The public career begins

In whatever way they were occupied, the years of obscurity ended abruptly. Jesus' kinsman, John the Baptist, had become the centre of a religious awakening which deeply moved the region. An ascetic, he denounced the sins of those about him, spoke of imminent judgment with reward for the righteous and destruction for the wicked, urged repentance, and on the confession of their sins baptized the penitents in the Jordan. He gathered disciples about him, leading them in fasting and teaching them methods of prayer.

Jesus came to John and was baptized by him. The motive for that step is not clear, but John is represented as reluctant, declaring, perhaps on the basis of knowledge acquired through earlier contact, that he should be baptized by Jesus. Whatever his reason in seeking baptism, to Jesus the experience was profound. We can only conjecture its full meaning to him, but from the accounts which have come to us it at least brought a deepened realization of the significance of his sonship to God.

So soul-shaking was that day that immediately Jesus felt impelled to seek solitude, there to wrestle with the issues which it presented to him. So absorbed was he that, whether through preoccupation or deliberate choice, he did not eat. What seems to have been the climax were three urges which as he faced them he came to recognize as tempta tions. His mind was one which thought in pictures, as his parables witness, and these testings, as he narrated them later to his intimates — for they could have become known in no other way — were presented to him in that characteristic form. Should he use his power as God's son to meet his own physical needs? Should he seek in some startling fashion to test God's protecting power, expecting exemption from whatever disastrous results would normally follow foolhardy action, thereby seeking to convince the gaping multitude of his unique mission? Should he compromise his principles to gain earthly dominion and thus establish his righteous rule? He faced the urges, appraised them, and rejected them.

Again and again Jesus later met situations which confronted him with one or another of these issues in various forms, bur at the outset of his public career he had seen once for all what was involved and he never wavered from the decisions then made. He refused to be an agent of the multitude's wishes for easy food, he rejected the repeated demand that he demonstrate the authenticity of his mission by a "sign" wrought especially for the purpose, and he would have nothing to do with political methods.

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