The Orient. A Geographical concept. Orienteering. Reading a map. Determining direction…. Most of get that.
But… where does the concept of orienting ourselves originate…?
In medieval times… at least for Western Cultures which developed out of the Roman Catholic Church… orientation was always with regards to God’s Holy City…. Which was Jerusalem…. And on maps of the time, Jerusalem was considered the Center of the World. The Earth was flat. And only one pole existed. The City of God….
So… maps usually faced East… rather than North…. East was at the top…. The Orient….
I bring that up… to bring this up…. A Geographical Perspective on the Temptation of Jesus Christ… and the Social and Geopolitical context of his ministry…. Or… what exactly is a Messiah supposed to DO…?
Most of us Christians know what happened. We know the story. At least in some form.
Jesus went out to the region of the Jordan River to find his cousin John the Baptizer. John was probably hanging out in the Wilderness because he was considered somewhat of a Rebel Rouser (or rabble-rouser) by both the political and religious authorities of the day. He seemed to be offending everybody who was anybody with his call to repentance for the Nation of Israel… who was under that oppressive hand of the Roman Empire. Anyway… the people… the common people… were desperate…. They were looking for a messiah…. The Messiah…. THEIR Messiah…. And many thought he would be a military and political leader who would throw off the cloak of ungodly foreign oppression and set up a sovereign Theocracy that would bring Israel back to the prominence it had back when David was King. And even more. Israel would rule the world. And each man, woman and child would prosper accordingly.
An aside: most Christians seem to believe that Israel and Judah were in a state of turmoil when God sent the Prophets to call for repentance on threat of annihilation of all but a tiny remnant, but that’s not the case. Israel and Judah were more profitable and powerful than they had ever been. That’s why they were decadent. That’s why they rebelled against God’s Prophets…. Because they were tasting prosperity… and wrongly… and foolishly… chose to be that prosperity was God’s tacit approval of their ungodly actions….
That’s the historical backdrop. God’s people were at an all-time low. And even the small number of seemingly faithful… seemed to be still too many…. Just like Gideon….
Anyway…. Back to the story….
Jesus meets up with his cousin, John. And John gets all embarrassed and says that Jesus has gotten it all wrong and the He should be baptizing him… because in the Jewish concept of a Mikvah… or bath in flowing water for purposes of ritual purification… the pure should wash the impure…. But… did Jesus ever actually baptize ANYONE with water…? So… must be something more…. And John the Baptist got that….
So… Jesus gets baptized…. And the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove and God proclaims his love for his son and tells the World that Jesus pleases him…. That’s Matthew 3. Here’s a link. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%203&version=ESV I’ll put the whole text below.
Dramatic moment! So then… Jesus takes that momentum… and… suspends his ministry to the needy and downtrodden Nation of Israel for a forty day vacation in the Wilderness….
That’s Matthew 4:1-11. Here’s a link. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%204:1-11&version=ESV I’ll paste the text at the very bottom.
Forty…. A recurring theme in Scripture…. Noah and his family were in the Ark for forty days and forty nights…. Moses led the Nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and into the Wilderness for Forty Years….
So… the concept… seems to be… Salvation… of a Remnant… of the Faithful… after a period of purification… or preparation….
Sorry. I’m rambling….
Jesus started out from Nazareth up in the far North of Israel, beyond Samaria where the mixed racial and religious… the desecrated remains of the Nation of Israel that had been led off into captivity by the wicked Assyrians (remember Jonah and his hatred for Nineveh)… and walked to the Transjordan… East of Jerusalem…. He was baptized… then he went off into the Wilderness… which was probably located to the East of Jerusalem…. The Mount of Olives…. The Garden of Gethsemane…. That’s where they are located….
Well… after Forty Days… Satan shows up to tempt Jesus… with luxury and power… and glory….
And… he takes him to the Pinnacle of the Temple…. Shows him the World…. And offers him EVERYTHING….
Jesus looks back East… where he has just been… where he will be betrayed… where he will be spending the night before his captivity… praying… by himself…. Betrayed by his Disciples…. His closest friends….
What does he see…?
Tombs…. Graves…. That’s what was on the hillside of the Mount of Olives….
And as he looks South… the smoke… ascending for the burning refuse… of the Valley of Hinnom…. The garbage dump where the trash is burned…. Gehenna… where the smoke… the stench… rises… from the smoldering… unquenchable fire… that never goes out…. Night and day….
Jesus knew his purpose…. Why he’d been born…. By the time he was twelve he was ready to do God’s work….
Satan knew Jesus’ purpose….
For some reason… God knew that Jesus needed to gain a view… a perspective… of the fate of mankind… before he would be fully prepared to begin his ministry to us miserable humans….
And… Jesus returned… full circle… before he ultimately Sacrificed himself… and Baptized God’s Holy Remnant… with the only substance that truly has the power to cleanse man’s soul… his blood….
English Standard Version (ESV)
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare[a] the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[b] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[c] with whom I am well pleased.”
- Matthew 3:3 Or crying: Prepare in the wilderness
- Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him
- Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Temptation of Jesus
4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.