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John the Baptist: Conceived to Pave the Way for Jesus
What begins in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, takes on its full meaning only when told in conjunction with Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. John is first mentioned in the gospels of the Annunciation to Mary. While the angel awaits Mary’s “yes”, to the request that she become the mother of God, he tells her that her aged cousin Elizabeth has conceived a son and is in her sixth month, “for nothing is impossible to God.” After a few moments Mary replies, “You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said.” (Luke 38) She then asks the angel how this will be. The angel replies, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so your child will be holy and will be called Son of God.
Soon after, Mary journeyed to the hill country to be with Elizabeth. Upon hearing Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth gave a loud cry as she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Of Mary she said, “Of all the women you are the most blessed. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb…Look, the moment your greeting reached my ears the child in my womb leapt for joy,” a statement acknowledging a divine connection between Jesus and Elizabeth and Zebedee’s son to be called John, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah at a much earlier time.
John’s life work was to prepare the way for Jesus. Pope Benedict helps us see the difficulty surrounding this. It is a period of unrest in Israel: “The Holy Land is divided between princedoms dependent on the pagan Rome. The Kingdom of David is in ruins, the prophets no longer speak and God is silent, seemingly forgetful of the promises to Abraham and David. The Pharisees, with the greatest possible exactness to the instructions of the Torah, refuse to conform to this hegemony” (influence).
By their early thirties, Jesus and John have never met; however, Jesus was drawn to the River Jordan to be baptized by John. John was living an ascetic life in the wilderness. Wearing clothes of camelhair with a leather loincloth around his waist and his food being locusts and wild honey, he is a dramatic contrast to those of his time. It is his message of redemption through baptism and his direct criticism of the debauched behavior of the ruling class that rings a chord and many from Jerusalem, Judea and the Jordan district made their way to him. They confessed their sins as he baptized them in the River Jordan and he tells them of the one who was to come after him, “I am not fit to kneel down and undo the straps of his sandals: I have baptized you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John’s message gives hope to people living through a dark period. (From the Apostle Matthew 3:13.)
Jesus Is Baptized In the River Jordan by John
As Jesus passes through Bethany, John the Baptist points him out to his disciples Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter, saying, “Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Soon after, Jesus arrives at the River Jordan to be baptized by John (From Isaiah in John 1:12-14.) During Jesus baptism, four epical events occur in quick succession: (1) As John performs his baptism ritual, the submerged Jesus takes upon himself all the sins of the world from the original sin of Adam and Eve forward. (2)As Jesus emerges from the water, the Holy Spirit descends upon him, signified by the sign of a dove in a cloud, and anoints Jesus, which carries with it the initiation designation of Christ and/or Messiah. (3) God the Father, looking down from the heavenly kingdom, in a thunderous voice calls out, “Today you are my son in whom I am well pleased.” (4) The blessed trinity, one God in three divine persons, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit, is visibly at work and from this point on evolves until it become a doctrine of Christian faith.
Jesus Undergoes the Temptation in the Wilderness
The Holy Spirit then leads the newly initiated Jesus Christ into the wilderness. Jesus continues to sublimate his divine nature as he fasts in the desert for forty days and nights and is then subjected to the temptations of the devil. He quickly overcomes them, with His highly developed discernment in making choices in alignment with his divinity, which comes from a place of righteousness he learned from his earthly father, Joseph and mother, Mary.
Valentine Tomberg confirms in Christ and Sophia that Jesus chose to go through the baptism in the Jordan and the temptations in the wilderness as a mortal man, sublimating his divine nature. He encourages us to work silently with this event until we understand it from the perspective of God’s humanity, for that is what is tempted.
After the Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus hears of John’s arrest and withdrew to Galilee and settling in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee in Palestine and the surrounding countryside. On the way he again sees the two bothers Simon called Peter and Andrew, both fishermen. He invites them to follow him and together they go on. Soon he saw another pair of brothers, James, Son of Zebedee and John, also fishermen. These became the first four disciples. He continued traveling, teaching, healing and performing miracles while proclaiming the good news of redemption, which he soon encapsulated in the Beatitudes (the subject of a separate blog). Those who experienced as well as those who heard what he was accomplishing, began to call him Christ, Christ Jesus, or Jesus Christ. Other names attributed to him are King of the Jews and the Messiah, titles which ultimately triggered the fear of those in power and lead to his crucifixion.
Soon after, Jesus and a small group of family and supporters travel with Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Among them are Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and seven other women who are believers in Jesus heart-centered teachings. Referred to in the gospels as “the women who followed Jesus,” they are spiritually committed to Jesus path, are of independent means and support Jesus and the apostles as they travel and teach the word. In our time they would be called benefactors. The early apostles also join them.
PALM SUNDAY:JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM AS PROPHESIED BY ISAIAH
Note: Where there are two exercises to be done together, there is a space of about ten seconds between them on the tape.
It is five days before the Passover. Jerusalem is over-crowded with tens of thousands of pilgrims. Before entering the city, Jesus sends two of the apostles to the nearby village of Bethany for a donkey and a colt, which they find tethered there. The animals are draped with clothing and Jesus rides the donkey toward Jerusalem.
The road is lined with crowds of pilgrims and curious on-lookers who have heard of Jesus teachings and miracles, especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead. They lay palms on the roadway as Jesus approaches, while chanting “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest heavens.” (Matthew 21:1-11) This fulfills the prophesy of Isaiah (Note: Rites using palms are still practiced in Christian churches on Palm Sunday, reminding us of Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem.)
Imagery Narrative: Palm Sunday: Holy Week 1 The Entry Into Jerusalem
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel, sense and know how it is to see Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, the road lined with on-lookers. Recognize how this is the beginning of events that set off a clash against Jesus among the high priests. Breathe out one time and open your eyes. Quietly wait for about ten seconds for the next exercise to begin.
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel, sense and know yourself traveling in Jesus’ party. How does the reality unfolding before you compare to the life chosen by those deciding to follow Jesus? Breathe out one time and open your eyes.
Click Here for Audio Imagery: Palm Sunday: The Entry Into Jerusalem
Jesus Cleanses The Temple
After the procession in Jerusalem, the women left for nearby Bethany, where they were lodging. Jesus and the apostles stayed behind and when arriving at the temple, Jesus passed through merchants and money changers. He riled against them, forcing them out of the Temple so the people coming long distances to worship on this sacred Passover holiday would not be subjected to this disrespect for Divine Law.
“Take all of this out of here and stop using my Father’s house as a market.” “What signs can you show us that you should act this way? the merchants and money changers ask. Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” This statement is found inconceivable, since it took 46 years to build the temple.
Jesus often spoke in what seemed to be riddles. They actually were analogies, unrelated situations that held similar characteristics as they occurred. We see that when John tells us that while the conversation started out about the Temple, Jesus also was foretelling a sign in which his physical body was the temple to be destroyed and he would rise up in three days. When he rose from the dead three days after the crucifixion, his disciples remembered and understood what he had said.
Imagery Narrative: Jesus Cleanses the Temple Imagery
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel, sense and know your role in Jesus’ journey. Ask Jesus for his healing so you can do your part, if you choose to. Breathe out one time and open your eyes. Quietly wait for about ten seconds for the next Imagery Exercise to begin.
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel, sense and know the sound ringing from children’s voices singing “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Resonate for a long moment with this sound. Breathe out one time and open your eyes.
Click Here for Audio Imagery: Holy Week 2, Jesus In The Temple
Jesus & Mary Prepare For What Is To Come
For the next three mornings Jesus traveled to the temple to teach the crowds. In the evenings he returned to Bethany and walked to Mount Olivet with the apostles to prepare them for what is to come. (Luke 21: 37-38) People continue referring to him as the Messiah, King of the Jews. Mary prepares herself through prayer then soothes and prepares her companions for what is to come.
IMAGERY NARRATIVE 3: Jesus & Mary Prepare for What Is to Come
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel sense and know how Mary’s life is entwined with Jesus since His conception. Imagine how she feels knowing that His destiny to die for the sins of mankind draws near. Breathe out one time and open your eyes. Quietly wait about ten seconds for the next Imagery exercise to begin.
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel, sense and know how Mary prepares herself and the others for what is to come. Join her, if you choose. Know as Mary how Jesus future is written by God and accepted by Jesus. Breathe out one time and open your eyes.
Click Here for Audio Imagery 3 Jesus & Mary Prepare for What Is To Come
You’ll find narratives and Imagery for the rest of Holy Week by going to April 2: Jesus Is Condemned to Death and The Crucifixion from Carrying the Cross onward; April 4: Mary Endures Jesus Death; and April 6: Jesus Burial and Resurrection in the Archives.