When did Jesus start to preach? Who was around in Jesus’ time?
Jesus began to preach at the age of 30 (Lk 3:23). A prophet named John was sent by God to go before Jesus to preach the baptism of repentance and he prepared the way for the Lord, indicating that Christ who would come after him had greater power (Mt 3:1, 11). He said, “He must become greater, I must become less.” (Jn 3:30).
After John the Baptist, who are the parties around in Jesus’ time?
1. Pharisees: Regarding religion, they belonged to the orthodox school. They, mostly intellectuals, included teachers of the law, scribes and other upper-class members (Lk 11:52). They were the most prestigious group in Jesus’ time. They accepted the Old Testament doctrines, rigidly adhering to the Mosaic law and emphasised outward courtesy. Most were self-righteous and proud. They were hypocrites, whose deeds contradicted their words. They were scheming. So, Jesus often reproached them.
2. Sadducees (conservative faction): This party was made up of the high priest and his associates (Acts 5:17). Their doctrines were opposite to those of the Pharisees. They only believed in the Pentateuch and the writings in the book of law. They did not believe in the eternity of the soul, resurrection from the dead, angels or demons nor future retribution (Mk 12:18; Acts 23:8). They opposed Jesus’ stance and plotted against His life. They were more vicious than the Pharisees.
3. Herodians (royal faction): A political party – when Judah became a vassal state of Rome, Herod became king. He was originally an Israelite who was converted to the Jewish religion and was circumcised. Therefore, he was also called a Jew. The Jews, seeking political freedom and independence, hoped their support for Herod would help them expand their power. Thus, the Herodian party was formed (Mt 22:16). In Jesus’ time, Herod was the Galilean king (Lk 23:6-7).
4. Zealots (over-radical faction): They firmly believed in the Mosaic law. They were determined to restore their country, relying on nationality and religion to arouse the Jews’ revolutionary consciousness – advocating that the Jews were God’s chosen people. They maintained that the Jews must conform to God’s rule and advocated the use of force in dealing with the Romans. Simon, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, was a zealot (Mt 10:4). It is said that the turmoil in the Jewish nation during 66-70 A. D. had been caused by the zealots.
What was Jesus’ attitude towards these parties?
Jesus told His disciples, “Be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Mt 16:6) “Watch out for the leaven of Herod.” (Mt 8:15) Obviously Jesus did not compromise with any of the above three parties – neither did He favour the zealots. Some people who supported Christ wanted to make Him king by force to lead the revolution to restore the kingdom of Israel, but Jesus withdrew by Himself (Jn 6:15). For He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (Jn 18:36) Jesus is the king of heaven for which He was born into the world. His most important task was to deliver the sinners of this world into God’s eternal kingdom (1 Tim 4:18).
How did Jesus deal with others?
Jesus told the truth to the people (Jn 8:45) and gave them life (Jn 10:10), opening up a new and living way for them (Heb 10:20). Therefore, He says, that He is the Way, the Truth and Life. No one goes to the Father except through Him (Jn 14:6). So Jesus was not only a teacher but He gave Himself up to be the ransom for many (1 Tim 2:6). This was His gracious work in the world. We cannot be saved otherwise.
Jesus was gentle and humble at heart, full of sympathy and did good everywhere. He said, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mtt 11:28) He searched and saved the lost. (Luke 19:10)
What about the disciples in Jesus’ time?
Jesus chose twelve disciples. They were Peter, Andrew, James, Joh, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas (Mt 10:24). Besides, He had 70 disciples, whom He sent out in twos to various cities where they drove out demons, healed the sick and preached that the kingdom of God was near (Lk 10:1).
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