As we continue to look at the Kingdom of Heaven we discover the gradual transition begun by John the Baptist that was continued by Jesus. John the Baptist moved the centre of Judaism from the temple to the Heart and Jesus moved it from the Law to Love. The shift has a cataclysmic effect on Judaism and resulted in the beginning of Christianity. Join us for the two part series.
The Cataclysmic Witness of Two Cousins.
(Continuation of the Two Kingdoms.)
Mary and Elizabeth were related (Luke 1:36). Cousins in KJV.
Illustrations of a larger understanding superseding current understanding:
Evolution of personal transport. Crawling, walking, running, skating, skiing, scooter, cycling, motorcycle, car, plane. None of the former are wrong or bad. Superseded.
Subtraction of larger number from smaller numbers. Square root of a negative number
Destruction of matter (E=mc2)
Development and awareness of sexuality in adolescence.
Accelerating impact of technology for transportation, communication and medicine.
Did Paul ever write anything Jesus had not already taught? Galatians 3:19/Romans 5:12-14/5:15-19
The Witness of John the Baptist (cousin to Jesus) and John the Beloved (disciple of Jesus)
John 1:6-25 NLT
Beloved: 6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness (KJV grace and truth). And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son (Which is grace and truth).
15 Baptist: “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds,
Baptist or the Beloved? 16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. (Compare Hebrews 1:1-3)
Prophecy about the Baptist by an angel. Luke 1:11-17 NLT While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
Luke 1:57-80 NLT When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. 59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” 61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. Reasons for Zechariah silence: So he could not judge Mary when she came to visit, so Zechariah could have nine months to think about the implications of his new son. 65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: 68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. 69 He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, 70 just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. 71 Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. 72 He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— 73 the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. 74 We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. 76 “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. 77 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
Jesus’ Witness about his Baptist cousin.
Luke 7:18-35 NLT The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, 19 and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” 20 John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’” John was in prison and Jesus had not liberated him. He is starting to doubt Jesus is the Messiah. While he was humble, he would have imagined a great future for the two of them together building the kingdom of Heaven. 21 At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. 22 Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” 23 And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.” I do not do what they expect me to do, 24 After John’s disciples left, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? 25 Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. 26 Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 27 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!” Hierarchy of prophets established and the Baptist is tops. John is still a citizen of this world. He thinks of Messiah as being the great liberator from the Romans. He does not understand that in the Kingdom of Heaven one lives by dying. 29 When they heard this, all the people—even the tax collectors—agreed that God’s way was right, for they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism. 31 “To what can I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “How can I describe them? 32 They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’ 33 For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.”
JOHN THE BAPTIST MOVED THE CENTER OF JUDAISM FROM THE TEMPLE TO THE HEART.
The Law, as in the Torah, the five books of Moses, specified rules for sacrifices in great detail. This meant that the sanctuary/temple was the center of worship and civil life. John the Baptist moved the center of religion away from the temple to the human heart. It was a huge paradigm shift. It was a religious earthquake for Judaism. Forgiveness for sin was no longer gained by animal deaths at the temple. Forgiveness was now possible through repentance and baptism. Luke 3:1-20 NLT It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler[a] over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler[b] over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. 2 Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. 3 Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. 4 Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him! 5 The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level. The curves will be straightened, and the rough places made smooth. 6 And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.’” 7 When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turnedto God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. 9 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” 10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?” 11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” 12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.” 14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.” 15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never- ending fire.” 18 John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.
JESUS MOVED THE CENTER OF JUDAISM FROM LAW TO LOVE.
From the time of Moses, Judaism had rules to regulate every aspect of life. It might come as a surprise to realise that from Creation to the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, a period of at least 2500 years, there were no coded laws on the planet that we know about. Even the moral law, the ten commandments, had not been written down. At Sinai it was codified because the Israelites were in danger of anarchy. The last few generations in Egypt had brutalized and traumatized them. They understood only the lash and execution as motivation. It was a desperate time and called for decisive measures.
The Ten Commandments did not exist before Sinai and have been superseded by Jesus Christ.
A good marriage, as defined by the law meant no adultery and no coveting of a neighbour’s spouse. There are many miserable couples with terrible marriages who are then legally correct since they have not committed adultery. By contrast Jesus defined a good marriage as when a spouse is willing to die for the other (John 15:12-13).
Honouring parents does not make sense to angels who are created beings.
The Sabbath injunction commands rest for slaves and everyone else except wives. Patriarchy and slavery are thus tacitly accepted in the fourth commandment.
“Thou shalt not kill,” is meaningless to angels since no angel has ever died.
When Cain kills Abel God does not mention the prohibition of sixth commandment. He rather states that he is missing Abel by saying that Abel’s blood is crying out from the ground to him.
Paul is clear that the law was given after the promise and was to be the moral authority only until Jesus came. Galatians 3:19 NLT
Paul is dogmatic that there was a time when the Ten Commandments did not exist.
Jesus was sure the Law and the Prophets had been superseded by himself.
The implications of Jesus’ teachings far surpass the demands of Mosaic Law.
Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Romans 5:12-14 NLT When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned (In Adam). 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses— even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. Luke 16:16 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in. 17 But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.
Matthew 5:21-22 NLT “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. Matthew 5:27-28 NLT
Matthew 5:31-32 NLT Matthew 5:33-34 NLT Matthew 5:38-39 NLT Matthew 11:12-13 NLT “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery. “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the LORD.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. 13 For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. (The Baptist has issued in the Kingdom of Heaven.) This does not mean that The Ten Commandments have been done away with. It means that the Kingdom of God/Heaven has arrived and has expectations far superior to all the Laws written down by Moses which are part of the Kingdom of this World. Many worldly kingdoms have some of these laws. The necessity of law is always an admission that love is lacking. Think of the legal consequences ofdivorce, especially where children are involved. Think of speed limits around playgrounds and schools. Jesus superseded the Baptist who is the greatest of the Prophets. Some examples are: The Baptist understood forgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven, does not come from animal sacrifices, but comes to those who repent, are baptized and change their lives. He is halfway to what Jesus announces. Jesus will proclaim forgiveness to people who have not asked for it, have not demonstrated repentance and whose lives are as they have always been (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:4-6; 4:32). It is a sovereign announcement about how God relates to sinners and is the foundation of the Kingdom of God for sinners. Jesus trusts that forgiven people will think and feel differently about God and themselves and this will change their behaviour. To the woman taken in adultery Jesus says, “Neither do I (accuse you). Go and sin no more (in thinking badly about yourself).” (John 8:11 NLT) To the paralytic lowered from the roof Jesus says, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2 NLT)
To the world Jesus says, “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NLT)
The Samaritan woman will say, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possible be the Messiah? (He accepts and loves me even though he knows the worst about me.) (John 4:29 NLT)
Paul will write, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.” (Colossians 2:13 NLT)
And, “be kind to each other, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NLT)
The Angel of the LORD says, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And turning to Jeshua he said, “See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes.” (Zechariah 3:4 NLT)
Judaism could not grasp these cataclysmic changes as being God driven and Christianity was birthed as aconsequence of the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven through two cousins, the Baptist and the Nazarene.We are now called to travel the high road of the Kingdom of Heaven while still in the kingdom of this world. Is that what Jesus meant when he prayed, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?
Ian Hartley, August 2021