Chapter 3

Jesus of Galilee

FORTY DAYS

Before Jesus' birth, when the Holy Spirit "came upon" Mary and the Power of the Most High overshadowed her, the body of God had been given life. Now at the Jordan when the Holy Spirit descended and "came upon" Jesus, the great three-rayed Light that resembled a dove brought the "blood" or Spirit of God that was given to Jesus with the Sonship.

 

It is significant that Mary, after receiving the Spirit, went with haste on the long journey to Judea where she stayed three months with her cousin. The intensity of the experience had driven her to rush forth as it now caused Jesus to do. For immediately following baptism the Spirit "drove" him forth into the desert, due to the overwhelming grandeur of his experience.

 

Nothing else mattered or existed for him during that exalted state except the rapture of his Oneness with God. He had no purpose in mind, no set goal in time, and was beyond any thought of self-discipline -- he was only following the Spirit -- listening to the secret words of heaven which no man may utter.

 

Wild beasts passed by, and he feared them not; blistering sun smote the desert, and he welcomed it as he did the stinging windstorms with sand in his face.

 

Whenever precious water was found in this desolate place, he drank automatically, scarcely knowing what he did, the angels guiding him in all of this, for one does not easily survive in these wilds of Judea without taking care. In this state, however, he welcomed the stark bareness and the solitude, wishing no distraction from experiencing that greater Reality.

 

As a babe he had been born among gentle domesticated animals in their abode, but now having received his accolade he wandered among the savage beasts of the wilderness, who were less vicious in fact than their human relatives who dwelt in the palaces and offices of government. He slept beneath the brilliant stars in chill clear desert air and felt his own Light akin to those shining in the heavens.

 

For forty days and nights his fasting continued, as long ago both Moses and Elias had fasted for the same length of time, the number forty being held as sacred in Jewish antiquity.

 

Arabs in the seventh century named a certain mountain Jebel Quarantal, or Mount of the Forty Days, which rises 1,600 feet above the Jordan Valley toward Jericho -- and in that vicinity he may have passed some of this period. The desert has always held irresistible attraction for religious natures; all have passed through it at the threshold of the active life.

 

In that area are a desert and a mountain, uniting in its grandeur both austerity and majesty, where the rocks served as refuge. At its highest place above the world, frequented only by rock pigeons and eagles, is spread a dazzling panorama of sky, plain and sea.

 

When the forty days and nights had passed, there came a sultry red sun setting in the western sky and casting a ruddy glow over all the landscape.

 

In this thick and unreal atmosphere the devil appeared to Jesus. He was not in a flesh body, but appeared as solid as though indeed he were, for due to Jesus' long fast, he felt strangely weightless and lightheaded, his vision crystal clear. A great hunger had come upon him, and he suddenly felt an urgent need to return to peopled areas, where his work would now be laid out before him to do.

 

It was then the devil appeared, maliciously charming, to take advantage of circumstances propitious for breaking the will, for he was seeking to weaken and beguile Jesus to come away from his mission, as the serpent had once beguiled Eve.

 

Jesus in his spiritual strength was fully a match for strength of any other kind, and he never once lost control of the situation. For even as the Lord has a hard time helping those who fail to accept him, so is the devil also blocked by the refusal of acceptance.

 

The tempter approached Jesus and said, "If you are the Son of God command these stones to become bread." The devil was taunting him with the word "if," suggesting, "prove it." He pointed suggestively at the brown stones, which resembled round loaves of whole grain bread.

 

For forty days Jesus had heard God's statement echoing through his being, "This is My Beloved Son." He had done nothing about it yet, having just lived with the words, absorbing them.

 

Hungry as was his body at this moment with no relief in view, easy as both he and the devil knew it would have been for him to use the proclaimed authority to feed himself, Jesus saw the trap and had no intention of making the same mistake as Esau who had traded his birthright for a mess of food.

 

So he answered, "The Scripture says, 'Man cannot live by bread alone; but he must live by every word that is uttered from the mouth of God.' "

 

Having failed in his first simple test, the adversary made the next trap more difficult. For he took Jesus up into a high mountain place and in a flash showed him all the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of them.

He told Jesus, "I will give you dominion over all these things and all the glory that goes with it, if you will only fall down and worship me. For it is in my hands to give this to anyone I choose."

 

Jesus knew well what that would mean. He was quite unmoved by the temptation of material wealth and luxury; the harder part to resist was having all the world on his side, with all humanity knowing who he was and accepting him without argument.

 

For he well knew that if he were to become a world ruler to take the throne of the Judean kings and to drive the Romans out of Palestine, this would openly prove to the satisfaction of the Temple priests and all the Jews that he was the Messiah, whom they would then receive with open arms and he could have everything his way as long as he was on earth -- to teach the word of God without resistance. But certainly not in allegiance with the devil who fought against God. So he would have to travel by another way.

 

Jesus saw this now as only a human temptation, for God need not save His people by setting up temporal kingdoms, and the kingdom of heaven would not be established by creating a stronger kingdom on earth. Since this was Satan's way, to follow this plan would only make him the instrument of Satan -- not of God.

 

It was Jesus' mission rather to be a sovereign of souls and that not only of one race but of all races -- to preside over the invisible and universal Kingdom of God, far more real and lasting.

 

So Jesus answered, "Begone, Satan. For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.'

 

Then the adversary tried once more to tempt the pride of Jesus, daring him to make reckless use of his powers, and gamble with Spirit, to try God out and see if He would keep His promises.

 

So the devil took him in spirit to the Holy City of Jerusalem and set him on the highest parapet of the Temple, saying, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for Scripture says, 'He will command His angels to keep watch over you to keep you in all your ways, and they will bear you up in their hands lest you should strike your foot against a stone.' "

 

If Jesus had cast himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, this would have prefigured a fall from his Messianic commission and would have eventually removed him from his appointment which stood higher than any of the Levitical priesthood serving within the Temple. Even if the angels had saved his vehicle, the voluntary act would have meant spiritual undoing. But Jesus would not be led astray and answered him, "Again it is written that you shall not tempt the Lord your God."

 

There was still another reason why Jesus had to be tempted, as we read in the fourth chapter of Hebrews: In Jesus, the Son of God, "We have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who was tempted with everything as we are, and yet without sin."

 

Was it necessary that the Messiah, the begotten Son of God, should be put on trial? Yes, because he was standing in for man, who would also have to face similar experiences later on.

 

For the temptation is a necessary step unto everyone on the spiritual ladder, and each must undergo some kind of test to find out if his innermost desires could still lead him aside into using newly-acquired spiritual powers for serving himself rather than God.

He is placed subtly on trial to test his worthiness to go on, before he is fully permitted to assume such power, the human and the divine in man struggling for mastery.

 

Moreover, one who is able to pass through this trying period unscathed and undeceived, who resists any enticements to turn aside, gains within himself firmness and certainty by so doing and knows he has truly mastered former weaknesses and has the ability to carry forward his mission.

 

If one persistently looks at or listens to the evils that beset his life, he gives power to them by attention. But if he persistently looks upon the good, staring straight through the false outer layer, he gives life to that instead, causing the devil to lose his power from lack of sustaining belief.

 

Satan had not overlooked the possibility of getting the Son of God on his side, for here was the greatest prize which had ever come to earth, and what power he might have against God if he could get the Son on his side.

 

On the other hand, if Jesus succeeded he would pose the greatest possible threat to Satan and his kingdom, and this could not be left to pass unchallenged. When all his choicest offerings had failed to interest the newly-crowned Prince, and he had used up all his temptations, the adversary departed, biding his time, waiting another likely opportunity. And the Lord Jesus had proven his mastery over flesh, ambition and pride.

 

Spiritual study of the Gospels reveals that the events in the life of Christ Jesus, from the Annunciation to his Ascension, are the same steps of progress that lead every aspirant to the higher life.

 

These steps may be enumerated in the following way:

1. Annunciation

2. Immaculate Conception

3. Birth

Angels

Presentation at Temple (41 days)

Magi

4. Flight into Egypt

Massacre (many died for one)

Death of Herod

Return to Nazareth

5. Teaching in the Temple

Years between 12 and 30

6. Baptism

7. Temptation

8. Transfiguration

9. Gethsemane

10. Crucifixion (one died for many)

11. Resurrection

12. Ascension

 

There is a correlation between the twelve initiations and the twelve signs of the zodiac, but no need to study those here.

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