Jesus has come to hear John and to be baptised by him. His Word had come too. He is not alone, he has come with certain of his friends: Simon, Philip, Jacob son of Alphaeus (later, to be called the Less); Jesus' brother, Jacob; and Thomas, a look alike. Later, Jacob, the brother of John the Apostle, would arrive. He had not been able to join them, because he had family business to attend to, in Jerusalem.
[an aside O Theophilus, in the gentile Churches the name Jacob has become James to most people, even though in the Greek it is Jacobus. So I have corrected it for your understanding. When you see James it will mean Jacob.]
Jesus had come to the Jordan via Jerusalem and the feast of the rededication of the temple or Hanukkah. They had not stayed long; only long enough for the first day, with it's putting out of the Menorah and the beginning of the cleansing of the Temple, as you well know. Little did the others realise how significant this was in the life of their Lord to be. Today he was a friend, relative; in a few days he would become far more than this: he would be revealed to be the Christ, the Saviour and King of Israel -- yet alone did they recognise that the True Temple of God had come to them.
But for now, there was relaxation after their long walk from Galilee. And there was the awesome preaching of John, another relative. Never had they heard such words of power; such words of invitation, yet only a couple went forward. In the days to come the rest would follow; and this baptism, and the witness to their Lord's, would constitute part of the selection for apostleship.
So they sat and talked of John's word and discussed the many different kinds of people coming to John. They ate from the many vendors, roaming amongst the large crowd. They postulated about the sins they would have to confess, if they went forward, and how this baptism could change their lives. Jesus, as always, guiding them into better understanding of themselves and those around them and God's purposes.
Simon begins the conversation with a comment on his fishing buddies: John bar Zebedee and his brother Andrew. "Well now, look at John and Andrew down there. I never thought I'd see the day my young brother would become religious."
Jesus prompts his understanding: "Simon, we all need light to live, my friend. Some are drawn to it earlier than others. Your brother has found, what for now, is satisfying his hunger."
Simon is peeved at 'loosing' his brother. "Well does he need to be so greedy. It almost seems unnatural; living with John, like that."
"My cousin is called of God, and it is not for man to question how God chooses to manifest His voice. Do you see, Simon?" came the reply.
Simon heeds the mild rebuke and sheepishly states: "Well ---, it just seems a shame to loose him." "You will fish again Simon. Do not look with selfish eyes on the work of God in his soul and heart."
Meanwhile, James, the Lord's brother, has been taking notice of how John baptises his adherents. He is taken aback at his approach. Though knowing he is of levitical stock, the fact that John has turned away from orthodox priesthood compels him to reject John as a priest. He has not been taking notice of the current conversation, when he interjects with: "Did you see that John!! He lifts up his hands, as if calling on God to bless those, he has just baptised. It is as if he is a priest. How can he do this? Is it not for a priest or levite to do such a thing."
He is answered by the not so timid, but introspective, James the Less. He may not have the teaching of his namesake, but he understands and thinks deeply about his subjects. "Yet, if he is a prophet, does he not have the right and authority?" James is livid.
And then his Brother pipes up: "You are right James. It is the Word of God that sanctifies. And John speaks the Word, God has given him; that those who are drawn will have their hearts prepared by God."
Thomas, who has been listening to all this, is agitated by the continual referral to God, by Jesus. He is a man of action, yearning to follow someone who would cast out the Romans. He is fed up with the continual uselessness of their religious leaders to bring freedom to the people. "Why do you always have to make everything a matter of God and for God? Why can't a man just be a man?! --- You should be down there with the Baptist, you two go together."
Jesus seeks to arrest the frustration and yearning that Thomas feels, and to direct it to it's answer. "We do and we don't. I can only be what I am, and so does he. I do not enforce my opinion, I express them and it is up to the hearers to receive it as they choose and as God allows.
If a soul seeks God, then it is natural for it to be centred on God, and not the world; and to see things God's way. Why do you resist the yearning within you, Thomas?"
"I'm fed up with this religion. I am going to find the Zealots; they're real men." This was the only answer his anger would let him give, so as to maintain his viewpoint and conclusions. Jesus after him: "Why are they here then, Thomas?" Thomas looks back angrily, as he leaves; and Jesus stands and watches him disappear into the crowd.
Close by there is a person, sitting, who upon recognising most of the people with Jesus, moves away. His name: Levi, son of Alphaeus. He is watching the proceedings and had been baptised only a few days before. He is in deep thought, the result of what has happened to him. "I must get back to Capernaum, or I will lose my job. But I do not want to leave. I feel closer to God, then I ever have. My job no longer seems important, like there is something greater, more worthwhile to life. All my money, of which I have much, and my friends have not brought me as much peace as now. But will it last?"
At this moment someone interrupts him and his train of thought. "Excuse me.- Sorry. " Levi looks at him, and to his own amazement says something quite out of character: "God bless you."
"Amazing!! This is indeed more than I hoped for. Imagine me blessing anyone! (then he remembers his childhood) Yet, there was a time I thought of God, of even being a scribe. Strange how gifts can be diverted to other means.
"John said only to charge what I should, no other. He did not rebuke me for my profession, as many of my own family have done.
John. ---- John. What does he mean by:"to make straight in the desert a highway for our God."? Shall I see the God of Israel? His words mean more to me than I am aware of." He muses again. "I will wait another day." He nods his head, in agreement with his decision. Levi then, with a determined mind, seeks a sheltered spot to camp and sleep for the night. He does not look for company, but seeks only that of his own thoughts. It is then that he notices someone moving towards the river. It is his brother, James. He had never been able to explain himself to him and so, in retaliation, James had joined the Zealots. He had become his brother's enemy.
"My brother too!! I cannot let him see me. He would consider it an insult to be associated with me, by baptism. There I go fearing peoples opinion of me, again. Will I ever be free to be myself and to love you, Lord? Must I always play second fiddle to my younger brother? If it is possible God, please restore us. Amen."
Levi lays down to sleep, thinking of what it would be like to minister together with his brother, and the problems that would be needed to be overcome between them and in them. Truly, only God was capable of doing such a miracle. Little did he realise how quickly his prayers would be answered. The events, of a couple of days, would soon give an even greater impetus to his desire and prayer.
Author of In the Spirit of Elijah
Estelle Parke Book Review: 'In the Spirit of Elijah' by Trevor Payne
Jul 31, 2014
He has managed to write the book in such a way as to present the characters, especially John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ and assorted disciples, as real, human, genuine people. In this regard, I feel that the author is to be commended for a job well done. He has included a variety of small, personal accounts and incidents which help to humanize the Biblical characters and 'bring them to life' for the reader. I was disappointed to discover that there are numerous grammatical and other errors of writing throughout the work...
Awaiting the Light - Luke: excerpt from "In the Spirit of Elijah"
Jul 23, 2014
"Well, Lord, how shall I begin? What should I speak of, or on, that could aid my brother? How should I write of our beloved John, your cousin? I'm not the apostle that I have known him; and yet his life has had a marked effect on your Church. I have been with Paul many years and see incredible things you do through him; but John? How should I write? What should I write? Why should I write? What should I call this manuscript, that will speak of so great a servant?"
Preface for "In the Spirit of Elijah"
Jul 18, 2014
I know that the first few times I sat down to write, my hair would stand on end or I would get goose-bumps. I felt I was NOT writing a story but history!? It was scary. I remember praying about what John's prison cell loooked like and being given a picture that was not what I thought it should be; so I drew it. Then later I discovered that that was precisely what the cells were at Herod's palace of Machaerus -- pits with a heavy wooden grid over them.
A fictional tale about John the Baptist
Jul 20, 2014
Drop in on the many conversations that occurred. Behold the terror and devastation of the Prison that becomes his greatest victory. The confusion when God is silent or chooses not to reveal His depth of meaning. The opposition of those who think they serve God but don't. And the darkness of God's love for His servant, as He outworks His perfect will for him.
Trevor Payne, an Australian, is a longtime and dedicated believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who has spent his life in the study of the Scriptures, prayer, fasting and charitable works. He is an avid reader of all things spiritual and feels deeply that far too many Christians are caught up in the 'form of religion' instead of being 'transformed into the image of Christ.'
"In the Spirit of Elijah"
by Trevor Payne
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: Xulon Press
Published March 29, 2013
Prices: Kindle $9.30