did they reject Jesus?  They reject him because he from their point of view was asking too much. He wanted a revolution so he said

49“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 9:23)

They were not willing to suffer for the truth.

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:37)

His frustration can be seen,

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

Chapter 11: Setting Up The Kingdom of God

Even though some of the people rejected Jesus.  However, the Prophecy still came true.  Let us see the difference between the two prophecies.

” I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man [Jesus Christ] came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. ”

and

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!     Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

   See, your king comes to you,     righteous and having salvation,

   gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

In the first Prophecy the Messiah comes as the ruler of the world.  In the second Prophecy the Messiah comes only to rule Jerusalem.  Then there is the prophecy of the messiah suffering.  In which he does not die but gets saved by the angles raising him.

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

(Psalms 91:1-8)

The most ironic thing happens; after Jesus victorious entry into Jerusalem as a King the Jerusalem Church the disciples of Jesus rule Jerusalem under the leadership of James the Just for the next 30 years.  James is known as the “brother of Lord” by Paul.  He was called James the Just because of his surpassing piety.  He is familiar to those who study early Christian history.  He was most likely a first cousin like John the Baptist. James is the key to unlocking many historical facts about the early church. When he suddenly emerges as a principal personality and leader of “the Jerusalem Church” or “Community” in Acts 12:17, there is no introduction as to who he is or how became the leader.  In Jerusalem of his day in the 40s to 60s CE, he was the most important and central figure of all– “the Bishop” or “Overseer” of the Jerusalem Church.  James is the leader of all the 12 disciples.  The most interesting fact about James as the true followers of Jesus is, we have extensive information about him, about his beliefs, about how he differed and opposed Paul.

So, starting with Jesus, who goes beyond John, in just having disciples. He chooses twelve core disciples. Each of the twelve represented the twelve tribes of Israel and under them was a counsel of 70.  A similar set up of government to what Moses had.

James met his death by the same family that tried to kill Jesus.  After his death, Rome attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.  The disciples went eastward to Pella.

So, even though Jesus was not present, but he was the king of the Jews after his entry into Jerusalem and his clean up of the Temple for at least a few weeks.  However, the disciples ruled Jerusalem for the next three decades and the words of the Quran

“So, party believed in him from the Children of Israel and party rejected him. So, then the party that believed found itself dominant.” (As-Saff)

So, the prophecy of Him entering as the King of Jerusalem came true.  This is a very important for both Jews and Christians to realize.  If the Jewish people can be willing to see Jesus as a Hebrew Prophet, many things may fall into place.  Especially when the “kingdom of God” was established.  It did not get rid of the rule of Romans completely but the laws of Torah were established.

As for the second coming of Jesus, this is something Muslims and Christians can agree upon. This time he will come according to the prophecy in which the rule of the world is predicted.

The Eastward movement of the disciples towards Pella is extremely important for anyone interested in the real teachings of Jesus. After James was killed another family member from Jesus’ family led the group of disciples; Simon.  So, before we end with some information about the second coming of Jesus.  A brief look at the eastward movement is very important in identifying the original teachings of Jesus.

Chapter 11: Early Christianity in the Middle East (Wilderness)

There is further evidence of this in a 6th century document that is uniquely preserved even till today.  This document, known as the Quran, shows the qualities of John the Baptist.

First the Quran says in the Chapter of Mary

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Kaf. Ha. Ya. A’in. Sad. (1) A mention of the mercy of thy Lord unto His servant Zachariah. (2) When he cried unto his Lord a cry in secret, (3) Saying: My Lord! Lo! the bones of me wax feeble and my head is shining with grey hair, and I have never been unblest in prayer to Thee, my Lord. (4) Lo! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife is barren. Oh, give me from Thy presence a successor(a leader) (5) Who shall inherit of me and inherit also of the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (unto Thee). (6) (It was said unto him): O Zachariah! Lo! We bring thee tidings of a son whose name is John; we have given the same name to none before (him). (Chapter of Mary)

Zachariah prayed God for a successor, so the successor of this high priest and Prophet was John.  We also see the following mentioned about John

And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: Allah giveth thee glad tidings of (a son whose name is) John, (who cometh) to confirm a word from Allah; a leader, holder of secrets, a prophet of among the righteous. (39) (Ale Imran:39)

Surely, whether one takes the Quran to be the word of God or not,no scholarship can overlook the Quran as a document that gives insight into the Christianity that went Eastward.  The Quran, when studied properly, can play a role far greater then the dead sea scrolls, or any other discoveries. The point to be made here is that Zachariah prayed for someone to inherit from his bloodline, “who will inherit me and the family of Jacob” and “leader” for his household.  We know that the John belonged to Levi bloodline; (that was bloodline for the priests) who were preachers and teachers of the people in  God’s law. So, John led the family that Jesus was part of .  Historically, Mary was related to Elizabeth, Zachariah’s wife.

The majority of Christians of the east adopted Islam as their faith,  as this message was familiar to them and not at odds.  The world renowned scholar Philip Jenkins writes in his book The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died,“Throughout the middle ages, Christians saw Muhammad as schismatic rather then the leader of an alien faith” (p.165) Christianity grew in three directions, West, Asia and Africa.  John was a prophet with Jesus according to the Quran, but John was the successor of his father,perhaps until Jesus become a prophet-messenger (that is when he was given the Gospels).  Perhaps at the particular day when John saw the holy spirit (the angle) with Jesus.

When thinking about the Christian faith as it grew we generally think of Rome.  Philip Jenkins further writes:-

“From its earliest days, Christianity spread throughout the empire, despite severe persecutions at the hands of imperial officials, who feared it as alien and subversive.  Yet despite long sufferings and many martyrdom’s, the new faith slowly won grudging toleration. Christians established influential churches and schools in the great cities and communication hubs.  Benefiting for the empire’s peace and stability, Christians spread along the protected trade routes, and used the familiar languages of the ruling elites. The ecclesiastical hierarchy closely mirrored the old imperial structure of cities and provinces, and when that empire faded away, the Christian church survived on its ruins…so central is the Roman world to the traditional story that for centuries, Christian historians have given a providential interpretation to the spread of the Roman Power.  Rome built the roads and defended the sea routes along which traveled missionaries, who to their audiences in the widely familiar tongues of Greek and Latin.  Obviously, it seems, Christianity’s destiny lay to the west, in Europe.  In fact, though, choosing a different map would give a completely different perspective on the worldview of the earliest Christians, and the opportunities available to them.” (The Lost History of Christianity, P 49-50).

Most of the recent discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi scriptures, the graves of the royal family of Jesus,and Qumran have all been found eastward.  The Quran refers to Christians as al Nasrani, using the archaic term commonly used by East Syrian churches themselves.  The Quran points to the eastward movement of Christianity from Jerusalem for authentic roots.  When we start looking eastward, we start seeing not only Jesus and John the Baptist play a role together but the whole family of Jesus. We will be dealing more with this as we move forward.

The eastward movement also practices the law of Moses.  One such Christian group to demonstrate this is the Ebionites.  Bart D Ehrman writes about them in his book Lost Christianities:-

“The Ebionite Christians that we are best informed about believed that Jesus  was the Jewish Messiah sent from the Jewish God to the Jewish people in fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures…..they insisted on observing the Sabbath, keeping Kosher, and circumcising all males….continued to reverence Jerusalem, evidently by praying in its direction during their daily acts of worship.”

In Gospel of the Hebrews, a non-canonical gospel extant only in fragments quoted by other writers, in which, according to Jerome, Jesus’ family suggested that he be baptized: “The mother of the Lord and his brothers said to him, ‘John the Baptist baptizes for the forgiveness of sins; let us go and be baptized by him.’”

The eastward movement had another very important quality, that is the writings, unlike Paul, were not in Greek, but in Hebrew and Aramaic, etc.  These qualities can also be seen in the Essenes group and also in the cave of Qumran…they use Semitic languages, keep the commandments, both Jesus and John play a role as agents of God; so the eastward movement of Christianity is more authentically “Christian” as it reflects the original language, and the Jewishness of Jesus.

One reason that Arabia itself is important in searching for the original teaching is that the early Jewish-Christians who knew the scriptures, knew that when truth began to fade away they were to go into the wilderness.  Just as John the Baptist had done, Paul mentions after is so-called conversation going to Arabia, and Jesus was filled with the holy spirit and went into the wilderness for forty day also after getting baptized.  As Robert Eisenman writes

God’s Community or those of “perfect Holiness” or “the Perfect of the Way”—true “Sons of Zadok”, are instructed to “separate from the sons of the pit”, and “go our from the land of Judah and live in the land of Damascus; in the community rule, “To separate from the settlement of unrighteous men and go out in the wilderness and prepare the Way of God” (James The Brother of Jesus, P. 161)

Those who followed this rule, must have always felt a spiritual link with John the Baptist.  It was, after all, John who was first among “Christians” who began to live in the wilderness and it was as if John already knew that things would turn towards wilderness in the end.  The eastward movement of Christianity saw John the Baptist and Jesus having the same message.

Wilderness, as understood in the bible, does not just mean a barren waste land.  It could also be a farm land. However, upon closer study it has to with a certain region.  Moses got his message from God at first in the dessert.  The bible refers to the “wilderness of the Red Sea”; again pointing to Arabia.  Ishmael also was to live in the wilderness as did Abraham in the last period of his life. Jesus also lived in the wilderness in the sense he did not live in the main city out in the farm lands.

It is no surprise that it was Bihira or “Sergius the Monk” who was an Assyrian, Christian monk, in the area of Damascus that saw Prophet Muhammad and recognised him as one chosen by God.  The monk lifestyle they seemed to have borrowed from John the Baptist was a prominent feature of these monks who were in wilderness, but by the sixth century were few in number.  Then another important Christian figure who recognised Prophet Muhammad as a true Prophet was Warqa bin Nawafil, who knew how to write in Hebrew.  The fact he wrote in Hebrew shows he observed the law.  This area is certainly more important then the westward movement of Christianity.

Even the movement of Christianity towards Africa seems to have had some of its original orientation that was lost in the Westward movement. Muhammad’s (PBUH) view of Jesus was accepted by Negus the King of Ethiopia.  Africa was also different in its orientation then Pauline Christianity and the westward movement of Christianity; not only did Emperor Negus accept Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) view of Jesus, but as the centuries went by Ethiopia become a predominantly a Muslim country.

As for Arabia, in the Bible it is a vast region, covering over 1,200,000 square miles of the Middle East. It’s generally considered to be the area bounded on the south by the Indian Ocean, on the east by the Persian Gulf and the Euphrates River, on the west by the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea, and on the north of Syria and Mesopotamia.

In ancient times, Arabia was composed of three sections:

  • Arabia Felix, a large area between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
  • Arabia Deserta, the el-Badieh or “Great Wilderness,” from which the nomadic tribes of this region derive their name, the “Bedaween,” or “Bedouin.”
  • Arabia Petraea, the Rocky Arabia, named for its rocky mountains and stony plains. In fact, the name Peter comes from Petraea.

Arabs were well-known through Bible History:

  • This were where Ishmael was sacrificed (according to the Muslim view).
  • The wise man that came from the east at the birth of Jesus.
  • After the Exodus, the Israelites spent forty years in Arabia during the Wilderness Journey. During that time, Moses received The Ten Commandments from Lord (see Rock Of Ages) at Mount Sinai in Arabia.
  • Arabians opposed Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:19, 4:7, 6:1).
  • King Solomon carried on considerable trade with Arabia (1 Kings 10:15, 2 Chronicles 9:14, 17:11).
  • Arabians were present in Jerusalem at the “birthday of the church” Pentecost (Acts 2:11), making them among the earliest of Christian converts.
  • Paul supposedly spent time in Arabia after his conversion On The Road To Damascus (Galatians 1:17).

It was John the Baptist who kept pointing to the Wilderness.  John’s statement, “voice of one crying in the wilderness” could very well mean the voice of God from Arabia. This is not, surprisingly, the direction the original followers of Jesus went after the destruction of the temple in 60 AD.

The purpose of this chapter was to explain in which direction the earliest followers went. We find the role of John dramatically increase in the eastward movement of early Christianity compared to the Pauline Christianity in the west.  Jesus the Baptist and John the Baptist were so to say “in this together”.

Chapter 12: The Second Coming on the Clouds

The Prophet of Islam, the last Prophet teaches the following about the coming back of Jesus, when he descends from the sky

The Messenger of God said: “How will you be when the son of Mary descends amongst you and will be your leader?”

The Messenger of God said: “Jesus, son of Mary would then descend and their commander would ask him to come and lead them in prayer, but he would say: ‘No, some amongst you are commanders over some (amongst you).’

God’s Messenger said: By him in whose hands my soul is, (Jesus) son of Mary  will descend amongst you shortly as a just ruler and will break the cross and kill the pig and abolish the jizya (tax for protection) Wealth will flow in such abundance that nobody will accept any charitable gifts).

“The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘There is no prophet between me and him, that is, ‘Jesus, peace be upon him. He will descend (to the earth). When you see him,you will recognize him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops water were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill the pig, and abolish the jizyah. God will cause to perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the anti-chirst and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.’”

“How will you be when the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you and he will judge people by the Law of the Qur’an?”

Jesus is the Prophet Messiah who would establish the kingdom of God earth.

The relationship between Jesus and John is key to understanding the true message of Jesus.  From the miraculous birth of both, to the common family relationships, to the common call and to a common end…Jesus was the disciple of John to start with, and ended himself being raised but  not before he entered Jerusalem as the crown less king. If there ever were two people who would be best friends, it was these two. The two succeeded in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth which lasted for three decades.

Studies show that James believed in One God, not the trinity.  He believed Jesus is the Prophet Messiah, he believed Jesus would come back.  He believed in obeying the commandments.  He opposed Paul and saw him as a threat.  He ruled the kingdom of God according the Torah and the commandments of God.

The lessons we can draw from in this book are as follows:-

1) There is only One God…the concept of God did not change with Jesus nor John the Baptist.
2) John sees Jesus as a Prophet.
3) There were expecting a person who would save them from the Roman oppression.
4) There were expecting someone to come down from the clouds as son of man.
5) They were expecting the messiah to be saved and raised by angles.
6) The good news of the Kingdom of God was conditional on repentance.
7) Jesus, and John are always seen in the light of the Hebrew Prophets.
8) John was the leader and Jesus reported to him.
9) Jesus succeeded John and people sought Jesus after John was killed
10) In end people rejected Jesus but still the Kingdom is established for a limited time in Jerusalem.
11) Islam teaches that Jesus will come back in the clouds as mentioned in Daniel’s Prophecy.
12) The Eastward movement of Christianity has a lot of insights to offer about the original Christians.

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