Sunday, December 29, 2013

"That's My Boy!"

An angel appeared to Zechariah and told him that his wife, who was too old to have a child, would get pregnant, and they should name him John. When Zechariah had trouble believing that, he couldn’t talk until a little after John was born, and it came time to give the baby a name! Meanwhile, a few months after Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, he appeared to Mary and told her she would have a child and she should name him Jesus. First John was born, then Jesus a few months later. Angels joyfully announced Jesus’ birth to a group of shepherds.

Thirty years had passed since then, and John had grown up and moved into the wilderness. After returning from Egypt, Jesus and his parents had gone to Nazareth, where he grew up. Aside from that journey and an incident after Jesus’ bar mitzvah (a ceremony that Jewish boys go through when they turn 12), we don’t know a lot about his childhood. By the time Jesus was 30, John had been preaching and baptizing for a while. Just as the prophets had foretold, John was preparing the way for his cousin the Messiah. He wore clothes made of camel hair and a leather belt, and he ate locusts and honey. That doesn’t sound very appetizing, but I hope John liked it!

John seems to have been pretty well known. People came from miles around to hear him preach and be baptized. People admitted their sins and asked forgiveness from God, and then John baptized them.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were two groups of religious experts of the time. They didn’t always agree with each other, and they were both wrong about a lot. When John saw some of them coming to the area where he was baptizing, he called to them, “You snakes! Who warned you to run away from God’s anger that is coming? Ask forgiveness for your sins and turn away from them! Don’t tell yourselves, ‘Abraham is our ancestor,’ because God can turn the stones into Abraham’s descendants! I’m baptizing people with water to symbolize what happens when people turn from their sins and choose to follow God. But pretty soon, someone will come who is stronger than I am. I’m not even worthy to carry or untie his sandals.” (At that time, slaves sometimes took care of their masters’ sandals.) “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!”

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Galilee. He went to the Jordan River where John was baptizing. When Jesus arrived, John said, “Wait a minute, Jesus. You should be the one baptizing me! Why do you want me to baptize you?”

Jesus replied, “Let’s do this now. It’s the right thing to do to fulfill all righteousness.” So John baptized his relative. No sooner had Jesus come up out of the water, than the Holy Spirit came out of heaven in the form of a dove and landed on Jesus. A loud voice from heaven boomed, “This is my Son! I love him, and I’m so proud of him!”

The next day, John was talking to his friends, and he saw Jesus headed his way. He said, “Look! It’s the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sins! That’s him, the one I told you about who’s greater than me!”

The day after that, John was talking to two of his disciples when he saw Jesus again. He said, “Hey look! It’s the Lamb of God!” John’s disciples started to follow Jesus, and they hung out with him for a while. One of those disciples was named Andrew. He was so impressed that he ran home and told his brother Simon about what had happened. The brothers came to Jesus, and Jesus said to Simon, “You’re Simon son of John. I’ll call you Cephas” (which is Aramaic for Peter, or Rock).

Jesus then called Philip, who found his friend Nathanael and introduced him to Jesus. So Jesus’ ministry began, and He continued recruiting more disciples.

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