Jesus and baptism by water.
March 19th, 2002
Received by H.
My dear brother, I have said that I would talk about some important events in the year 26, and I have mentioned the changes in the attitude of Jesus’ family towards him, I have detailed how Jesus won over a new disciple, a Pharisee of enormous wealth and much influence, and I will continue in the same vein. But for the sake of not breaking the flow of our story, I would like to continue with it, until Jesus’ return to Galilee. And then we will focus on a “political” topic.
When the Passover feast had finished, the time had come for Jesus to return home. His disciples and brothers went with him, even young Joseph or Joses, who would take charge of the family business in Nazareth. But Joseph and Mary, his parents, stayed a little longer in Jerusalem. Together with his new friend and promoter, Buni “Nicodemus,” Joseph arranged and furnished the house and, apart from it, acquired a parcel of land outside the city. It was an orchard. But there, he had a tomb hewn into the rock. As a good Jew, he left everything prepared for any eventuality.
Yes, you are right. Joseph had money. Decades of constant work in an area vibrating with building and rebuilding activity had made him prosperous. The Tetrarch Antipas spent enormous sums in the reconstruction and upgrading of Sepphoris, and Joseph also supplied materials and pieces for the works in Tiberias, although he did not participate directly in the works in that place, since the selection of the area for the new city over an ancient Hebrew cemetery had offended his feelings.
Jesus and his retinue headed for the Jordan valley, passed by Jericho, and when they arrived at a place where the river flowed peacefully, they rested. Other groups of pilgrims on their way back to the north joined them, and Jesus took advantage of the occasion and preached to them.
It happened then, when one of the disciples who had been very impressed in John’s camp, yelled that this was the ideal place for baptizing, and that we should baptize too, to wash away the sins of men. It was Taddi. And we all acclaimed it a brilliant idea and began baptizing people in the name of the Lord, copying what we had seen John doing.
It seemed to be a real success to us. People who returned to the towns and villages of their origin and passed by our camp, stopped over and had themselves baptized. Yes, we baptized multitudes of people. John the Apostle was right when he wrote that Jesus did not participate. He rather withdrew from us and made use of the few days we spent there for meditation.
At night, of course, he spoke to us of his teachings, and on the last night he said:
“It is enough. I have told you much of the Love of God. And you should understand that it is not that water of the river which purifies men. Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Don’t you understand that the one who made the inside is also the one who made the outside?”
When he saw our confused glances, our lack of comprehension, he continued:
“The hypocrites wash clean the outside of the cup or dish, while within they are full of greed and self-indulgence. When you have to drink from a cup that is clean outside but dirty within, you feel disgust and get sick. Therefore, clean first what is within. The one who made our bodies has given us everything we need to become clean outwardly, and the one who made our souls has also given us everything we need to become clean inside.”
And then, he delivered a marvelous discourse on “Ruakh ha-Kodesh”, the Holy Spirit.
“That Spirit is like the Hand of the Lord, Yad ha-Shem, that gives you the Water of Purification, removing all that makes you impure and dirty within. This Water is like the rain from the sky, cleaning the leaves of the trees from the dust that covers them, and at the same time refreshing their roots. It allows them to grow and prosper until their full green color pleases your eyes and they bear good fruit. It is the Water of Life. Only when you become clean within through this Water of Life will you find favor in the Eyes of the Lord, and only through this Water, will your fruit be perfect and free of rottenness.
Thus said the Lord:
I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
True baptism is through the Water of Life. Ask the Father in Heaven to reach out with His Hand to you. Pray.”
On the following day, we left. First, we all went to Kpar Nahum, and then we separated, to meet again a few days later. All returned to their homes, and the Master accompanied his brothers to Nazareth.
Our adventure as baptists had consequences. Of course John got notice of it. Many pilgrims who had witnessed our doings, also passed by JohnÂ’s camp, and they told him what had happened. His disciples grew angry.
“Rabbi,” they said, “he who was with you on the other side of the Jordan and to whom you bore testimony is now baptizing, and great numbers of people are turning to him.”
However, John found words of reconciliation:
“A man cannot obtain anything, unless it has been granted to him from Heaven. You yourselves can bear witness to my having said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but ‘I am His appointed forerunner.’
He who has the bride is the bridegroom; and the bridegroom’s friend who stands by his side and listens to him, rejoices heartily on account of the bridegroom’s happiness. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”
Yet, the bitter taste of “competition and plagiarism” persisted among John’s followers. After his death, many continued with his practices, refusing to lend an open ear to Jesus’ followers. And I say followers, because there were just a few months separating the death of both.
As I have mentioned before, Jesus took advantage of the evenings and nights during our stay at the river to explain his teachings, teachings of daily life.
I wish to speak now, in order to finish the message, of one of those teachings, because just today you wrote a letter on the topic. I will speak on divorce.
Jesus has already delivered a message on the topic, wherein he affirms that Matthew wrote on the subject. I have also written about it. However, this time, I would like to go deeper into the words as they appear in the Gospel. In Matthew 5:31,32 you can read:
31 “It was also said, ‘If any man puts away his wife, let him give her a written notice of divorce.’
32 But I tell you that every man who puts away his wife except on the ground of unfaithfulness causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries her when so divorced commits adultery.
Now, some translations use the verb “put away”, others use “divorce”. As you pointed out correctly in your letter, the Aramaic word used by Jesus was “shvikta” (abandon, send away) and not “shrita” (divorce).
The law forced men, in the case of divorce, to issue a written notice of divorce, a legal document indicating that the woman was free of all bonds with him. Women could not divorce men; only men were entitled to do so.
However, men used to separate from their wives without issuing those records of divorce, and marry another woman. Legally the previous marriage was still valid. For men, this did not entail consequences, because they were entitled to marry several women. But women could only marry one man. If they remarried under the given circumstances, they committed the crime of bigamy. And men who married such “put away” women committed adultery, because they entered into relations with married women.
Those poor women were therefore abandoned without sustenance or aid, and without the legal option of remarrying, because of their former husbands’ often malicious negligence. And it was exactly this practice which Jesus condemned with those words.
Now we really have come to the end of our message. Next time, as I have announced, we will abandon the story of the Master’s life, and will shed some light on the scenario of “world politics” during the first century.
God bless you.
Your Celestial brother,
© Copyright is asserted in this message by Geoff Cutler 2013