By Richard Kieninger
When the Archangel whom we call Christ first appeared on the Palestinian scene, He made a considerable impression. Jesus had worked years to prepare a body of superb physical condition for Melchizedek’s mission. While Christ occupied Jesus’ body, Jesus, as a spirit operating on the Astral Plane, used that time to finish the requirements for his becoming a Brother of Twelfth Degree, and he achieved Mastership during those three years that Christ walked the earth in Jesus’ body. All the information in Jesus’ brain was available to the Christ; so all the events of Jesus’ life and the recognition of people Jesus had met were readily in mind for the Archangel’s use. The languages Jesus had learned in his wide-ranging travels were also on tap for Christ.
Christ was an imposing figure of a man. He stood six feet, one inch tall and weighed about one-hundred and eighty pounds. He had exceptionally handsome features and was very muscular. A contemporary observer commented upon the fairness of His skin and His beautiful arms. He wore His sand-colored hair to shoulder length and trimmed His beard fairly short. He was a head taller than just about any man He met, and He was of confident mien but not haughty or commanding. He did not bow to any man, but neither did He expect others to bow to Him. He wore a full-length sleeveless tunic, belted at the waist, over which usually He wore a cloak with sleeves, both garments being made of homespun cloth. He wore sandals on His feet and often a cloth headdress that fell over His shoulders as protection against the sun. He had the basic elements of kingly appearance but without the glorious trappings of wealth or martial power. The people saw in Him a Davidic Messiah-in-waiting. His appearance overall certainly belied the Church’s later depiction of Him as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” There was obvious power and assured confidence in His demeanor. Anyone encountering Him without knowing who He was would think twice about challenging or accosting Him.
Christ worked at being relaxed and non-threatening lest the people He was trying to reach be afraid or distant. His gray-blue eyes, which bordered on a violet hue, were soft and accepting of the people whose hard life and physical ailments He sought to ameliorate. Toward those persons in authority who tried to discredit Him or challenge His teachings, those eyes could be piercing and flashing. He was an entertaining speaker. He knew that to get His points across He had to reach people and keep their attention. He framed His language along lines familiar to the farmers and tradesmen among the common people. He knew how to tell a joke and entertain His audiences. He was a storyteller of such wit and skill in delivery that He was a first-class raconteur.
Christ did not engage in pious talk. Piousness was the manner of the Pharisees, and He wanted to remain entirely removed from that association. Christ loved everyone, and He enjoyed making people laugh while making them see a point. Down through the centuries of Christian religious art, the paintings and statues stress the somber aspects of the dramatic events of the crucifixion and portray Christ as a man of sorrows unjustly accused by His enemies. We are rarely given a scene of Him laughing or presenting a clever parable, let alone joyously entertaining a throng gathered in a generous host’s home while feasting and drinking wine as are all the other guests. Our stereotype of Christ being very holy, patient, serious-minded, even dourly intense is not justified by the Gospels. He was an athletic and robust person, for Jesus had traveled much and was used to a hard, rough life on the road. He was in total control of all He surveyed. He enjoyed the crowds who swarmed around Him, and they admired and loved Him. As an Archangel He was the epitome of mature manhood-emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually.
He was loved by women in a worldly sense because He was handsome, sensitive, and secure in His self-worth. Men saw in Him a leader worthy of following, for He demonstrated wisdom, justice, and courageous strength. Children instinctively were attracted to Him for His compassion and gentleness. Everyone felt they were the recipients of His unconditional love, and there was an atmosphere about Him that radiated an unusual power and security. People in His presence felt uplifted, and they experienced a joyousness frequently expressed in spontaneous hosannahs and song. They felt a hopefulness about themselves, their nation, and the future that was unaccustomed in those days of the Roman occupation with its years of futile rebelliousness. Christ stirred these happy responses even when He didn’t exhibit His healing powers among the sick and crippled. Those instantaneous cures earned the people’s respect and awe, but He didn’t want the healings to be confused with His message; so He continually played them down and asked many whom He cured to tell no one.
Christ was no ascetic, and in this He differed from Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, who was known as a Nazarene. The title stems from the Hebrew words Nazir Elohim (one separated unto God), and a man takes on the disciplines of a Nazarene through voluntary vows. Thereafter he fasts, abstains from alcohol, does not cut his hair, and avoids contact with the dead. Many of them kept to the wilderness east of the Sea of Galilee in Peraea in order to avoid distractions encountered in the towns and “civilization.” Nazarenes did not form any political party or sect, and, technically, all first-born sons consecrated to God were Nazarenes. Samson was a notable Nazarene. Although Jesus was a first-born son who was consecrated to God, and therefore a Nazarene, he obviously did not adhere to the rules of the Nazarenes, who had a wild, bushy look about them. There was no town of Nazareth at the time of Christ; so Jesus was not called a Nazarene because of Nazareth being his family’s home town. There is nothing left in the original gospels naming the place in Galilee where Joseph and Mary made their home, but it seems most likely that it was in one of the larger villages or towns around the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. The Christian Church, in seeking to enshrine a place where the child Jesus grew up, selected around the Eighth Century a small collection of houses bearing the TurcoArabic name En-Nasira as a site that would justify Jesus’ label as a Nazarene. The geography does not fit the gospel description of the town where Jesus’ family lived, nor would En-Nasira have had the synagogue described by the gospel writers at that time. The name Nazareth was added to the gospels at a much later time, and the town was re-named so that today it is called Nazareth.
John the Baptist followed most of the dietary and exercise rules of the Essenes as well as their prescribed self-disciplines, but Christ demonstrated no outward signs of the Essene regimens other than meditation, probably to be more readily accepted as one of the general population. Of all the sects in Palestine, no criticisms of the Essenes has been recorded by Jewish or Gentile historians and commentators on their practices. They were respected by everyone but were clearly regarded as too different to join or be imitated because of the strictness with which they adhered to their ways. They were abstemious, maintained scrupulous cleanliness, and characteristically lived beyond one hundred years in age.
When John the Baptist was imprisoned, Christ took up the Baptist’s preaching of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Christ taught in the synagogues in order to get the people to repent of their ways and take up a better way of living. In this respect He echoed the aims of the Pharisees—who were the teachers and Rabbis—to improve the morals of the people, get them to commit to a higher awareness of Mosaic Law, strive for the perfection of self, and uplift Israel to the status of a Holy Nation. However, the Pharisees and Scribes were appalled to see Him accept tax collectors, sinners, and women of low repute into his company along with the respected citizenry. Since Christ and His followers were known for their eating and drinking, and because the Pharisees could not abide His forgiveness of sins or His departures from orthodoxy, it was not long before He found the synagogues closed to Him. Thereafter, He conducted His preaching in the open countryside. That way huge numbers could be in attendance to hear Him speak. In addition to these physical crowds, hundreds of thousands of discarnate spirits at any one time would observe Him from the Astral Plane in order to experience the presence of the Archangel here on our planet. Most of us attended one or more of Christ’s sermons as a spirit, and a few of us incarnated in Palestine then to experience Him in the flesh. Many of the spirits gathering around Him were members of the Brotherhoods. These vast Astral (heavenly) hosts lent an atmosphere of good feelings to the people, who were just as unaware of the presence of the spirits (unless one were clairvoyant) as they were of the exalted rank of the preacher they came to hear.
Christ’s traveling retinue consisted of more than the twelve Apostles. There was always a throng who accompanied Him on the road as He went from place to place-anywhere from fifty to a hundred persons. There were men and women who more or less permanently attached themselves to the band around Him, and the women among them eagerly provided many domestic functions. He later appointed seventy as disciples besides the twelve apostles. There were men and women of wealth who monetarily supported Christ and His followers, and some of these people served as advance agents who arranged to notify the next town of His impending arrival and to find sympathetic townspeople to donate shelter and food for the whole party. People with larger homes or courtyards provided places where the feasting and good times took place. Christ was known to make those times memorable and joyous. He made it clear that God loved mankind, that God made beauty for men to appreciate, and that all men were God’s heirs to love and joy. Christ emphasized that religion should not be couched in piousness or arrogant self-righteousness. Wherever He went, He brought enjoyment and cause for celebration. He had many happy moments with His followers. Upon His leaving a place, everyone looked forward to His return; and He and His traveling companions were loved extravagantly. For the citizenry, His stopovers were like being visited by a king. He was treated royally, and his hosts were delighted. Christ lived on the road and had no place to call His own, yet it was mostly a good and respected life for Him and His followers.
In the three-plus years of Christ’s ministry, He was probably talking almost constantly to people. If all His conversations and sermons had been recorded on paper, they would have filled a library. The few things remembered by the writers of the gospels were the short, pithy comments that His hearers were able to remember decades later. Many of these quotes were His clever barbs at the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes who were puffed up with their own vanity. Their pretensions made them vulnerable to being ridiculed, and the common people enjoyed seeing the super-religious arrogance of the pious Pharisees punctured when they tried to trick Christ through clever questions. His well-aimed barbs surely tickled Christ’s audiences and made His words all the more memorable Nevertheless, all hearers probably were aware enough to see that even though they were not the immediate targets, His wise criticisms applied as well to themselves.
Although Christ frequently discussed the vices and foolishness of people, it was done in the spirit of educating, not sarcastically or hurtfully. Christ’s message is love, and that is opposite to the kinds of hurt feelings aroused by accusing someone directly. Love is the antithesis of fear, and fear is the means by which rulers held sway over the populace Indeed, Christ’s message of love was seen as a threat by the rulers, because a populace which forgives its rulers for their terrorism can no longer be threatened into submission. When Christ taught people to love their enemies and those who despitefully use them, this was seen as a ploy to bring about the end of the rulers’ power.
Christ was the author of many metaphors that fill our language. He coined figures of speech and painted preposterous mental images that were both witty and playful. Who could forget the image of a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle, or a man trying to cast out a speck in his brother’s eye when he has a log in his own eye? These clever turns of speech were intended to amuse as they instructed in order to be remembered. Information received with laughter is far more memorable than when received in anxiety or while being guilted. By comparison, the Pharisees and Scribes regarded humor as sacrilegious in matters of religion. Christ saw sins and virtues as matters of the heart (which is not subject to outer show) and from these flow the attitudes and the conduct of one’s life. Therefore, He criticized the Pharisees’ outward shows of piety and their seeking of praise for their religiousness.
He used parables to make His philosophical points so that everyone could get a picture without being an educated scholar. The synoptic gospels record some sixty of them. His similes and aphorisms are simple and couched in language that is notable for brevity and clarity. Many of them are brilliant as any in literature for their directness and colorful imagery. They made a forceful impact on those who first heard them, and they remain a familiar part of our Western heritage that all of us have repeated.
The novelty of Christ’s teachings was very disturbing to the Scribes and Pharisees, who always referred to some time-honored precedence or authority. Yet the basic ideas of which Christ spoke were the very core of what the Pharisees themselves had been teaching. The Kingdom of God headed by a Messiah who was descended from King David was long a favorite topic promoted by the Pharisees, but they expected the Messiah to be one of their own party come in great power and glory; so they rejected Christ in the guise of Jesus. He was unconventional and certainly not puritan. He never seemed to tire of assisting people who needed help, regardless who they were. He was careful not to contradict the Mosaic Laws or the prophets, yet He hinted that Judaic Law would be revised in the coming of the Kingdom. At first He was reluctant to allow His followers to call Him the Messiah, but He gradually came to be more and more open about claiming to be the Son of Man (a reference to the Messiah made by Daniel 7:13-14) and sometimes spoke of God as “my Father in Heaven.” This was considered high blasphemy by the Jewish establishment.
He transformed the consciousness of the people by dint of His character and His show of caring emotion. He called for everyone to prepare themselves for the Kingdom of God by being kindly, just, and humble. He redirected the Law toward forgiveness and turned the observance of religion toward personal uplift and away from meaningless ritual, showy prayers and expensive funerals. He was relaxed about diet and omitted certain fasts. The Pharisees objected strongly to His assuming such prerogatives and taking on authority to forgive sins and speak for God. Of the various sects, only the Essenes, numbering some 4,000 members in Palestine, accepted His innovations. His many followers probably included every range of partial acceptance and rejection of the ideas He presented.
The main attraction He offered was the Kingdom of God, which everyone expected to be an earthly nation in accordance with Jewish tradition. At times Christ portrayed it as an ideal future society where the pure in heart would be gathered. At the Last Supper, He told the apostles that He would not drink wine with them again until “I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” It seems unlikely that there is drinking of wine in heaven. The Lord’s Prayer contains the phrase, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” In addition to the earthly Kingdom, He also spoke of a state of the soul where a person has attained a sinless condition, and then the Kingdom of God would be within him. Christ’s peacefulness hardly bespoke any promotion of a political revolution or military action to make the new nation a reality. He advanced the concept that the Kingdom of God would come about naturally when all the citizenry cleansed itself of violence and greed, thus making obsolete the need for laws. What He sought was a deeper, spiritual revolution so that men would be free and self-directing.
There was one particularly galling idea that struck at the core of home life and portended an uncomfortable revolution. The Jews at that time believed that men had souls but women did not. Christ clearly treated women as men’s equals, and this was difficult even for the apostles. The Gnostic writings of the First Century disclose the resentment of some apostles toward the women to whom Christ gave inner teachings that the men were not privy to, particularly Mary Magdalene. She had made it her concern to look after Christ’s needs as His personal servant. She frequently sat next to Him and was reproved by others, since Christ didn’t, for kissing Him. She loved Him as a woman loves a man; but if she was as His wife in her mind, it wasn’t consummated sexually. In a way, she was a prototype of every Catholic nun—a bride of Christ serving her Lord in furthering His cause but remaining chaste.
His selection of twelve apostles was a common Jewish custom for a learned man to follow. Any educated authority might be honored by the title “Rabbi,” a title of dignity meaning “my master,” and choose a few pupils who would be especially prepared to assist him in his teaching. The men whom Christ chose for this special relationship came from a variety of backgrounds, although all of them were from among the common people. They were all Galileans except for Judas Iscariot, who was from Judea. Like most men of their day, they looked toward a leader who would unify the Jews and free their country from the Roman occupation. It was with difficulty that Christ convinced His apostles that He came as a peaceful Messiah and not as an organizer of armies. Two apostles—Simon Zelotes and Judas Iscariot—kept to that hope nevertheless.
The great expectation of the coming of the Messiah stirred the patriotic fervor of the Jews and plunged Palestine repeatedly into open rebellion with great loss of life. Their determination to be free of outside domination plus their selfless courage that bordered on reckless concern for their lives kept the Jews and their occupiers in continual turmoil. From the time of Judas Maccabee’s war against the Syrian occupation under King Antiochus IV in 165 BC (the Jewish victory giving rise to the Feast of Hanukkah) to the revolt in AD 135 of Simeon bar Cochba against the Roman occupation, which resulted in the deportation of any surviving Jews to the far corners of the Roman Empire (the second diaspora), Jewish patriots fought desperately those three hundred years to fulfill their dream of being a separate and free nation. More than two million Jews were slain in these conflicts, and hundreds of thousands were sent into slavery. The first year of the reign of Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, saw a revolt from among Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, and Archelaus’ troops killed 3,000 of them. At the following Pentecost, rebels attacked again and suffered terrible slaughter. Roman legions plundered the treasures of the Temple, and vengeful bands of rebels took to the outlying districts of Palestine and assassinated any supporters of Rome they could lay their hands on. Judas the Gaulonite captured Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee, and this was answered by a punitive Roman campaign which razed hundreds of towns. The legions crucified 2,000 of the rebels, and 30,000 Jews were sold into slavery. This occurred while Jesus was an infant in Egypt. Rebellion was still smoldering when Christ began His ministry.
The Book of Daniel, written to spur the Jews against Antiochus IV, was still current reading among Jews who were sure that God would not let them continue much longer under gentile rulers. The then popular Book of Enoch, a work by several authors between 170 BC and 65 BC that purported to be visions of the Enoch of Genesis, told of the suffering of mankind caused by Satan’s earthly minions and of the redemption by the Messiah who would usher in the Kingdom of God. The Book of Ecelesiasticus and the eighth chapter of Proverbs predicted the appearance of the Logos—the Incarnate Word. The Jewish literature of the period just prior to Jesus’ birth was filled with hopes of salvation via the intervention of God or a redeeming savior sent by God. The Roman occupation was thus regarded as but a temporary triumph of evil that would be overcome by divine help to those who were willing to fight that evil.
Isaiah prophesied a Son upon whose shoulders would be the government and who would be called the mighty God, the Prince of Peace. Most Jews expected the Messiah to be the first-begotten son of God, the Incarnate Logos, who would descend from heaven in glory, bring about a speedy triumph over evil and the enemies of Israel, make Jerusalem His capitol, win all mankind over to Jewish laws, bring peace to the whole world, erase poverty, end disease, ensure justice, and oversee a unified, happy civilization everlastingly. However, the Jews tended to ignore Isaiah’s further description of the Messiah as being despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows bearing our griefs, wounded for our transgressions, taken from prison and from judgment and cut off out of the land of the living. Christ told His disciples that the earthly nation they anticipated as the Kingdom of God would not happen until He came again at a later time. It appears that He only planted the seeds for a future civilization during His sojourn in Palestine twenty centuries ago.
The tenor of Christ’s time was one of rebellion, and He was seen by many as the fulfillment of the prophecies for a Messiah in terms of the books studied and discussed by the Palestinians since the previous century. They looked for a war-like descendant of King David, and Christ looked the part. He was not afraid to stand up and justifiably criticize those in authority. Early in His ministry He had shown a fine temper in throwing out the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals from the temple. He was physically imposing and was not averse to using rough language when called for. He was their man for overthrowing the Romans, and they were waiting while He appeared to be gathering loyal troops. However, Christ had no intention of becoming the King they anticipated, and He had to drive home that point.
John the Baptist was thought by many to be the Messiah, yet he consistently disclaimed it; but Christ did not disclaim it. One day some 5,000 people followed Him into a deserted place to hear Him speak. Christ bade them to sit on the grass, and, sensing their militant intent, He had them arrange themselves in rows and in companies of fifty (Mark 6:39-40 and Luke 9-14). He fed them with His miracle of the five loaves and two fishes, and the hillside looked like a huge picnic. There was no doubt in their minds that God worked in this man. His caring ways made the people love Him, and they admired Him for His serene, commanding manner born of self-confidence and control of every situation. Those who understood His real message worshipped Him; but for the most part, the men who followed Him saw a handsome, fearless leader worthy of the throne of David.
A great stir ran through the multitudes on the hillside that day at the realization that they were arrayed as an army at the feet of their king, and great shouts of “Messiah” and “king” rang from the throats of thousands. A young woman ran up to Christ, and He allowed her to place a crown of laurel upon His head. Pandemonium ensued. The hilts of concealed daggers and short swords were gripped by their owners. Here was Israel’s return to glory at hand!
Christ restored quiet and repeated His familiar message of how a man must first create the Kingdom of God spiritually within himself. He removed the crown, broke it and stepped upon it. He spoke of peace and of everlasting brotherhood between men, and many Jews turned away from Him that moment and persuaded others that the promised Messiah was yet to come. As unequivocally as possible, Christ had turned His back on the throne of Israel.