1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
All was under Rome, but there were different degrees of semi-independence and local control. Pilate was the Roman representative, directly controlling Judea and Samaria. His period of office was AD 26 to 36, so we know all the events in John's and Christ's ministries are within that period.
"Herod, tetrarch of Galilee" is the Herod all through the ministries of John and Jesus -- the one who killed John and mocked Christ in conjunction with Pilate.
"Tetrarch" literally means "ruler of a fourth part," but it was used generally of a ruler of any portion of a country.
Iturea and Trachonitis, where Philip ruled, was the area northeast of Galilee. Abilene was still farther to the north.
2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
Actually there would by the Law be only one High Priest. Annas had been High Priest but had been removed by the Romans who used the office as a political one.
The official High Priest at this time was Caiaphas, Annas' son-in-law, but Annas still controlled the office. At his trial, Jesus was taken before Annas first, then before Calaphas. Both were evil men.
3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
Metanoia - to think with Yahweh (with joy)
"Repent" in Scripture means "to turn, to change, to think and act differently." It was a call to turn from fleshly things to spiritual things, from earthly things to heavenly things -- to prepare for the heavenly Kingdom.
4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
It was not understood by the people. They flocked to him; they considered him a great prophet. There was a national flurry of excitement and show of repentance but it was passing and short-lived. Jesus sums it up later when speaking to the people of John (Jn. 5:35) --
"Ye were willing FOR A SEASON to rejoice in his light."
Shallow, superficial, imperfect conversion -- partial dedication -- half-way faith -- worldly godliness -- is the greatest enemy of salvation.
Mark says, "All men" -- that is, the generality of the common people, not the rulers --
"All men counted John that he was a prophet" (Mk. 11:32)
Truly he stirred the nation. He was a "burning and a shining light." But there was no permanent national effect, for the depth of the teaching, and its vital bearing on all daily activities of life -- which is the only true religion -- was never comprehended. This is so often sadly the case in the Brotherhood today.
It was the same nation that within three years rejected the Messiah whom John proclaimed, and clamored for his death.
John's ministry filled a very important and necessary part of the plan of God. The time had come for the Law of Moses to end. Jesus said (Lk. 16:16):
"The Law and the prophets were until John."
Jesus began a new dispensation, in which the Law of Moses could not fit. The Law had served its interim purpose --
"Till the Seed should come to whom the (Abrahamic) promise was made" (Gal. 3:19).
Clearly a connecting link was necessary as a foundation for Christ's work -- a divinely-appointed transition from the Old to the New.
John was that vital link. He was of the priesthood and rooted in the Law. He was universally recognized by all the nation as a true, divinely-sent prophet.
And when he had become fully established and accepted, he introduced Christ to them as the long-promised Messiah --
"The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29).
And then John gradually faded from the picture --
"He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30)
Bro Growcott - He Must Increase: I Must Decrease
6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
It was not that shallow, wavering multitude with whom his real work lay. Nor can his success be measured by its rootless natural results. He was a part of the great, unfailing purpose of "preparing a people for God."
In the providence of God, John sufficiently -- even though but shallowly and temporarily -- cleansed and aroused and purified the nation, that God could manifest Himself through Christ among them and make a deep impression on many individual hearts that John had stirred to hope and expectation.
He is indeed a philanthropist, who braves the indignation of the rulers and the people for their real good. Look at that humble peasant of Judea, itinerating through the length and breadth of his native land, denouncing the Scribes and Pharisees, the Rulers and Elders of the people, as hypocrites, a race of vipers, a wicked and adulterous generation, and murderers of the prophets sent to them by God! And why does this carpenter's son presume thus to arraign "these powers that be, which are ordained of God?"
Because they had made void the law of God by their traditions. How knew he that? had they not the volume of the Book, and could not these "great and good men" of Israel, with all their learning, too, interpret the Law as well as he? Is not this Joseph's son, whence, therefore, hath he this wisdom?-Yes, they had indeed the book, they read it, too, in their synagogues, but they had other standards, other laws and statutes, other ordinances-the Mishna and the Talmud-which stood between them and the simple import of the prophetic rolls.
The people were perishing for lack of knowledge, the temple servants were starving, while the wolves in the clothing of sheep,-the Scribes, Pharisees, and Lawyers, were devouring widows' houses and fattening upon the spoil. Jesus, this humble, though bold and daring innovator, pointed to the Book of God as his authority. "It is written," "It is written," was his confident appeal,
"My house shall be a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves."
Martyrdom for truth, but monuments of stone for the destroyers of the people. Convinced but not converted, an insane people sacrificed this noble victim to the malice and cupidity of their rulers. "They madden whom the gods destroy;" so this infatuated people would none of God's reproof; he sent his eagles against them, and they fell by the edge of the sword.
The Apostolic Advocate, Nov 1834
8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
This was the national delusion, and it can be equally deluding today. Christ's brethren are not such simply because they belong to an ecclesia or a fellowship.
Membership of itself is no guarantee. It is essential, truly, and part of the required obedience, that we assemble with those of like Faith, and that we keep separate in fellowship from error.
But standing before God depends -- not on mere membership -- but on the character of our day-to-day and moment-to-moment activities and interests.
We are "in Christ" ONLY if the everyday course of all our thoughts and acts are in Christ.
The principle John emphasized is still vital: It is not ritual and relationship but righteousness and reality that constitute sonship to God.
We are in fellowship with the Father only when we are thoughtfully and consciously walking in the Spirit-Light.
John was utterly single-minded and intense in his unsparing denunciation of wickedness, regardless of what was involved.
Because of his testimony against Herod's wickedness, Herod shut up John in prison, at the instigation of Herodias, his wife.
Bro Growcott - He Must Increase: I Must Decrease
9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
John proclaimed no new doctrine. It was not his mission to proclaim a new doctrine. For he was sent to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers -- back to the faith of the faithful fathers of the nation.
John's great message -- and it was not new, but it was very necessary to be re-emphasized--- was that preparation for God's Kingdom required personal transformation and purification; and visible, tangible fruits of character and conduct --
His answer must have been a great surprise. They were doubtless prepared, in their shallow enthusiasm, to do something spectacular, like Naaman -- something spectacular and self-satisfying, but that would not interfere inconveniently with their normal way of life.
His answer is so simple, and yet so searching. His answer comprehends all the essence of the Old, for both Christ and Paul say all the Mosaic Law is comprehended in one word, and John's answer is the simple, practical application of that one word.
And it comprehends, too, all the essence of the New. It is the one basic principle the Old and New have in common --
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour AS THYSELF"
-- thou shalt think, and act, and live your lives, in terms of general universal welfare, and not selfish, exclusive, personal welfare.
Bro Growcott - He Must Increase: I Must Decrease
11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
Food and raiment -- all the necessities of life. And we are commanded NOT to go beyond the necessities (1 Tm. 6:8) --
"Having food and raiment, BE THEREWITH CONTENT"
-- stop there, and turn the balance of your efforts and attention to eternal, worthwhile labours: lay up treasure in heaven where it is safe and lasting.
How many of us have more than two coats? -- and yet there are still so many who have none. We can find them very easily if we really want to take the trouble to care.
Is this perhaps being a little too literal? -- a little too searchingly and uncomfortably literal?
It is for each one to say what these things mean to him; for each one to work out between himself and God. But we can be assured that John was not expressing mere idle words, and that the way to the Kingdom he heralded lies only along the rarely trodden path that he points out so clearly.
Christ is the great example, and Paul a worthy illustration of following that example --
"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."
"Look not every man on his own things" (Phil. 2:4)
"Love seeketh not her own."
"Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor."
Bro Growcott - He Must Increase: I Must Decrease
15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
The time specified in Dan. ix. for the appearance of the Messiah was about to expire; and we learn from Josephus and Tacitus that there was a general expectancy of Messiah's advent. This would tend to fix attention on John. ...John also (the other John) tells us that
"the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, who art thou?"
To whom he answered,
"I am not the Christ" (Jno. i. 19, 20).
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
The seventieth week was the week in which the covenant was confirmed in the attestations which the Father gave to Jesus as his Son, and as the Seed of Abraham and of David, to whom he had promised the land of Canaan, and the kingdom and throne of David for an everlasting inheritance.
The week of confirmation was divided between the ministry of John and that of Jesus. The former was engaged in baptizing the people into the hope of Messiah's immediate manifestation; and when he was about finishing his work, Jesus was baptized, and publicly recognised before the assembled people, as the Son of God by a voice from the excellent glory.
He was also anointed at the same time, and sealed, as the Most Holy One of Israel. John having now finished his ministry, was thrown into prison by Herod the tetrarch; and Jesus being thirty years old, entered upon the work of the latter half part of the week, or three years and a half remaining to complete the 490 (Luke 3:15,19-23).
After he had passed some months of his ministry, he was warned by some Pharisees that Herod would kill him; to which he replied,
"Go tell that fox, Behold I cast out devils and do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless, I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" (Luke 13:31-33).
Besides showing that a day is sometimes used prophetically for a year, the Lord's reply shows also the period of his ministry as equivalent to the latter half part, at the end of which he expected to die, and afterwards to be perfected by a resurrection to life.
Elpis Israel 3.4.
17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
It is not surprising that such teaching -- delivered with the fervour and fearlessness of divine authority, -- should arrest attention at a time when moral earnestness had been killed by a punctilious and hypocritical ritualism; and when the public mind was in the tension of a justly-founded expectancy.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.
This general suspense and anticipation would dispose the people to attend to a teacher so emphatic and peculiar. The nature of his teachings would rivet the attention excited by his peculiarity. He commanded them with authority to repent: to turn from their sins; and to submit to baptism at his hands for the remission of the same.
With this command, he associated two solemn intimations -- first, that judgement was impending on that generation: the axe was lying at the root of the trees, and every tree failing to bring forth good fruit would be cut down and cast into the fire; and secondly, that the coming one was among them, about to make his appearance
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,
That Mary does not appear by name in either of them [the genealogies] is not a difficulty when we remember that it had ceased to be a custom at the time these genealogies were drawn from the public registers, to recognise the female element in the genealogy. If the woman were an important link, she appeared either by her husband or other male relation. In this case, she appears by her father.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 6
As was supposed
It does not say "and Joseph begat Jesus."... as soon as it reaches Joseph, it breaks away from the style of phraseology by which the descent of the line is previously traced. It introduces Joseph, not as the father of Jesus, but as "the husband of Mary, " and isolates Joseph from all connection with Christ's paternity, by declaring that of Mary was Jesus born, and that Joseph was merely her husband.
This shows the object of this genealogy, and suggests an answer to the question "Why was this line given if Joseph were not the father of Jesus?" As the husband of Mary, Joseph was legally one with Mary. The two were made "one flesh" by marriage.
Hence, in a legal point of view, Jesus was the son of Joseph by being the son of Mary, and through Mary inherited the lineage and rights and titles of Joseph. Had any other than a son of David been the husband of Mary, it would have interfered with the legal and blood-relationship of Jesus to David. Jesus would not in all respects have been the son of David. In fact his relationship would have been obstructed by the legal power of the husband over the wife.
It was as necessary that the husband of Mary should be a son of David as it was that Mary should be a descendant of David; for if it had not been so, Christ's legal rights under the covenant made with David would have been destroyed. But by both father and mother being "of the house and lineage of David," the natural and legal proprieties and necessities of the case were preserved, in spite of the marvel of Christ's supernatural begettal. Hence, the genealogy of Matthew is of the utmost value in showing that Joseph was descended from David.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, Dec 1867.
My argument, at present, is that Jesus answers to all the characteristics of the Messiah foretold in Moses and the prophets. I have shown this in three particulars, the time, the place, and the family.
Now I proceed to a fourth. The prophets teach that the Messiah should not be of purely human extraction, but should have God for his father. I refer first to Psalm 116:16, which though not irresistibly to the point, is in harmony with the idea presented in Isaiah 7. The Messiah speaks thus: "Oh Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thine handmaid; thou hast loosed my bonds".
By the two taken together, we are reminded of the necessity that Christ should be born of a virgin, arising out of the general prediction concerning him to be found in Gen. 3:17. There he is spoken of under a general figure. "The seed of the woman shall bruise thy (the serpent's) head." I ask Mr. Stern to give a reason why the words are not "the seed of the man." The seed of the woman was to be the instrumentality -- the means of remedying the evil that came from the woman listening to the lie of the serpent.
The woman being the cause of the transgression, in leading Adam astray, was to be the means also of deliverance from the condemnation into which, by her, he came. She was, apart from the man, destined to be the means of the introduction of the Saviour into the world. Hence the designation, "Seed of the Woman." I need not say how completely this is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. But how could a child be born of a virgin? The account in Luke and Matthew is a complete answer.
In Matthew we read: "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit". In Luke: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore, that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." The womb of the virgin was preter-naturally quickened by the divine energy that formed all things in the beginning, and thus the product was a Son of God, answering to the before-time mysterious predictions of the prophets, which I proceed to continue to quote:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
I ask Mr. Stern to explain how, upon Jewish hypotheses, the Messiah could bear the name of God. Why should he, individually, be described in the language here employed: "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." The New Testament supplies the reason. Jesus of Nazareth, as born of Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was God's offspring, and therefore, naturally, inherited the name of his Father.
This is an explanation which the Christian system supplies, and which the Jewish system cannot; for the Jewish system says the Messiah is to be merely a man, merely the son of David. In this connection, I would introduce the argument employed by Jesus himself in controversy with the Jews on this very point. It was an argument they were not able to answer, and which Mr. Stern will not be able to answer. I refer to Matt. 22:42, where we read:
"While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David call him Lord, how is he then his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions."
I now ask the same question of Mr. Stern. Upon what principle, agreeable to Jewish genealogy, does David call his son "Lord"? There is an explanation in connection with Jesus of Nazareth which their system cannot afford. Jesus of Nazareth, as the Son of God, is higher than David, though born in the line of David according to the flesh. He is God manifest in the flesh, and, therefore, Lord of David. He says of himself, "I am the ROOT and the offspring of David" (Rev. 12:16); "The Father who dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10). "He that seeth me, seeth him that sent me" (John 12:4-5); "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father also" (John 14:9).
Therefore, was Jesus greater than Jonah, greater than Solomon, greater than David; and, therefore, could David say as concerning the power that was his very origin, "He is my Lord"; although he could also say of Jesus as the flesh-medium of that power, "He is my son." This, indeed, is the great mystery solved in the genealogy, which brings me back to a point I omitted to mention.
It might be considered a strange thing that the genealogy of Joseph should be given, if Joseph were not the father of Jesus. But you will see that it was necessary; for if Mary were married to one who was not of the house of David, her individuality would be merged in his, here Davidic extraction would have been marred or covered, and the relation of the Messiah to David interfered with. Therefore, it was necessary that the husband of Mary, equally with Mary herself, should be a descendant of David. By this the Messiah, though not begotten of a human father, was, indubitably, David's son.
Bro Roberts - Was Jesus of Nazareth The Messiah?
38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.
No man is a Son of God, because he is descended from "Adam Son of God" but Adam's sons become Sons of God by adoption through His Name. They must believe the promises covenanted; believe in Jesus, as the Yahweh-Spirit manifested in flesh, made a sin-offering, justified in spirit for the justification of believers; and be immersed into the Name, that they may be the subject of the repentance and the remission of sins which are offered in that name; and communicable only to such in putting on the name according to divine prescription.
The power of becoming a son of God consists in obeying the form of teaching apostolically delivered. In putting on Christ the Son of God by eminence, a man becomes a son of God. Addressing the sons of God in Galatia, Paul says:
"In Jesus anointed ye are all sons of God through the faith: for as many of you as were immersed into the Anointed have put on the Anointed. And if ye be the Anointed's, then ye are the seed of Abraham, and Heirs according to the promise" (ch. 3:26-29).
When a son of Adam is thus adopted into Abraham's family, he is a son of Abraham because he is in Jesus who was his descendant according to the flesh. He is in God the Father, -- and in the Son, by constitution; and Christ dwells in him by faith that works by love, and purifies the heart (Eph. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:1).
This step being assured, what follows is of course. "IF children," says Paul, "then heirs, HEIRS OF GOD, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be GLORIFIED TOGETHER."