Sunday, September 14, 2014

Good Shepherd Church Seminary; Module 17 - The Carpenter turns Preacher




Objectives; By the end of this Module you should;
  • Know about the ancient Prophecies regarding Jesus 
  • Have knowledge about the Prophecies of Micah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Elijah, Isaiah 
  • Be able to discuss the history of Ancient Nazareth 
  • Have knowledge about King Cyrus of Persia, Tiglath-Pileser II, John Hyrcanus, the Hasmoneans  
  • Be able to give a sermon on Jesus' appearance in Galilee, and the occurrences in the Village Synagogue at  Nazareth

Jesus the Man - Jesus' Public Ministry
1.  The Carpenter turns Preacher
2.  Public Declaration
3.  The First Skirmish
4.  Drama at Nazareth
5.  Nazareth
6.  Hasmoneans
7.  Nazareth Ridge
8.  Ancient Nazareth
9.  John Hyrcanus
10. Why did God choose Nazareth? 
11. Deeper Dimension of Nazareth Confrontation
12. Impact of Jesus' Coming Out on His Family

Jesus now appeared in Galilee, ready for the Public Phase of His Ministry. He had a number of objectives;
1. To lay the foundation and framework of a new Church
2. To formulate human rituals which would serve as conduits for Divine Grace (the Sacraments)
3. To fulfil the Prophecies of the Torah
4. To complete the call of the Great Messiah; to save all peoples, from all walks of life, through all the 

     Fresh from the wilderness, Jesus' early battles against hunger, the temptation of earthly power, and the desire for divine vindication infused Him with spiritual strength. This strength stood Him in good stead for the Public Ministry which lay ahead. Jesus was clearly the devil's sworn opponent. However, human adversaries attempted to charge that Jesus was in league with the devil, which was not based on fact (Mark 3;22-27).
Jesus was not in for an easy time; and, from the Prophecies and His own judgement of society and the politics of the time, He was well aware of this. The Father's public affirmation of  love and support meant a great deal to the newly baptised Jesus as He went ahead to meet His destiny.

    Jesus was now a man in the prime of His Life. His early and deeply formative years as a refugee and a child over whom a question mark hovered in the village due to his mother's early pregnancy, had marked Him. His early experience of flight, fear, need for hiding, possible societal stigma and subtle marginalisation gave Jesus a deep understanding of the plight of those who experience difficulties in society.

    Jesus' developed personality and character traits had led to the emergence of a strong warrior-like passion to forge a new freedom and justice in society. The Prophets had foretold that Jesus would be a non-military Messiah Who would both be a spiritual warrior of great strength against the powers of darkness, and a gentle defender of the weak, marginalised and despairing.

    Micah predicted a Ruler from the House of David Who would restore Israel and inaugurate an age of peace (Micah 5;1-6). Isaiah described the birth of a special child - a Prince from the House of David - Who would restore Israel and Judah (Isaiah 7;13-15). Ezekiel spoke about a Davidic Prince Who would restore Israel and the true worship of God (Ezekiel 37;22-26). Jeremiah spoke of a King of the Branch of David, Who would rule wisely and do what is just and right in the land (Jeremiah 23;5-6).

    Jesus correctly interpreted these Prophecies as pertaining to Himself; and He had received the Divine Seal as to the veracity of His claim to the Davidic throne of the Messiah, at His baptism. Now the Emperor Warrior of the Spiritual Forces began to plot His long-term strategy for the overthrow of satan's dominion over both humanity and the earth. And He decided to do this in three ways;
  • by fulfilling the master plan laid down by His Father, God, in the Torah; in the ancient prophecies
  • by expelling demon forces which found unlawful homes in human hosts by means of demon possession
  • by setting up His kingdom in the hearts and souls of humanity.

    Jesus went to Galilee, and taught in the Galilean synagogues. He became famed and praised, and news about Him spread through the countryside like wildfire. Jesus then aimed His first shot across satan's bows at Nazareth; He publicly proclaimed the formal start of His Ministry in the Nazareth synagogue. There - after His reading of the Prophet Isaiah 61;1,2 - Jesus proclaimed that He was the fulfilment of the long awaited Prophecy.

    Every Israelite - steeped in the Scriptures - who eagerly awaited the coming of the promised Messiah could not fail to understand what He meant. Jesus Himself was the long promised and awaited Messiah. Satan, waiting in the wings, was sure at last; this indeed was his nemesis, the Son of God, Who had somehow escaped the death planned for Him as an infant. Satan's earlier plans having gone awry, he now plotted. He had watched with unease over the centuries as the Prophets received their messages and broadcast them to the populace; - that One was coming with the intent of overthrowing the dominion he and his minions had cast over humanity. There was only one way satan could see now; and that was to bring about the death of Jesus.

    Heated debate ensued. Nazarenes who had grown up with Jesus began arguing with Him. Jesus pointed out that it was a universally acknowledged truth that prophets are never recognized in their hometowns, and He threw in the caveate that two of Israel's great prophets had not ministered to Israelites as would have possibly been expected, but to foreigners. Elijah ministered to a widow in Sidon, and Elijah healed Naaman, who was from Syria. 

    At this inflammatory remark, the mood, from heated, turned ugly. Suddenly Jesus' peers and childhood friends became a mob which dragged Him out to the brow of the hill on which Nazareth was built, to murder Him there. They were intending to throw Him down the cliff (Luke 4;14-30). Jesus turned, levelled His gaze at them. Before His reproachful and accusing eyes, the people started to come to their senses, and - shamed - let their hands fall from Him.  Jesus went on His way unharmed, but the Man Who died with the epitaph above His Head "Jesus of Nazareth" 1 (John 19;19) never felt at home in His hometown again.

    The Village of Nazareth (in Hebrew נָצְרַת) was a small one. Archeological research suggests that at the time of Jesus, the population of Nazareth was about 120 to 150. Many private genealogies survived, being secretly recorded and hidden by families. These records indicate that Nazareth was home to one clan, descendents of the group that had earlier returned from Babylon.

    Most of the Nazarenes were royalty. In 538 BC, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the Jews exiled in Babylon should be allowed to return to Judaea. Around 100 BC, one clan from the Line of David returned to Israel and established the town of Nazareth. This clan - from the Tribe of Judah, the Line of David - did not return to Jerusalem and claim the throne, or return to David's hometown, Bethlehem. The reason was probably fear for their lives.

    The Hasmoneans, a new non-Davidic dynasty, had since assumed the Jewish throne; to be replaced by Herod the Great (73BC to 4BC).  It was well known that the non-Jewish Herod had issues concerning his parentage. Herod had burned all public genealogies of the Jews, so their roots could not be traced. He was fearful of those who were descendents of the royal Davidic line. This showed clearly when he attempted to have the infant Jesus assassinated; killing all the male infants in Bethlehem and the vicinity in order to ensure the untimely demise of the Royal Descendent who would have claim to Herod's throne (Matthew 2;16-18). 

    In his efforts to keep his throne secure, Herod even killed his second wife, the Hasmonean Princess Mariamne, and their two sons. The Emperor Augustus joked that is was safer to be Herod's pig (hus) than his son (huios). (Macrobius, Saternalia, 2,4,11).

    Nazareth was located on the "Nazareth Ridge" that separated the central part of the Plain of Jezreel from the Bet Netofa Valley. From Nazareth, the cosmopolitan city of Sepphoris could be seen four miles to the northwest, on its hill. The City of Cana was nearby, nine miles north across the Bet Netofa Valley. It was built against one of the hills of Lower Galilee. A short walk to the south led to Mount Tabor; beyond Mount Tabor was the Hill of Moreh. Farther south lay Mount Gilbon.

    Nazareth was relatively inaccessible, situated as it was approximately thirteen hundred feet above sea level. Nazareth's location and height isolated it from the flow of traffic on the International Coastal Highway on the plain below, as it wound from Megiddo to the Sea of Galilee.

    The ancient settlement at Nazareth had probably been left in ruins in approximately 733 BC when Tiglath-Pileser II, the Assyrian conqueror, had swept through Galilee (2 Kings 15;29). He had taken many of the citizens into Assyrian exile, and replaced them with people from his conquered countries. Isaiah's sad prophecy in 9;1 had thus been fulfilled, "In the past He humbled the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali." The region was left to be called "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Isa 9;1).

    In 176 BC, when the Maccabean era opened, only a few Jewish groups were living in Galilee, and the Hasmonean conquest by John Hyrcanus (b 175 BC  - 104 BC) paved the way for an immigration of Jews from Babylon and Persia. By the time Jesus lived in Nazareth, the predominant population in Galilee was Jewish. Thus the many synagogues Jesus encountered during His Ministry in Galilee.

    God from ancient centuries had already chosen Nazareth to be the hometown of His growing Son. Nazareth was a centre of Davidic royalty. Jesus, born of Mary, was thus a descendent of King David. His foster father Joseph was also a descendent of King David. Thus, Jesus came from the human royal line with the right to rule Israel in a restored Kingdom (Acts 1;6).

    Jesus was a Nazarene, in that He was the Shoot prophesied by Isaiah 11;1. "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit." Jesus was thus the "shoot" (Hebrew "netzer", נֵצֶר derived from the verb "to blossom" or "to shine"). Isaiah was prophesying that the coming Messiah would be from the Line of David (Matt 22;41-46). . 

    Nazareth, in turn, would only come into existence approximately 600 years later. Matthew saw the fulfilment of the prophecy in Jesus, and encapsulated the fully blossomed truth of it in the words "He shall be called a Nazarene" (Matt 2;23).

    Pilate proved the prophecy when he placed the writing above the head of Jesus, "Yeshu H'Netzeret V'mlech Ha'Yehudim' (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews) (John 19;19). Please note; there are different versions by different scholars of the correct Hebraic translation; I have taken one).

    Jesus was "one of their own". He was born and bred a Nazarene, and was of the same royal blood as the other Nazarenes. The small size of Nazareth Village meant that all in Nazareth knew each other well. Jesus had returned from the dead, so to speak. The return of the family of three would have been a joy to all. There may also have sorrow involved, as it is quite possible other families had lost an infant relative in the massacre of the Bethlehem infants by Herod. Jesus would have been a reminder of a time of great loss and grief among the Jewish people.

The rejection of Jesus as the Messiah would have cut Jesus to the heart. He was cast out by His own human clan, who set their face against Him and tried to kill Him. Jesus eventually returned again to Nazareth with His disciples, to face further hostility and credulity. He was challenged to perform miracles there (Matthew 13;54-58). Possibly Jesus had returned to extend an olive branch, to heal the rift between Himself and those He loved. But, as often happens in human relationships, what Jesus brought to the relationship was only half the dynamic. The Nazareth extended family and clan were their own persons, and they too brought their own personalities and temperaments to bear on the relationship; and they despised Jesus. He was appalled at the level of contempt they had for Him, and marvelled at their unbelief (Mark 6;1). Jesus was a Prophet without honour in the very place He had expected to find the most love and support - His own people.

    Thus Jesus the Son of God was welcomed into the tough reality of what it meant to be fully human; He learned the lesson of rejection. Jesus' journey towards the crown of thorns had already begun.

    The small size of the Village of Nazareth when Jesus lived there was pivotal. His mother, brothers and sisters (Mark 6;3/ Matthew 13;55-56) had to continue living there as He travelled. It must be noted that there are varying interpretations of the words brothers and sisters of Jesus. Some believe the brothers and sisters to be siblings of Jesus; others believe that the words brothers and sisters are used in a wider context; for example, as cousins. The fact remains, that there were close relatives of Jesus who were deeply affected by the fact that He was the Messiah

.Shabbat 2 (in Hebrew שַׁבָּת ) prayers at the synagogue must have been a trial for Mary and the family, as they had to run the gauntlet of side glances and whispers as Jesus' fame deepened. The synagogue Rabbi could not have been delighted with the family when Nazareth heard that the Teachers of the Law who came down from Jerusalem proclaimed that Jesus was possessed by the prince of demons (Mark 3;21-22). Altogether, a most uncomfortable time was being held by all after Jesus' coming out as the Messiah.

The rejection by Jesus' own clan, and their dragging Him out to the edge of Nazareth Ridge to throw Him to His death, was deeply traumatic for His Mother and extended family. The worry of Jesus' family was very real, too; when they heard how He was besieged by crowds, and not even able to eat, they went to take custody of Him, saying, "He has lost His senses" (Mk 3;21). This must have led to cooling of relationships; nothing is more annoying than to be thought insane when carrying out the work of the Father according to the Father's Plan.

When Jesus' mother and brothers arrived to take him into custody, they sent someone to call Jesus (Mk 3;31). There was a conspiracy to seize Jesus because he was considered mad, and Mary's concern for the welfare of Her Son led Her to take part in this.  The life of pathos was that of the life of Christ. The very one who bore Him and loved Him, now doubted Him. Every day His Life brought a fresh sorrow. Isaiah prophesied that He would be a Man deeply acquainted with grief Before the crowd Jesus asked who were his true mother and brothers. Looking around at those seated in a circle around Him, he declared they were his true next of kin; his mother and brothers. All who do God's will are His true family (Mark 3;31-35). This, then, was a Nazarene House divided. Simeon's prophecy was already starting to come to pass, "He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him" (Luke 2;34). And indeed, already the sword was starting to threaten that at the crucifixion would pierce Mary's soul with anguish (Luke 2;35).

Jesus, in effect, was experiencing a rift in family relationships - something familiar to many. The Greek verb used in the Gospel of Mark for "seize" is the same one he uses for those who take Jesus off to Jail in Mark 14;43-50. Jesus, having thus experienced alienation from His family, now adopted Capernaum as His base camp; rather than His hometown of Nazareth. The stage was set for the next step in Jesus' Public Ministry; after He had proclaimed Himself as the fulfilment of the Isaian Scriptures, Jesus set about calling disciples to follow Him. 

1 Pilate had the inscription above Jesus' Head in three languages; Hebrew, Latin and Greek (John 19;20). 
There are various theories as to the exact translation of 'Jesus of Nazareth' in Hebrew. One such translation is as follows;
The full inscription read, 'Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews; In Hebrew 'Yeshua Ha'Netzeret V'mlech Ha'Yehudim'. [ישו מנצרת מלך היהודים]. Yeshua is Jesus (Greek), Ha'Netzeret is "of Nazareth", V'mlech is "the King" and Yehudim is from Yehuda or of Judah, the tribe from which Yeshua descended. By taking the first letters of each of these four words we get Y-H-V-H, or YHVH, the tetragrammaton of Y_hw_h or Y_hv_H (Yahweh). Please keep in mind that Hebrew is read from right to left.
2 Sabbath 

 Rev Catherine Nicolette Whittle
Copyright 2014
Feel free to use Module for any worthy purpose

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