Audio October 2, 2012
Elder Eyring, “The Caregiver,” Relief Society General Broadcast, Sept 2012.
If you read all the chapters on the schedule, you will have read the entire New Testament by the time we finish. Last week Diane brought us to the birth of Jesus Christ. Assume you know the story, could probably recite it by heart from Luke 2, Matthew 2 : Bethlehem, the Star, the Angel, the Shepherds, the Magi, the flight to Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents.
And then the childhood, and early adult life of Jesus.
So with wonder and awe at the most important thing that ever happened on this planet – the birth into mortality, and the life and eventual death of the Son of God – let’s dive in.
Ceasar Augustus was a “capable, energetic ruler” who ruled from 31 B.C. to A.D. 14. His reign was marked by order and law, and financial reform. In 1 B.C. he ordered a general “taxing” of the Roman Empire. It was actually a registering of persons, a census of Roman subjects as a basis to tax different peoples. Usually, it was done at the town of residence, but Jewish custom, for which the Roman’s had respect, was to register at their ancestral and tribal homes. (Jesus the Christ, 91-92).
Mary is nine months pregnant. They are in Nazareth, the region of Galilee, in the North, and had to go south 80-90 miles to Bethlehem, in Judea. MAP.
About Bethlehem: PROPHECIES There were three prophecies that declared from where the Messiah would come and Matthew quotes all three: Micah 5:2 “But thou, Beth-lehem…though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel…” (Matthew 2:5-6 – quotes Micah loosely – “…for thus it is written…” Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” (nation of Israel, but also Jesus). (Matthew 2:15 – quotes Isaiah – “…that it might be fulfilled…” Isaiah 9:1 More obtusely in – “…in Galilee of the nations.” (Matthew 2:23 – “…fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”) More direct prophecy lost.
All 3 turned out to be correct. To Matthew this proved the sovereignty of Christ.
ROYAL Bethlehem was rich in tradition, was the beginning of the royal stream. David: 1 Samuel 16: 11 “the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep…” 16:18: “…a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite…” Ruth: Here that Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz.
‘Inn’ the English translation for what was really a “caravansary” or “khan.”
“A khan is a low structure, built of rough stones, and generally only a single story in height. It consists for the most part of a square enclosure, in which the cattle can be tied up in safety for the night, and an arched recess for the accommodation of travellers. The ‘leewan,’ or paved floor of the recess, is raised a foot or two above the level of the courtyard.” Farrar, 33.
Christ’s birth in a cave is a very ancient tradition – written of as early as A.D. 150. Animals would have been in the back, the travelers in the front.
If the leewan was occupied, a traveler would have to go to the courtyard with the animals- filthy, smelly, hot, crowded, pariah dogs. You can imagine.
Was here that Mary delivered Jesus. And the shepherds came, having been told by an angel, probably Gabriel, “good tidings of great joy.” Mosiah 3:3 (angel to King Benjamin) “I am come to declare you unto the glad tidings of great joy.” What were the good and glad tidings? Mosiah 3:3-8 …” tabernacle of clay, miracles, called Jesus Christ…”
And then a multitude, a MULTITUDE praised God and said: (Luke 2:14)”Glory to God in the highest…”
As long as we are pausing. A brief comment on the Angel Gabriel. Luke 1:19 “…I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee…” Luke 1:26 “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin…” Luke2:10 “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord…”
Only two angels are named in the scriptures: Gabriel – “man of God,” “mighty man of God,” “the hero of God.” Michael – “who is like God?” In the Aprocrypha: Raphael – “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand in attendance on the Lord and enter his glorious presence.” Tobit 12:15 Uriel
Gabriel one of the seven archangels who stand in the presence of God. The seven “spirits” in Revelation. Apocrypha: Those books outside the Hebrew canon. Many written in Hebrew. 27 in the Septuagint – the Greek version of the Old Testament made for the Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt. D&C 91:1-5 “many things in..are true, mostly translated correctly, many not true, whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom.”
Joseph Smith said Gabriel was Noah, next in authority to Adam in Priesthood, father of all living in this day. He held the keys on earth, then in heaven. (Teachings, 157).
Daniel 7 Daniel has a dream/vision. Daniel 8 Daniel has a second vision. Daniel 8:15 a voice tells Gabriel to “make this man (Daniel) to understand the vision.” Daniel 8:16 Daniel is passed out on the ground. Gabriel touches him, sets him upright. Daniel 9:21 Daniel in prayer supplication for Israel for mercy. “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel… being caused to fly swiftly, touched me…” Daniel 9:22-23 “And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved…”
Many fascinating things: –Touch (talk about another time) -Wants Daniel on his feet. -“the commandment came forth…” -caused to fly there swiftly Last thing is this: Angels observe us. “…for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” 1Cor 4:9.
It was a dark time for the House of Israel, preceding Christ’s birth, as we talked about last week.
Rabban Simeon, the son of Gamaliel (teacher of St. Paul): “The dew of blessing falls not on us, and our fruits have no taste.”
Niebuhr said it was an age which was “effete with the drunkenness of crime.” (Farrar, 51). (American theologian, died 1970) In a gold sarcophagus, studded with jewels, in the Cathedral of Cologne (12 B.C.), are the relics of the Three Wisemen – their skulls, each circled with its crown of jeweled gold, and their clothing. (I Googled it.)
The wise men never go back to Herod. Herod a cunning, cruel man, afraid of the prophecies. Had already murdered his sons, his wife he loved, almost the entire Sanhedrin, many others. Josephus: “Safer to be Herod’s pig than his son.” (He couldn’t eat pigs.)
Joseph warned in a dream to flee to Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-14) (Not in Luke). Egypt could be reached in three days. It then included the Sinai Penninsula. Under Roman rule, not Herod’s.
Herod orders all the children under two years of age in Bethlehem and its ‘coasts’ to be slain. (Matthew 2:16) Probably about 20 children. Called the “Slaughter of the Innocents.”
Matthew then quotes Jeremiah: (Jeremiah 31:15) Matthew 2:18 “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” Jeremiah 31:15: “refused to be comforted because they were not.”
Ramah is an Ephraimite town, 8 miles north from Jerusalem. Rachel, wife of Isaac, buried at Ramah. When Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, trains of Jewish captives were led by Rachel’s tomb. Jeremiah has Rachel weeping for them. Matthew applies Jeremiah’s words to the ‘slaughter of the innocents.’
For Jeremiah, Ramah was our world. The cry heard in Ramah is the voice of the world weeping. And it is also a type for God weeping over his children. WHAT IS MATTHEW DOING HERE WHAT IS HE HINTING AT?
WORDWORTH: “…the burden of the mystery…of all this unintelligible world.” (“Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.”
No logic can explain the slaughter by Herod. There is no comfort for some losses. Some say that sorrow purifies and refines your life. But: “for sorrow, in itself and unredeemed, is not purification, but death.” (Int. Bible, 261).
Luke 2:21 Jesus given a name, and circumcised – an outward sign of the covenant God made with his people: Gen. 17:7 “to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Pointed to circumcision of the heart. His name in Hebrew was Yeshua, literally ‘Jehovah is salvation,’ the name given by Gabriel. (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31.)
Mary, obedient to the Law of Moses, then waits through a 40 day period of purification (Leviticus 12,) after which they take the baby Jesus to Jerusalem for the sacrifices required for a male that opens the womb.
We have really only two verses and one incident about the childhood of Jesus. They are both in Luke.
The incident, of course, is Jesus, at twelve, in the Temple.
But let’s go first to Luke 2:40 “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”
This is a verse encapsulating his childhood, and all that we have until he is twelve. In the pre-mortal world, Jesus was as “one like unto God,” (Abr. 3:24) and “more intelligent than they all,” (Abr. 3:19). But , as Joseph Fielding Smith said, Jesus came into the world like the rest of us and had forgotten everything. (Life and Teachings, 24).
Isaiah 53:2 “For he shall grow up…as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground…” Phil. 2:7 “…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”
In other words, he was very much like the children of his time. He grew up in a pious home, with the scriptures being what he breathed. The first thing he would have learned when he began to talk would have been the ‘Shema’ – “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one God…” (Deut 5:4-6). Mark 12:29 He would have learned hymns from the Psalms, and begun his Torah education at 5, beginning with Leviticus.
Although he had brothers (4) and sisters, and although he no doubt would have known his cousin, John, only 6 months older, we have to think he would have been alone a lot – in solitude “the audience chamber of God.” (Farrar, 100).
You can imagine his house, white, with doves on the roof, colorful rugs, water-jars of red clay near the door, vines growing. Simple food. Not much.
Farrar gives a beautiful description, saying he would have grown up in the quiet, obscure and insignificant town of Nazareth, in utter stillness, prayerfulness, and the quiet round of living – like Moses in the Wilderness, David with his sheep, Elijah among the tents of the Bedoun, Jeremiah in Anathoth. (Farrar, 73).
But of course, that is where we all are. Where “myriads of the beloved of God are to be found, among the insignificant and obscure.” (Farrar, 89). “Our real existence in the sight of God is in our inner life and not in the outer life.” (Farrar, 88). In the quality of our soul.
And so, in Galilee, God placed his Son, the place he chose to be a training school for the Savior of the world. The place where the rabbis say to Nicodemus : “…for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” (John 7:41,52)
But here the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom.
Of the next 18 years, before he began his ministry, at 30 (as John did) (Numbers 4:3,4) we really only have one word: Mark 6:3 “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…” (Joseph dead). He was a carpenter.
And we have the final verse in Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, TO BE IN FAVOUR WITH MAN? (we could talk about stature and wisdom)
Remember it says “the common people heard him gladly.” (Mark 12:37)
Talk about this a lot later in the gospels, but this is something he must have learned in his youth.
People were drawn to him. When his enemies wanted to slander him, they did it by exaggerating his zest for life (“a man gluttonous and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” Matt 11:19). Although I think everything he did was purposeful).
Jesus wasn’t an aloof ascetic. He liked familiar contacts with people. He liked sitting down to eat with them. So often in the Gospels we read of him going to this home or that house to eat.
For him, the life of the spirit, the spiritual life included the “bright enjoyment of this world.”
I read this: “All life ought to be baptized into a larger meaning.” (Int. Bible, Luke 69).
Of all people, he was awake to the wonder and awe of everything around him. Of all people, he knew something fearful was coming, but retained his joy , (but increasingly layered with anger at dishonesty and corruption).
Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased…” HE GREW.
HOW DO WE INCREASE? HOW DO WE GROW?
Joseph Smith said we grow “from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace…” (Teachings, 346-47).
D&C 93:12-13 “And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but continued from grace to grace…until he received a fulness.”
In Luke 2:40 “And the child grew…” These words in Greek imply a course of growth in wisdom, not implying a finished or permanent result. (Farrar 78).
We are all works in progress. RACHEL REMEN says “Human being” is more a verb than a noun. (Kitchen Table, 223).
We can’t judge something until it is finished.
Jesus was sinless, but he was tempted and had to make choices. He was tempted so that he could “succor them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18.