Stories From The New Testament: Chapter 4 - The Messiah Is Identified
Shirley King Johnson
When Jesus was sufficiently recovered from His long fast, He returned to the Jordan River where John was baptizing. Jesus stayed at the outer fringes of the crowd that had gathered, but His cousin caught sight of Him and immediately pointed Him out to the people. "There He is!" John exclaimed. "The Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the — world is standing over there!" (John 1:36). A murmur went up from the people and curious eyes turned to see. Taking advantage of the large gathering, John asked Jesus to explain to them about the coming Kingdom of God. Joining John on the high bank that over looked the area, Jesus addressed the people. He preached the good news that God's government would be brought to the earth to enforce God's way of life and cause worldwide happiness and wellbeing. He explained that men had been put on earth to learn to discern good from evil and to choose to live the right way in spite of selfish desires and temptations. When He finished, He turned away and began to leave the area. Several dozen interested spectators followed Him, and from them Jesus began to choose young men to train as His disciples. Fisherman Andrew joined Him first. Andrew then brought his brother Simon to Jesus. Guided by God's Holy Spirit, Jesus gave Simon another name. "You are Peter," He said. Peter means "rock" (verses 41-42). Philip and Nathanael also were called at this time. When Jesus started back for His home in Galilee, these four disciples accompanied Him.
The first miracle
Jesus was a great favorite at Holy Day gatherings in Jerusalem and at other festive occasions. Perfectly balanced in character and personality, He was warm, outgoing, calm, dignified and thoughtful toward everyone around Him. Joseph must have died before Jesus began His public ministry, because he is not mentioned as being present with Mary and Jesus and His disciples at a wedding they attended in Cana (John 2). We find no reference to Joseph again in Scripture. During the wedding festivities in Cana, the host expressed embarrassment when he discovered that the servants had poured the last of the wine. Seeing the host's consternation; Mary walked over to Jesus as He stood with His disciples and brothers. "More people came today than they were expecting. They're out of wine." Jesus glanced toward the serving tables and gave a slight shake of His head. It's unfortunate, but what can I do at this time?", Positive in her own mind that Jesus could remedy the situation, Mary spoke to the servants and brought them to Jesus. "My son will tell you what to do," she said firmly and then looked up into His face with a confident nod (verse 5). Because of His love and deep respect for her, Jesus made a quick decision. "Fill those jars with water," He told the servants, pointing to six stone jars that stood in the back of the courtyard. They were there to be used for ceremonial washings (verses 6-7). The servants scurried about and brought in water to fill the jars to the brims. "Now," Jesus went on, "take them to the man in charge." The servants carried the jars, one by one through the milling guests to the refreshment tables. The man in charge gave a pleased exclamation. "Young man!" he called to the bridegroom. "You have reversed the usual order. Your best wine has been saved for the last part of the day!" The festivities continued with most of the guests not realizing that a miracle had occurred. They raised their cups in another toast to the couple's happiness and sipped the fine wine with expressions of pleasure.
Cleansing the Temple
Jesus owned in Capernaum a house that He probably built with His own hands. After the wedding He took His mother there. His disciples and other relatives went along for a short visit (verse 12). When it was time to keep the Passover, Jesus and His disciples traveled to Jerusalem. Jesus went directly to the Temple. As He mounted the steps, the sound of bleating sheep came to His ears and He smelled the stench of animals and fowl. The court was a scene of confusion. Merchants had set up stalls and tables and were buying and selling animals and pigeons for sacrificial offerings. They also exchanged foreign coins and made a good profit doing it (verse 14). Striding in, Jesus began to overturn tables in anger. "Get out!" He ordered the merchants, His face flushed with indignation. "Take all of your money-making schemes out of here! You've made my Father's house a common shop!" (verse 16). A few of the merchants began to gather up their coins and bird cages and took hold of the animals' bridles to lead them away. Others merely looked at Jesus in astonishment. "Take them out of here!" Jesus ordered the owners of oxen. They stared in disbelief. Stooping, Jesus gathered up three strands of short rope, braided them into a whip and cracked it toward the oxen. "Out! Get these animals out of here!" The oxen began to move. He drove out the cattle after the oxen and the sheep followed behind. The owners of the livestock began to hurry after them. Turning back, Jesus overturned the remaining tables. When the place was emptied, He went out onto the Temple steps and kept the animals and their owners moving on. As they watched the developing turmoil, Jesus' disciples talked among themselves about the zeal He had for the building that He called "my Father's house" (verse 17). Meanwhile, someone had alerted the Temple officers and guards and they began to pour into the area. "What's the meaning of this?" demanded a centurion as he saw Jesus standing at the top of the steps with the whip in His hand. Tossing down the whip, Jesus explained that the Temple was a house of prayer, and the merchants were guilty of transgressing God's law by profaning God's Temple. Warning Jesus that he wanted no more such disturbances, the officer turned away and led the guards back to pursuing their own interests. But the excited crowd grew larger. Rumors of a "riot" spread. Instead of a riot, the onlookers saw a well-built young Jewish man speaking about the coming of a Kingdom of God. He paused during His talk to reach down and lay His hands on a crippled boy's head. Healed, the boy straightened his legs and began leaping up and down. A man with a bent back reached imploringly to Jesus and touched His hand, and his back was instantly straightened. The crowd saw Jesus do miracle after miracle. More people were attracted to the Temple steps, and they pressed upon Him until He could no longer speak to them concerning God's plan for mankind. He moved down the steps through the throng, healing all who called out to Him for help (verse 23). Standing at the edge of the crowd, the Jewish elders, rabbis and priests watched with wonder. When they observed the faces of the people who milled around Jesus, they saw adoration. Jesus was becoming popular. The religious leaders began to grow uneasy.
The night visitor
During the closing days of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, while Jesus was still in Jerusalem, a religious man of high standing in the Jewish council came to question Him (John 3:1-2). Resting at night with His disciples on the housetop of their temporary lodging place, Jesus did not hesitate to receive the late caller. His disciples stayed in the background so Nicodemus could have a private conversation with Him. In the light of the torches flickering in the courtyard below, the two studied each other's face. "Master," Nicodemus began carefully, "I've seen you do miracles of healing and I know that God is with you." "I'm glad you came," Jesus said. "I'm here to announce the coming Kingdom of God. A man cannot see the Kingdom unless he is born again." Nicodemus looked puzzled. His eyebrows went up. "Born again? Can a man be born a second time from his mother? Impossible!" "I'm not speaking of a physical birth. Flesh is flesh. To become a spirit being, one must be born of spirit. Let's sit down and I'll explain it further." Jesus motioned to a couch that stood near the railing at the edge of the roof, and they seated themselves. Jesus raised His hand to the midnight breeze that drifted over the rooftops of the city. "The Spirit of God can be compared to the wind. We hear the wind, but we don't see it or know where it comes from or goes to. One who is born of spirit is like the wind. The Kingdom of God is something that may be entered into only after one becomes a spirit being. We must be composed of spirit, no longer made of flesh and blood" (verses 5-8). "I'm sorry. I still can't seem to understand this talk about spirits," Nicodemus admitted when Jesus paused. Jesus shook His head. "We have teachers and rulers in Israel who are ignorant of spiritual things. I've just begun to explain about the difference between physical and spiritual matter, but you're lost already. What if I go on to heavenly things? What if I told you that no one has ascended up to heaven except one person, the Son of man who came down from heaven? Furthermore, this Son will be lifted up in the way that Moses lifted up the serpent on a stake when Israel was in the wilderness" (verses 10-14). Jesus went on to tell Nicodemus about His Father's love for every human being. He also discussed man's evil nature and where man gets that nature. It was very late when Nicodemus left the rooftop. The disciples had gone below and were sleeping. Jesus listened to Nicodemus' footsteps retreating down the stairs. Then He knelt to pray.