Christ's Adult Public Ministry

Course: Introduction to the New Testament: Gospel and Acts

Lecture: Christ's Adult Public Ministry

(The following lecture describes a set of slides (photos) taken during a visit to Bethlehem and Israel – Obviously, some of the information will be outdated.) It’s time to step back for a moment from our supplementary lectures and look at some slides related to the infancy narratives discussed in the last lecture as well as from the opening events of Christ’s adult public ministry. One of the most popular tourist sites in the land of ancient Israel is Manger Square in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Nativity as depicted in this first slide. It is one of the oldest or perhaps oldest church still standing in the Holy Land. The picture of the inside of this church discloses ancient murals or frescos which depicted, among other things, the magi appearing as Arabs and when the Muslims in the 7th century came through Israel and destroyed many of the scared Jewish and Christian sites, this one was left untouched because the invaders believed they saw fellow Arabs in these pictures. You can also see a hole in the floor where parts of the new tiles have been removed to see the mosaic of the original tile floor restored. The traditional site of Jesus’ birth is marked by this ornate grotto in the lower level of the church, though nothing in Scripture or extra-canonical tradition actually enables us to know the exact location of Jesus’ birth place. The next slide reflects a traditionally sized and shaped manger or cattle trough, less we glamorize the picture of the place where Mary laid baby Jesus that first night. The terrain just south and east of Bethlehem is to this day called Shepard’s fields. The next slide shows a modern day flock of sheep still grazing in this grass land area. Next, is a picture of the Jordan River where John the Baptist ministered, and today it separates the country of Jordan from the infamous ‘West Bank’ ruled over by Israel but operated by the Palestinian government. When one goes to the Jordan River in Galilee where the river forms the boundary between Israel and gentile territory to the east, the foliage is lusher, the river is much more shadow and gentle flowing. The next slide shows a popular place near Galilee where Christians Baptize others, even today. The property at this particular place is Jewish owned and much more accessible for tourist and may even be rented for Christian Services. In Jesus’ day, emersion in water was perhaps best known from ritual pools such this one shown in the slide, excavated just south of the Temple Prescient in Jerusalem. The ritual pool in Hebrew was known as mixza and priests and others ministering in the Temple would submerge themselves for the sake of ritual purity of their official duties. Next, shows a more elaborate emptied pool. John the Baptist, of course, baptized Jesus along with many others and immediately the spirit leads him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Judean wilderness includes a vast terrain and again, neither Scripture nor tradition gives us any way to determine precisely the wilderness/desert in which Jesus resided or perhaps itinerated during those forty days of his fast. If the reference, ‘going to a high mountain’ to see all the kingdoms of the world,’ be taken in the first instance, literally, that is if Jesus really did go to the top of a high mountain; but obviously nowhere near Judea could he have seen all the kingdoms of the world. Then one could understand why the range of the most roughed filled terrain in between Jerusalem and Jericho became the traditional site of Jesus’ temptation and indeed what you see pictured has come to known as Temptation Mount. The next slide gives a look of a spring day with a deep green grassiness, a place normally barren and dry by the late summer. The winter months brings on the rain in the mountain areas. The next slide shows a picture of temptation restaurant in the old city, a tourist destination and place of different kinds of citrus fruit.