The year is 30 AD. Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, has much on his mind. He feels an urge within himself to change his occupation.
At that time it was the custom for girls to marry when they were thirteen or fourteen. The young men started work when they were fourteen and were married by the time they were eighteen. Jesus was in his early thirties. Men of his age were grandfathers. Why would Jesus, a mature man, settled in his profession, make a complete change in his life. Not only was he contemplating changing his occupation but we are also told that he later moved house to Capernaum.
What was it that he had in mind? He proposed to become a wandering teacher. He was to be recognized as more than a teacher, a prophet. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus tell us about, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all people.” (Lk 24: 19)
Without doubt Jesus had heard about the prophet John, who was baptizing at the Jordan. Most people seek advice from others before they make a life changing decision. It would have been the most natural thing in the world for Jesus to visit John, perhaps work with him and learn from his experience. If we follow John’s gospel, then Jesus spent quite a long time with John.
During this time with John, he must have been profoundly influenced by John. People who later heard him speaking thought they were listening to John the Baptist. Herod said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” (Mt 14: 1) In Matthew’s gospel both John and then Jesus began their preaching mission with, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3: 2; 4: 17)
Did Jesus baptize? Matthew, Mark and Luke do not show Jesus baptizing, John does. “After this Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptising. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there.” (Jn 3: 22 – 23) Jesus was still learning so he teaches and baptizes in Judea, which was a much friendlier territory. John, who has more experience, works in the tough area of Samaria, where he could expect an unfriendly reception.
“When Jesus heard that the Pharisees had found out that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John – ( though in fact it was his disciples who baptized, not Jesus himself ) – he left Judea and went back to Galilee.” (Jn 4: 1 – 3) This passage marks the time when Jesus decided to go his own way.
John the Baptists movement continued separate from that of Jesus and the Baptist’s disciples believed that he was the Messiah. This sect continues to this day and can to be found in Iraq.
All evangelists went out of their way to show that Jesus was, by far, the more important person.1 It was very important for the early Christians that Jesus be seen as superior to John. “John the Baptist says, ‘He must increase; I must decrease.” (Jn 3: 30)
Luke tells us that Jesus returned to Nazareth. He was welcomed and invited to read from Isaiah during the Sabbath service. He then preached. All realized that he was a changed man. “All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” (Lk 4: 22) Clearly Jesus had been with John for a considerable time and was returning with knowledge and skills that they had never seen before. This was truly a story of ‘Local boy makes good.” It took only minutes for jealousy to raise its head. There was no way that they were going to accept this new Jesus. Sadly, Jesus was forced to leave his home town and move to Capernaum. This was the last time we hear of him in his home town. He never returned and even his relationship with family was soured. They thought he was mad.
What a transformation must have taken place in Jesus during his stay with John. He left Nazareth as Joseph’s son, the local carpenter, and returned a prophet and teacher. All knew him for his strong family ties and devotion to Judaism. He was more concerned with the kingdom of heaven. His family were those who, “hear the word of God and keep it.”
- Perhaps this accounts for (though in fact it was his disciples who baptized, not Jesus himself) which was added by somebody after John’s Gospel had been completed.
(After Denis McBride)