In Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance John the Baptist challenges his audience, which had gone through all the trouble of going out to the Jordan River to receive his baptism, to accept his even more important advice: to repent of their evil deeds and imitate the faithfulness of Abraham their father.
When three eager prospective disciples asked permission to follow Jesus, Jesus responded to each of them with a riddle. Why would God allow Jesus and his followers to sleep on the ground when he provides safe places even for the animals to sleep? How can the dead bury a corpse? Why would a disciple set his hand to a plow when Elisha had given up plowing in order to follow Elijah? These riddles would have to be puzzled over before their meaning was fully understood. But each of the riddles were ominous, and it appears that each of the three prospective disciples reconsidered his desire to join Jesus.
The growing value placed on charity in the first century C.E. cannot be overstated. As a new sensitivity developed within Judaism that challenged the compensatory “blessings and curses” paradigm of the Hebrew Bible (cf. Deut. 28) as a basis to serve God, so there was a shifting emphasis towards altruistic love embodied in the Levitical commandment, “…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself (וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי יי; Lev. 19:18).”
My favorite image of Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). I’ve never come close to laying down my life to save our sheep from wolves or coyotes. I don’t camp outside with them in a desert, or lead them for miles to find food and water. But I do care deeply for these gentle creatures. In their quiet acceptance of God’s Will—just being what they are—they teach me to trust that “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23), no matter what.
Gospel parables are probably the most widely identifiable teaching form of Jesus. However, readers seldom recognize Jesus’ sophisticated skill as a first-century Jewish parabolist. Indeed, many Christians are unaware that his use of story parables is one of the strongest links between Jesus and contemporary Jewish piety. His parables also demonstrate that Jesus taught in Hebrew.
A lively group of children are grinding wheat kernels between two stones, in preparation for baking their own pita-bread. In a nearby grainfield, visitors are searching for tares among the wheat. Another group are tasting ripe sycamore figs and learning why it was a sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed in Jericho. This is Neot Kedumim, 625 acres of reconstructed biblical landscapes in Israel’s Modi’in region (2,000 years ago home to the Maccabees, today ten minutes from Ben-Gurion Airport).
This year the festival of Sukkot, or Tabernacles, takes place on October 9—16. JERUSALEM PERSPECTIVE has asked the famous biblical landscape reserve, Neot Kedumim, to provide our readers with some of the reserve’s wonderful insights into this festival, and Neot Kedumim staff member Beth Uval has contributed the following.
- Page 1 of 2