John the Baptist was one of a Long Line of Teachers of Truth
From Moses to John the Baptist there extended an unbroken line of faithful teachers who passed the monotheistic torch of light from one generation
to another while they unceasingly rebuked unscrupulous rulers, denounced commercializing priests, and ever exhorted the people to adhere to the
worship of the supreme Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel. ~ The Urantia Book,
Gabriel Appears to Elizabeth, John's Mother
Jesus' lifework on Urantia was really begun by John the Baptist. Zacharias, John's
father, belonged to the Jewish priesthood, while his mother,
Elizabeth, was a member of the more prosperous branch of the same large family group to which Mary the mother of Jesus also belonged. Zacharias and Elizabeth, though they had been married many years, were childless.
It was late in the month of June, 8 B.C., about three months after the marriage of Joseph and Mary, that Gabriel appeared to Elizabeth at noontide one day, just as he later made his presence known to Mary. Said Gabriel:
"While your husband, Zacharias, stands before the altar in Jerusalem, and while the assembled people pray for the coming of a deliverer, I, Gabriel, have come to announce that you will
shortly bear a son who shall be the forerunner of this divine teacher, and you shall call your son John. He will grow up dedicated to the Lord your
God, and when he has come to full years, he will gladden your heart because he will turn many souls to God, and he will also proclaim the coming of the soul-healer of your people and the spirit-liberator of all mankind. Your
kinswoman Mary shall be the mother of this child of promise, and I will also appear to her."
This vision greatly frightened Elizabeth. After Gabriel's departure she turned this experience over in her mind, long pondering the sayings of the
majestic visitor, but did not speak of the revelation to anyone save her husband until her
subsequent visit with Mary in early February of the following year.
For five months, however, Elizabeth withheld her secret even from her husband. Upon her disclosure of the story of Gabriel's visit, Zacharias was
very skeptical and for weeks doubted the entire experience, only consenting halfheartedly to believe in Gabriel's visit to his wife when he could no
longer question that she was expectant with child. Zacharias was very much perplexed regarding the prospective motherhood of Elizabeth, but he did not doubt the integrity of his wife, notwithstanding his
own advanced age. It was not until about six weeks before John's birth that Zacharias, as the result of an impressive dream, became fully convinced
that Elizabeth was to become the mother of a son of destiny, one who was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.
Gabriel appeared to Mary about the middle of November, 8 B.C., while she was at work in her Nazareth home. Later on, after Mary knew without doubt that she was to become a mother, she persuaded Joseph
to let her journey to the City of Judah, four miles
west of Jerusalem, in the hills, to visit Elizabeth. Gabriel had informed each of these mothers-to-be of his appearance to the other. Naturally they
were anxious to get together, compare experiences, and talk over the probable futures of their sons. Mary remained with her distant cousin for three weeks. Elizabeth did much to strengthen Mary's faith in the vision of Gabriel, so that
she returned home more fully dedicated to the call to mother the child of destiny whom she was so soon to present to the world as a helpless babe, an
average and normal infant of the realm.
John was born in the City of Judah, March 25, 7 B.C. Zacharias and Elizabeth rejoiced greatly in the realization that a son had come to them as
Gabriel had promised, and when on the eighth day they presented the child for circumcision, they formally christened him John, as they had been
directed aforetime. Already had a nephew of Zacharias departed for Nazareth, carrying the message of Elizabeth to Mary proclaiming that a son had been
born to her and that his name was to be John.
From his earliest infancy John was judiciously impressed by his parents with the idea that he was to grow up to become a spiritual leader and
religious teacher. And the soil of John's heart was ever responsive to the sowing of such suggestive seeds. Even as a child he was found frequently at
the temple during the seasons of his father's service, and he was tremendously impressed with the significance of all that he saw. ~ The Urantia
The Mortal Career of John the Baptist
John's Birth and Childhood
JOHN THE BAPTIST was born March 25, 7 B.C., in accordance with the promise that Gabriel made to Elizabeth in June of the previous year. For five
months Elizabeth kept secret Gabriel's visitation; and when she told her husband, Zacharias, he was greatly troubled and fully believed her narrative
only after he had an unusual dream about six weeks before the birth of John. Excepting the visit of Gabriel to Elizabeth and the dream of Zacharias,
there was nothing unusual or supernatural connected with the birth of John the Baptist.
On the eighth day John was circumcised according to the Jewish custom. He grew up as an ordinary child, day by day and year by year, in the small
village known in those days as the City of Judah, about four miles west of Jerusalem.
The most eventful occurrence in John's early childhood was the visit, in company
with his parents, to Jesus and the Nazareth family. This visit occurred in the month of June, 1 B.C., when he was a little over six years of age.
After their return from Nazareth John's parents began the systematic education of the
lad. There was no synagogue school in this little village;
however, as he was a priest, Zacharias was fairly well educated, and Elizabeth was far better educated than the average Judean woman; she was also of the priesthood, being a descendant of
the "daughters of Aaron." Since John was an only child, they spent a great deal of time on his mental and spiritual training. Zacharias had only short
periods of service at the temple in Jerusalem so that he devoted much of his time to teaching his son.
Zacharias and Elizabeth had a small farm on which they raised sheep. They hardly made a living on this land, but Zacharias received a regular
allowance from the temple funds dedicated to the priesthood. ~ The Urantia Book, (135:0.1)
John Becomes a Nazarite
John had no school from which to graduate at the age of fourteen, but his parents had selected this as the appropriate year for him to take the
formal Nazarite vow. Accordingly, Zacharias and Elizabeth took their son to Engedi, down by the Dead Sea. This
was the southern headquarters of the Nazarite brotherhood, and there the lad was duly and solemnly inducted into this order for life. After these
ceremonies and the making of the vows to abstain from all intoxicating drinks, to let the hair grow, and to refrain from touching the dead, the family
proceeded to Jerusalem, where, before the temple, John completed the making of the offerings which were required of those taking Nazarite vows.
John took the same life vows that had been administered to his illustrious predecessors, Samson and the prophet Samuel. A life Nazarite was looked
upon as a sanctified and holy personality. The Jews regarded a Nazarite with almost the respect and veneration accorded the high priest, and this was not
strange since Nazarites of lifelong consecration were the only persons, except high priests, who were ever permitted to enter the holy of holies in
John returned home from Jerusalem to tend his father's sheep and grew up
to be a strong man with a noble character.
When sixteen years old, John, as a result of reading about Elijah, became greatly impressed with the prophet of Mount Carmel and decided to adopt
his style of dress. From that day on John always wore a hairy garment with a leather girdle. At sixteen he was more than six feet tall and almost full
grown. With his flowing hair and peculiar mode of dress he was indeed a picturesque youth. And his parents expected great things of this their only
son, a child of promise and a Nazarite for life. ~ The Urantia Book, (135:1.1)
The Death of Zacharias, John's Father
After an illness of several months Zacharias died in July, A.D. 12, when John was just past eighteen years of age. This was a time of great
embarrassment to John since the Nazarite vow forbade contact with the dead, even in one's own family. Although John had endeavored to comply with the
restrictions of his vow regarding contamination by the dead, he doubted that he had been wholly obedient to the requirements of the Nazarite order;
therefore, after his father's burial he went to Jerusalem, where, in the Nazarite corner of the women's court, he offered the sacrifices required for
In September of this year Elizabeth and John made a journey to Nazareth to visit Mary and Jesus. John had just about made up his mind to launch out
in his lifework, but he was admonished, not only by Jesus' words but also by his example, to return home, take care of his mother, and await the "coming of the Father's hour." After bidding Jesus and Mary good-bye at the end of this enjoyable visit, John did not again see
Jesus until the event of his baptism in the Jordan.
John and Elizabeth returned to their home and began to lay plans for the future. Since John refused to accept the priest's allowance due him from
the temple funds, by the end of two years they had all but lost their home; so they decided to go south with the sheep herd. Accordingly, the summer
that John was twenty years of age witnessed their removal to Hebron. In the so-called "wilderness of Judea" John tended his sheep along a brook that was tributary to a larger stream
which entered the Dead Sea at Engedi.The Engedi colony included not only Nazarites of lifelong
and time-period consecration but numerous other ascetic herdsmen who congregated in this region with their herds and fraternized with the Nazarite
brotherhood. They supported themselves by sheep raising and from gifts which wealthy Jews made to the order.
As time passed, John returned less often to Hebron, while he made more frequent visits to Engedi. He was so entirely different from the majority of the Nazarites that he found it very difficult fully
to fraternize with the brotherhood. But he was very fond of Abner, the acknowledged leader and head of the Engedi colony. ~ The Urantia Book,
John's Life as a Shepherd
Along the valley of this little brook John built no less than a dozen stone shelters and night corrals, consisting of piled-up stones, wherein he
could watch over and safeguard his herds of sheep and goats. John's life as a shepherd afforded him a great deal of time for thought. He talked much
with Ezda, an orphan lad of Beth-zur, whom he had in a way adopted, and who cared for the herds when he made trips to Hebron to see his mother and to
sell sheep, as well as when he went down to Engedi for
Sabbath services. John and the lad lived very simply, subsisting on mutton, goat's milk, wild honey, and the edible locusts of that region. This,
their regular diet, was supplemented by provisions brought from Hebron and Engedi from time to time.
Elizabeth kept John posted about Palestinian and world affairs, and his conviction grew deeper and deeper that the time was fast approaching when
the old order was to end; that he was to become the herald of the approach of a new age, "the kingdom of heaven." This rugged shepherd was very partial to the writings of the Prophet Daniel. He read a thousand times Daniel's
description of the great image, which Zacharias had told him represented the history of the great kingdoms of the world, beginning with Babylon, then Persia, Greece, and finally Rome. John perceived that already was Rome composed of such polyglot peoples and races that it could never become a strongly
cemented and firmly consolidated empire. He believed that Rome was even then divided, as Syria, Egypt, Palestine, and other provinces; and then he further read "in
the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And this kingdom shall not be left to other people
but shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." "And there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom that
all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting
dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom never shall be destroyed." "And the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under
the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of
the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him."
John was never able completely to rise above the confusion produced by what he had heard from his parents concerning Jesus and by these passages
which he read in the Scripture. In Daniel he read: "I saw in
the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom." But these words of the prophet did not harmonize with what
his parents had taught him. Neither did his talk with Jesus, at the time of his visit when he was eighteen years old, correspond with these statements
of the Scriptures. Notwithstanding this confusion, throughout all of his perplexity his mother assured him that his distant cousin, Jesus of Nazareth,
was the true Messiah, that he had come to sit on the throne of David, and that he (John) was to become his advance herald and chief support.
From all John heard of the vice and wickedness of Rome and the dissoluteness and moral barrenness of the empire, from what he knew of the evil
doings of Herod Antipas and the governors of Judea, he was minded to believe that the end of the age was impending. It seemed to this rugged and noble
child of nature that the world was ripe for the end of the age of man and the dawn of the new and divine age—the kingdom of heaven. The feeling grew in John's heart that he was to be the last of the old
prophets and the first of the new. And he fairly vibrated with the mounting impulse to go forth and proclaim to all men: "Repent! Get right with God!
Get ready for the end; prepare yourselves for the appearance of the new and eternal order of earth affairs, the kingdom of heaven." ~ The Urantia
The Death of Elizabeth, John's Mother
On August 17, A.D. 22, when John was twenty-eight years of age, his mother suddenly passed away. Elizabeth's friends, knowing of the Nazarite
restrictions regarding contact with the dead, even in one's own family, made all arrangements for the burial of Elizabeth before sending for John.
When he received word of the death of his mother, he directed Ezda to drive his herds to Engedi and started for Hebron.
On returning to Engedi from his mother's funeral, he
presented his flocks to the brotherhood and for a season detached himself from the outside world while he fasted and prayed. John knew only of the old
methods of approach to divinity; he knew only of the records of such as Elijah, Samuel, and Daniel. Elijah was his ideal of a prophet. Elijah was the
first of the teachers of Israel to
be regarded as a prophet, and John truly believed that he was to be the last of this long and illustrious line of the messengers of heaven.
For two and a half years John lived at Engedi, and he
persuaded most of the brotherhood that "the end of the age was at hand"; that "the kingdom of
heaven was about to appear." And all his early teaching was based upon the current Jewish idea and concept of the Messiah as the promised
deliverer of the Jewish nation from the domination of their gentile rulers.
Throughout this period John read much in the sacred writings which he found at the Engedi home of the Nazarites. He was especially impressed by Isaiah and by Malachi, the last of the prophets up to that time.
He read and reread the last five chapters of Isaiah, and he believed these prophecies. Then he would read in Malachi: "Behold, I will send you Elijah
the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers toward the children and the
hearts of the children toward their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." And it was only this promise of Malachi that Elijah would
return that deterred John from going forth to preach about the coming kingdom and to exhort his fellow Jews to flee from the wrath to come. John was
ripe for the proclamation of the message of the coming kingdom, but this expectation of the coming of Elijah held him back for more than two years. He
knew he was not Elijah. What did Malachi mean? Was the prophecy literal or figurative? How could he know the truth? He finally dared to think that,
since the first of the prophets was called Elijah, so the last should be known, eventually, by the same name. Nevertheless, he had doubts, doubts
sufficient to prevent his ever calling himself Elijah.
It was the influence of Elijah that caused John to adopt his methods of direct and blunt assault upon the sins and vices of his contemporaries. He
sought to dress like Elijah, and he endeavored to talk like Elijah; in every outward aspect he was like the olden prophet. He was just such a stalwart
and picturesque child of nature, just such a fearless and daring preacher of righteousness. John was not illiterate, he did well know the Jewish
sacred writings, but he was hardly cultured. He was a clear thinker, a powerful speaker, and a fiery denunciator. He was hardly an example to his age,
but he was an eloquent rebuke.
At last he thought out the method of proclaiming the new age, the kingdom of God; he settled that he was to become the herald of the Messiah; he
swept aside all doubts and departed from Engedi one day in
March of A.D. 25 to begin his short but brilliant career as a public preacher. ~ The Urantia Book, (135:4.1)
John as Regards the Kingdom of God
In order to understand John's message, account should be taken of the status of the Jewish people at the time he appeared upon the stage of action.
For almost one hundred years all Israel had been in a quandary; they were at a loss to explain their continuous subjugation to gentile overlords. Had
not Moses taught that righteousness was always rewarded with prosperity and power? Were they not God's chosen people? Why was the throne of David
desolate and vacant? In the light of the Mosaic doctrines and the precepts of the prophets the Jews found it difficult to explain their long-continued
About one hundred years before the days of Jesus and John a new school of religious teachers arose in Palestine, the apocalyptists. These new
teachers evolved a system of belief that accounted for the sufferings and humiliation of the Jews on the ground that they were paying the penalty for
the nation's sins. They fell back onto the well-known reasons assigned to explain the Babylonian and other captivities of former times. But, so taught the apocalyptists, Israel should take heart;
the days of their affliction were almost over; the discipline of God's chosen people was
about finished; God's patience with the gentile foreigners was about exhausted. The end
of Roman rule was synonymous with the end of the age and, in a certain sense, with the end of the world. These new teachers leaned heavily on the
predictions of Daniel, and they consistently taught that creation was about to pass into its final stage; the kingdoms of this world were about to
become the kingdom of God. To the Jewish mind of that day this was the meaning of that phrase—the kingdom of heaven—which runs throughout the teachings of both John and Jesus. To the Jews of Palestine the phrase "kingdom of heaven"
had but one meaning: an absolutely righteous state in which God (the Messiah) would rule the nations of earth in perfection of power just as he ruled
in heaven —"Your will be done on earth as in heaven."
In the days of John all Jews were expectantly asking, "How soon will the kingdom come?" There was a general feeling that the end of the rule of the
gentile nations was drawing near. There was present throughout all Jewry a lively hope and a keen expectation that the consummation of the desire of
the ages would occur during the lifetime of that generation.
While the Jews differed greatly in their estimates of the nature of the coming kingdom, they were alike in their belief that the event was
impending, near at hand, even at the door. Many who read the Old Testament literally looked expectantly for a new king in Palestine, for a regenerated Jewish nation delivered from its
enemies and presided over by the successor of King David, the Messiah who would quickly be acknowledged as the rightful and righteous ruler of all the world. Another, though smaller,
group of devout Jews held a vastly different view of this kingdom of God. They taught that the coming kingdom was not of this world, that the world
was approaching its certain end, and that "a new heaven and a new earth" were to usher in the establishment of the kingdom of God; that this kingdom
was to be an everlasting dominion, that sin was to be ended, and that the citizens of the
new kingdom were to become immortal in their enjoyment of this endless bliss.
All were agreed that some drastic purging or purifying discipline would of necessity precede the establishment of the new kingdom on earth. The
literalists taught that a world-wide war would ensue which would destroy all unbelievers, while the faithful would sweep on to universal and eternal
victory. The spiritists taught that the kingdom would be ushered in by the great judgment of God which would relegate the unrighteous to their well-
deserved judgment of punishment and final destruction, at the same time elevating the believing saints of the chosen people to high seats of honor and
authority with the Son of Man, who would rule over the redeemed nations in God's name. And this latter group even believed that many devout gentiles
might be admitted to the fellowship of the new kingdom.
Some of the Jews held to the opinion that God might possibly establish this new kingdom by direct and divine intervention, but the vast majority
believed that he would interpose some representative intermediary, the Messiah. And that was the only possible meaning the term Messiah could have had
in the minds of the Jews of the generation of John and Jesus. Messiah could not possibly refer to one who merely taught God's will or proclaimed the necessity for righteous living. To all such holy persons the
Jews gave the title of prophet. The Messiah was to be more than a prophet; the Messiah was to bring in the establishment of the new kingdom, the
kingdom of God. No one who failed to do this could be the Messiah in the traditional Jewish sense.
Who would this Messiah be? Again the Jewish teachers differed. The older ones clung to the doctrine of the son of David. The newer taught that,
since the new kingdom was a heavenly kingdom, the new ruler might also be a divine personality, one who had long sat at God's right hand in heaven. And strange as it may appear, those who thus conceived of the ruler
of the new kingdom looked upon him not as a human Messiah, not as a mere man, but as "the Son of Man"—a Son of God—a heavenly Prince, long held in
waiting thus to assume the rulership of the earth made new. Such was the religious background of the Jewish world when John went forth proclaiming:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
It becomes apparent, therefore, that John's announcement of the coming kingdom had not less than half a dozen different meanings in the minds of
those who listened to his impassioned preaching. But no matter what significance they attached to the phrases which John employed, each of these
various groups of Jewish-kingdom expectants was intrigued by the proclamations of this sincere, enthusiastic, rough-and-ready preacher of
righteousness and repentance, who so solemnly exhorted his hearers to "flee from the wrath to come." ~ The Urantia Book, (135:5.1)
John Begins to Preach And Baptize
Early in the month of March, A.D. 25, John journeyed around the western coast of the Dead Sea and up the river Jordan to opposite Jericho, the
ancient ford over which Joshua and the children of Israel passed when they first entered the promised land; and crossing over to the other side of the
river, he established himself near the entrance to the ford and began to preach to the people who passed by on their way back and forth across the
river. This was the most frequented of all the Jordan crossings.
It was apparent to all who heard John that he was more than a preacher. The great majority of those who listened to this strange man who had come
up from the Judean wilderness went away believing that they had heard the voice of a prophet. No wonder the souls of these weary and expectant Jews were deeply stirred by such a phenomenon. Never in
all Jewish history had the devout children of Abraham so longed for the "consolation of Israel" or more ardently anticipated "the restoration of the
kingdom." Never in all Jewish history could John's message, "the kingdom of heaven is at
hand," have made such a deep and universal appeal as at the very time he so mysteriously appeared on the bank of this southern crossing of the Jordan.
He came from the herdsmen, like Amos. He was dressed like Elijah of old, and he thundered his admonitions and poured forth his warnings in the
"spirit and power of Elijah." It is not surprising that this strange preacher created a mighty stir throughout all Palestine as the travelers carried
abroad the news of his preaching along the Jordan.
There was still another and a new feature about the work of this Nazarite preacher: He baptized every one of his believers in the Jordan "for the
remission of sins." Although baptism was not a new ceremony among the Jews, they had never seen it employed as John now made use of it. It had long
been the practice thus to baptize the gentile proselytes into the fellowship of the outer court of the temple, but never had the Jews themselves been
asked to submit to the baptism of repentance. Only fifteen months intervened between the time John began to preach and baptize and his arrest and
imprisonment at the instigation of Herod Antipas, but in this short time he baptized considerably over one hundred thousand penitents.
John preached four months at Bethany ford before
starting north up the Jordan. Tens of thousands of listeners, some curious but many earnest and serious, came to hear him from all parts of Judea, Perea, and Samaria.
Even a few came from Galilee.
In May of this year, while he still lingered at Bethany ford, the priests and Levites sent a delegation out to inquire of John whether he claimed to be the Messiah, and by whose authority he preached.
John answered these questioners by saying: "Go tell your masters that you have heard `the voice of one crying in the wilderness,' as spoken by the
prophet, saying, `make ready the way of the Lord, make straight a highway for our God. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall
be brought low; the uneven ground shall become a plain, while the rough places shall become a smooth valley; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
John was a heroic but tactless
preacher. One day when he was preaching and baptizing on the west bank of the Jordan, a group of Pharisees and a number of Sadducees came forward and presented themselves for baptism. Before leading them down into the water, John, addressing them
as a group said: "Who warned you to flee, as vipers before the fire, from the wrath to come? I will baptize you, but I warn you to bring forth fruit
worthy of sincere repentance if you would receive the remission of your sins. Tell me not that Abraham is your father. I declare that God is able of
these twelve stones here before you to raise up worthy children for Abraham. And even now is the ax laid to the very roots of the trees. Every tree
that brings not forth good fruit is destined to be cut down and cast into the fire." (The twelve stones to which he referred were the reputed memorial
stones set up by Joshua to commemorate the crossing of the "twelve tribes" at this very point when they first entered the promised land.)
John conducted classes for his disciples, in the course of which he instructed them in the details of their new life and endeavored to answer their
many questions. He counseled the teachers to instruct in the spirit as well as the letter of the law. He instructed the rich to feed the poor; to the
tax gatherers he said: "Extort no more than that which is assigned you." To the soldiers he said: "Do no violence and exact nothing wrongfully—be
content with your wages." While he counseled all: "Make ready for the end of the age—the kingdom of heaven is at hand." ~ The Urantia Book, (135:6.1)
John Journeys North Up the Jordan, Baptizing as he Went
John still had confused ideas about the coming kingdom and its king. The longer he preached the more confused he became, but never did this
intellectual uncertainty concerning the nature of the coming kingdom in the least lessen his conviction of the certainty of the kingdom's immediate
appearance. In mind John might be confused, but in spirit never. He was in no doubt about the coming kingdom, but he was far from certain as to
whether or not Jesus was to be the ruler of that kingdom. As long as John held to the idea
of the restoration of the throne of David, the teachings of his parents that Jesus, born in the City of David, was to be the long-expected deliverer,
seemed consistent; but at those times when he leaned more toward the doctrine of a spiritual kingdom and the end of the temporal age on earth, he was
sorely in doubt as to the part Jesus would play in such events. Sometimes he questioned everything, but not for long. He really wished he might talk
it all over with his cousin, but that was contrary to their expressed agreement.
As John journeyed north, he thought much about Jesus. He paused at more than a dozen places as he traveled up the Jordan. It was at Adam that he
first made reference to "another one who is to come after me" in answer to the direct question which his disciples asked him, "Are you the Messiah?"
And he went on to say: "There will come after me one who is greater than I, whose sandal straps I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I baptize
you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. And his shovel is in his hand thoroughly to cleanse his threshing floor; he will gather
the wheat into his garner, but the chaff will he burn up with the judgment fire."
In response to the questions of his disciples John continued to expand his teachings, from day to day adding more that was helpful and comforting
compared with his early and cryptic message: "Repent and be baptized." By this time throngs were arriving from Galilee and the Decapolis. Scores of earnest believers lingered with their
adored teacher day after day. ~ The Urantia Book, (135:7.1)
The Meeting of Jesus and John at the Jordan River
By December of A.D. 25, when John reached the neighborhood of Pella in his journey up the Jordan,
his fame had extended throughout all Palestine, and his work had become the chief topic of conversation in all the towns about the lake of
Galilee. Jesus had spoken favorably of John's message, and this had caused many from Capernaum to join John's cult of repentance and baptism. James and John the fishermen sons of Zebedee had gone down in
December, soon after John took up his preaching position near Pella, and had offered themselves for baptism. They went to see John once a week and
brought back to Jesus fresh, firsthand reports of the evangelist's work.
Jesus' brothers James and Jude had talked about going down to John for baptism; and now that Jude had come over to Capernaum for the Sabbath
services, both he and James, after listening to Jesus' discourse in the synagogue, decided to take counsel with him concerning their plans. This was
on Saturday night, January 12, A.D. Jesus requested that they postpone the discussion until the following day, when he would give them his answer. He
slept very little that night, being in close communion with the Father in heaven. He had arranged to have noontime lunch with his brothers and to
advise them concerning baptism by John. That Sunday morning Jesus was working as usual in the boatshop. James and Jude had arrived with the lunch and
were waiting in the lumber room for him, as it was not yet time for the midday recess, and they knew that Jesus was very regular about such matters.
Just before the noon rest, Jesus laid down his tools, removed his work apron, and merely announced to the three workmen in the room with him, "My hour has come." He went out to his brothers James and Jude, repeating, "My hour has come—let us go to
John." And they started immediately for Pella, eating their lunch as they journeyed. This was on Sunday, January 13. They tarried for the night
in the Jordan valley and arrived on the
scene of John's baptizing about noon of the next day.
John had just begun baptizing the candidates for the day. Scores of repentants were standing in line awaiting their turn when Jesus and his two
brothers took up their positions in this line of earnest men and women who had become believers in John's preaching of the coming kingdom. John had
been inquiring about Jesus of Zebedee's sons. He had heard of Jesus' remarks concerning his preaching, and he was day by day expecting to see him
arrive on the scene, but he had not expected to greet him in the line of baptismal candidates.
Being engrossed with the details of rapidly baptizing such a large number of converts, John did not look up to see Jesus until the Son of Man stood in his immediate presence. When John recognized Jesus, the
ceremonies were halted for a moment while he greeted his cousin in the flesh and asked, "But why do you come down into the water to greet me?" And
Jesus answered, "To be subject to your baptism." John replied: "But I have need to be baptized by you. Why do you
come to me?" And Jesus whispered to John: "Bear with me now, for it becomes us to set this example for my brothers
standing here with me, and that the people may know that my hour has come."
There was a tone of finality and authority in Jesus'
voice. John was atremble with emotion as he made ready to baptize Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan at noon on Monday, January 14, A.D. 26. Thus did
John baptize Jesus and his two brothers James and Jude. And when John had baptized these three, he dismissed the others for the day, announcing that
he would resume baptisms at noon the next day. As the people were departing, the four men still standing in the water heard a strange sound, and
presently there appeared for a moment an apparition immediately over the head of Jesus, and they heard a voice saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom
I am well pleased." A great change came over the countenance of Jesus, and coming up out of the water in silence he took leave of them, going toward
the hills to the east. And no man saw Jesus again for forty days.
John followed Jesus a sufficient distance to tell him the story of Gabriel's visit to his mother ere either had been born, as he had heard it so
many times from his mother's lips. He allowed Jesus to continue on his way after he had said, "Now I know of a certainty that you are the Deliverer."
But Jesus made no reply. ~ The Urantia Book, (135:8.1)
Forty Days of Preaching With Great Power and Conviction
When John returned to his disciples (he now had some twenty-five or thirty who abode with him constantly), he found them in earnest conference,
discussing what had just happened in connection with Jesus' baptism. They were all the more astonished when John now made known to them the story of
the Gabriel visitation to Mary before Jesus was born, and also that Jesus spoke no word to
him even after he had told him about this. There was no rain that evening, and this group of thirty or more talked long into the starlit night. They
wondered where Jesus had gone, and when they would see him again.
After the experience of this day the preaching of John took on new and certain notes of proclamation concerning the coming kingdom and the expected
Messiah. It was a tense time, these forty days of tarrying, waiting for the return of Jesus. But John continued to preach with great power, and his
disciples began at about this time to preach to the overflowing throngs which gathered around John at the Jordan.
In the course of these forty days of waiting, many rumors spread about the countryside and even to Tiberias and Jerusalem.
Thousands came over to see the new attraction in John's camp, the reputed Messiah, but Jesus was not to be seen. When the disciples of John
asserted that the strange man of God had gone to the hills, many doubted the entire story.
About three weeks after Jesus had left them, there arrived on the scene at Pella a new deputation from the priests and Pharisees at Jerusalem. They
asked John directly if he was Elijah or the prophet that Moses promised; and when John said, "I am not," they made bold to ask, "Are you the Messiah?"
and John answered, "I am not." Then said these men from Jerusalem: "If you are not Elijah, nor the prophet, nor the Messiah, then why do you baptize
the people and create all this stir?" And John replied: "It should be for those who have heard me and received my baptism to say who I am, but I
declare to you that, while I baptize with water, there has been among us one who will return to baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
These forty days were a difficult period for John and his disciples. What was to be the relation of John to Jesus? A hundred questions came up for
discussion. Politics and selfish preferment began to make their appearance. Intense discussions grew up around the various ideas and concepts of the
Messiah. Would he become a military leader and a Davidic king? Would he smite the Roman armies as Joshua had the Canaanites?
Or would he come to establish a spiritual kingdom? John rather decided, with the minority, that Jesus had come to establish the kingdom of heaven, although he was not altogether clear in his own mind as to just what was
to be embraced within this mission of the establishment of the kingdom of heaven.
These were strenuous days in John's experience, and he prayed for the return of Jesus.
Some of John's disciples organized scouting parties to go in search of Jesus, but John forbade, saying: "Our times are in the hands of the God of
heaven; he will direct his chosen Son."
was early on the morning of Sabbath, February 23, that the company of John, engaged in eating their morning meal, looked up toward the north and
beheld Jesus coming to them. As he approached them, John stood upon a large rock and, lifting up his sonorous voice, said: "Behold the Son of God, the
deliverer of the world! This is he of whom I have said, `After me there will come one who is preferred before me because he was before me.' For this
cause came I out of the wilderness to preach repentance and to baptize with water, proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And now comes one who shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. And I beheld the divine spirit descending
upon this man, and I heard the voice of God declare, `This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.'"
Jesus bade them return to their food while he sat down to eat with John, his brothers James and Jude having returned to Capernaum.
Early in the morning of the next day he took leave of John and his disciples, going back to Galilee. He gave them no word as to when they would
again see him. To John's inquiries about his own preaching and mission Jesus only said, "My Father will guide you now and in the
future as he has in the past." And these two great men separated that morning on the banks of the Jordan, never again to greet each other in the flesh. ~
The Urantia Book, (135:9.1)
John Jouneys Back South and Attracts the Attention of Herod
Since Jesus had gone north into Galilee, John felt led to
retrace his steps southward. Accordingly, on Sunday morning, March 3, John and the remainder of his disciples began their journey south. About one
quarter of John's immediate followers had meantime departed for Galilee in quest of Jesus. There was a sadness of confusion about John. He never again
preached as he had before baptizing Jesus. He somehow felt that the responsibility of the coming kingdom was no longer on his shoulders. He felt that
his work was almost finished; he was disconsolate and lonely. But he preached, baptized, and journeyed on southward.
Near the village of Adam, John tarried for several weeks, and it was here that he made the memorable attack upon Herod Antipas for unlawfully
taking the wife of another man. By June of this year (A.D. 2 6) John was back at the Bethany ford of the Jordan, where he had begun his preaching of the coming kingdom more than a year
previously. In the weeks following the baptism of Jesus the character of John's preaching gradually changed into a proclamation of mercy for the
common people, while he denounced with renewed vehemence the corrupt political and religious rulers.
Herod Antipas, in whose territory John had been preaching, became alarmed lest he and his disciples should start a rebellion. Herod also resented
John's public criticisms of his domestic affairs. In view of all this, Herod decided to put John in prison. Accordingly, very early in the morning of
June 12, before the multitude arrived to hear the preaching and witness the baptizing, the agents of Herod placed John under arrest. As weeks passed
and he was not released, his disciples scattered over all Palestine, many of them going into Galilee to join the followers of Jesus. ~ The Urantia
John In Prison
John had a lonely and somewhat bitter experience in prison. Few of his followers were permitted to see him. He longed to see Jesus but had to be
content with hearing of his work through those of his followers who had become believers in the Son of Man. He was often tempted to doubt Jesus and his divine mission. If Jesus were the Messiah, why did he do nothing to deliver him
from this unbearable imprisonment? For more than a year and a half this rugged man of God's outdoors languished in that despicable prison. And this
experience was a great test of his faith in, and loyalty to, Jesus. Indeed, this whole
experience was a great test of John's faith even in God. Many times was he tempted to doubt even the genuineness of his own mission and experience.
After he had been in prison several months, a group of his disciples came to him and, after reporting concerning the public activities of Jesus,
said: "So you see, Teacher, that he who was with you at the upper Jordan prospers and receives all who come to him. He even feasts with publicans and sinners. You bore courageous witness to him, and
yet he does nothing to effect your deliverance." But John answered his friends: "This man can do nothing unless it has been given him by his Father in
heaven. You well remember that I said, `I am not the Messiah, but I am one sent on before to prepare the way for him.' And that I did. He who has the
bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom who stands near by and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. This,
my joy, therefore is fulfilled. He must increase but I must decrease. I am of this earth and have declared my message. Jesus of Nazareth comes down to
the earth from heaven and is above us all. The Son of Man has
descended from God, and the words of God he will declare to you. For the Father in heaven gives not the spirit by measure to his own Son. The Father
loves his Son and will presently put all things in the hands of this Son. He who believes in the Son has eternal life. And these words which I speak are true and abiding."
These disciples were amazed at John's pronouncement, so much so that they departed in silence. John was also much agitated, for he perceived that
he had uttered a prophecy. Never again did he wholly doubt the mission and divinity of Jesus. But it was a sore disappointment to John that Jesus sent him no word, that he came not to see him, and that he
exercised none of his great power to deliver him from prison. But Jesus knew all about this. He had great love for John, but being now cognizant of
his divine nature and knowing fully the great things in preparation for John when he departed from this world and also knowing that John's work on
earth was finished, he constrained himself not to interfere in the natural outworking of the great preacher-prophet's career. ~ The Urantia
John's Last Message to Jesus
...It was while Jesus was teaching the multitude one afternoon that some of John's
special friends brought the Master the last message which he ever had from the Baptist.
John had now been in prison a year and a half, and most of this time Jesus had labored very quietly; so it was not strange that John should be led
to wonder about the kingdom. John's friends interrupted Jesus' teaching to say to him: "John the Baptist has sent us to ask—are you truly the
Deliverer, or shall we look for another?"
Jesus paused to say to John's friends: "Go back and tell John that he is not forgotten. Tell him what you have seen and
heard, that the poor have good tidings preached to them." And when Jesus had spoken further to the messengers of John, he turned again to the
multitude and said: "Do not think that John doubts the gospel of
the kingdom. He makes inquiry only to assure his disciples who are also my disciples. John is no weakling. Let me ask you who heard John preach before
Herod put him in prison: What did you behold in John—a reed shaken with the wind? A man of changeable moods and clothed in soft raiment? As a rule
they who are gorgeously appareled and who live delicately are in kings' courts and in the mansions of the rich. But what did you see when you beheld
John? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and much more than a prophet. Of John it was written: `Behold, I send my messenger before your face; he shall
prepare the way before you.'
"Verily, verily, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is
but small in the kingdom of heaven is greater because he has been born of the spirit and knows that he has become a son of God."
Many who heard Jesus that day submitted themselves to John's baptism, thereby publicly professing entrance into the kingdom. And the apostles of
John were firmly knit to Jesus from that day forward. This occurrence marked the real union of John's and Jesus' followers.
After the messengers had conversed with Abner, they departed for Machaerus to tell all this to John. He was greatly comforted,
and his faith was strengthened by the words of Jesus and the message of Abner.
On this afternoon Jesus continued to teach, saying: "But to what shall I liken this generation? Many of you will receive
neither John's message nor my teaching. You are like the children playing in the market place who call to their fellows and say: `We piped for you and
you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn.' And so with some of you. John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said he had a devil. The
Son of Man comes eating and drinking, and these same people say: `Behold, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!'
Truly, wisdom is justified by her children.
"It would appear that the Father in heaven has hidden some of these truths from the wise and haughty, while he has revealed
them to babes. But the Father does all things well; the Father reveals himself to the universe by the methods of his own choosing. Come, therefore,
all you who labor and are heavy laden, and you shall find rest for your souls. Take upon
you the divine yoke, and you will experience the peace of God, which passes all
understanding." ~ The Urantia Book, (148:8.1)
The Death of John the Baptist
As John was working in southern Perea when arrested, he was taken immediately to the prison of the fortress of Machaerus, where he was incarcerated
until his execution. Herod ruled over Perea as well as Galilee, and he maintained residence at this time at both Julias and Machaerus in Perea. In
Galilee the official residence had been moved from Sepphoris
to the new capital at Tiberias.
Herod feared to release John lest he instigate rebellion. He feared to put him to death lest the multitude riot in the capital, for thousands of
Pereans believed that John was a holy man, a prophet. Therefore Herod kept the Nazarite preacher in prison, not knowing what else to do with him.
Several times John had been before Herod, but never would he agree either to leave the domains of Herod or to refrain from all public activities if he
were released. And this new agitation concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was steadily increasing, admonished Herod that it was no time to turn John
loose. Besides, John was also a victim of the intense and bitter hatred of Herodias, Herod's unlawful wife.
On numerous occasions Herod talked with John about the kingdom of heaven, and while
sometimes seriously impressed with his message, he was afraid to release him from prison.
Since much building was still going on at Tiberias, Herod spent considerable time at his Perean residences, and he was partial to the fortress of
Machaerus. It was a matter of several years before all the public buildings and the official residence at Tiberias were fully completed.
In celebration of his birthday Herod made a great feast in the Machaerian palace for his chief officers and other men high in the councils of the
government of Galilee and Perea. Since Herodias had failed to bring about John's death by direct appeal to Herod, she now set herself to the task of
having John put to death by cunning planning.
In the course of the evening's festivities and entertainment, Herodias presented
her daughter to dance before the banqueters. Herod was very much pleased with the damsel's performance and, calling her before him, said: "You are
charming. I am much pleased with you. Ask me on this my birthday for whatever you desire, and I will give it to you, even to the half of my kingdom."
And Herod did all this while well under the influence of his many wines. The young lady drew aside and inquired of her mother what she should ask of
Herod. Herodias said, "Go to Herod and ask for the head of John the Baptist." And the young woman, returning to the banquet table, said to Herod, "I
request that you forthwith give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter."
Herod was filled with fear and sorrow, but because of his oath and because of all those who sat at meat with him, he would not deny the request.
And Herod Antipas sent a soldier, commanding him to bring the head of John. So was John that night beheaded in the prison, the soldier bringing the
head of the prophet on a platter and presenting it to the young woman at the rear of the banquet hall. And the damsel gave the platter to her mother.
When John's disciples heard of this, they came to the prison for the body of John, and after laying it in a tomb, they went and told Jesus. ~ The
Urantia Book, (135:12.1)
After the Death of John the Baptist
John the Baptist was executed by order of Herod Antipas on the evening of January 10, A.D. 28. The next day a few of John's disciples who had gone
to Machaerus heard of his execution and, going to Herod, made request for his body, which they put in a tomb, later giving it burial at Sebaste, the home of Abner. The following day, January 12, they
started north to the camp of John's and Jesus' apostles near Pella, and they told Jesus about the death of John. When Jesus heard their report, he
dismissed the multitude and, calling the twenty-four together, said: "John is dead. Herod has beheaded him. Tonight go into
joint council and arrange your affairs accordingly. There shall be delay no longer. The hour has come to proclaim the kingdom openly and with power.
Tomorrow we go into Galilee." ~ The Urantia Book,
Two of John's Beloved Followers are Recruited by Jesus - Andrew and Simon (Peter)
During this Sabbath two of John's leading disciples spent much time with Jesus. Of all John's followers one named Andrew was the most profoundly
impressed with Jesus; he accompanied him on the trip to Pella with the injured boy. On the way back to John's rendezvous he asked Jesus many
questions, and just before reaching their destination, the two paused for a short talk, during which Andrew said: "I have observed you ever since you came to Capernaum, and I believe you are the new Teacher, and though I do not
understand all your teaching, I have fully made up my mind to follow you; I would sit at your feet and learn the whole truth about the new kingdom."
And Jesus, with hearty assurance, welcomed Andrew as the first of his apostles, that group
of twelve who were to labor with him in the work of establishing the new kingdom of God in the hearts of men.
Andrew was a silent observer of, and sincere believer in, John's work, and he had a
very able and enthusiastic brother, named Simon, who was one of John's foremost disciples. It would not be amiss to say that Simon was one of John's
Soon after Jesus and Andrew returned to the camp, Andrew sought out his brother, Simon,
and taking him aside, informed him that he had settled in his own mind that Jesus was the
great Teacher, and that he had pledged himself as a disciple. He went on to say that Jesus had accepted his proffer of service and suggested that he
(Simon) likewise go to Jesus and offer himself for fellowship in the service of the new kingdom. Said Simon: "Ever since this man came to work in
Zebedee's shop, I have believed he was sent by God, but what about John? Are we to forsake him? Is this the right thing to do?" Whereupon they agreed
to go at once to consult John. John was saddened by the thought of losing two of his able advisers and most promising disciples, but he bravely
answered their inquiries, saying: "This is but the beginning; presently will my work end, and we shall all become his disciples." Then Andrew beckoned
to Jesus to draw aside while he announced that his brother desired to join himself to the service of the new kingdom. And in welcoming Simon as his
second apostle, Jesus said: "Simon, your enthusiasm is commendable, but it is dangerous to the work of the kingdom. I admonish
you to become more thoughtful in your speech. I would change your name to Peter." ~ The Urantia Book, (137:1 .1)
Late that evening, James, John, Andrew, and Simon held converse with John the Baptist,
and with tearful eye but steady voice the stalwart Judean prophet surrendered two of his leading disciples to become the apostles of the Galilean
Prince of the coming kingdom. ~ The Urantia Book, (137:1
Some of the Other Apostles Were Also Influenced by John's Teachings
Philip now motioned to the group to remain where they were while he hurried back to
break the news of his decision to his friend Nathaniel, who still tarried behind under the
mulberry tree, turning over in his mind the many things which he had heard concerning John the Baptist, the coming kingdom, and the expected Messiah.
Philip broke in upon these meditations, exclaiming, "I have found the Deliverer, him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote and whom John has
proclaimed." Nathaniel, looking up, inquired, "Whence comes this teacher?" And Philip replied, "He is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, the carpenter, more recently residing at Capernaum." And then, somewhat shocked,
Nathaniel asked, "Can any such good thing come out of Nazareth?"
But Philip, taking him by the arm, said, "Come and see." ~ The Urantia Book, (137:2 .6)
Nathaniel, the sixth and last of the apostles to be chosen by the Master himself, was brought to Jesus by his friend Philip. He had been associated
in several business enterprises with Philip and, with him, was on the way down to see John the Baptist when they encountered Jesus. ~ The Urantia
Judas Iscariot, the twelfth apostle, was chosen by Nathaniel. He was born in Kerioth, a small town in southern Judea. When he was a lad, his
parents moved to Jericho, where he lived and had been employed in his father's various business enterprises until he became interested in the
preaching and work of John the Baptist. Judas's parents were Sadducees, and when their son joined John's disciples, they disowned him. ~ The
Urantia Book, (139:12.1)
"The Father's Hour Has Come."
A few days before the preaching of this sermon on "The Kingdom," as Jesus was at work in the boatshop, Peter brought him the news of John's arrest.
Jesus laid down his tools once more, removed his apron, and said to Peter: "The Father's hour has come. Let us make ready to
proclaim the gospel of the kingdom." ~ The Urantia Book, (137:8.2)
Jesus and the The Apostles Quietly Begin to Incorporate John's Followers into their Ranks
Many of those who came from Perea and Judea had been baptized
by John and were interested in finding out more about Jesus' teachings. The apostles made
much progress in teaching the disciples of John inasmuch as they did not in any way detract from John's preaching, and since they did not at this time
even baptize their new disciples. But it was always a stumbling stone to John's followers that Jesus, if he were all that John had announced, did
nothing to get him out of prison. John's disciples never could understand why Jesus did not prevent the cruel death of their beloved leader. ~ The
Urantia Book, (141:1.4)
...Jesus thought much about John, now in prison. It was a great temptation to use his
potential powers to release him, but once more he resigned himself to "wait upon the Father's will." ~ The Urantia
From night to night Andrew carefully instructed his fellow apostles in the delicate and
difficult task of getting along smoothly with the followers of John the Baptist. During this first year of Jesus' public ministry more than three
fourths of his followers had previously followed John and had received his baptism. This entire year of A.D. 27 was spent in quietly taking over
John's work in Perea and Judea. ~ The Urantia Book,
A part of this time, while the apostles taught the gospel and ministered to the sick, Jesus and Abner spent at Engedi, visiting the Nazarite colony. John the Baptist had gone
forth from this place, and Abner had been head of this group. Many of the Nazarite brotherhood became believers in Jesus, but the majority of these
ascetic and eccentric men refused to accept him as a teacher sent from heaven because he did not teach fasting and other forms of self-denial. ~ The Urantia Book, (142:8.1)
SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER were spent in retirement at a secluded camp upon the slopes of Mount Gilboa. The month of September Jesus spent here alone with his apostles, teaching and instructing them
in the truths of the kingdom.
There were a number of reasons why Jesus and his apostles were in retirement at this time on the borders of Samaria and the Decapolis. The
Jerusalem religious rulers were very antagonistic; Herod Antipas still held John in prison, fearing either to release or execute him, while he
continued to entertain suspicions that John and Jesus were in some way associated. These conditions made it unwise to plan for aggressive work in
either Judea or Galilee. There was a third reason: the slowly
augmenting tension between the leaders of John's disciples and the apostles of Jesus, which grew worse with the increasing number of believers.
Jesus knew that the days of the preliminary work of teaching and preaching were about over, that the next move involved the beginning of the full
and final effort of his life on earth, and he did not wish the launching of this undertaking to be in any manner either trying or embarrassing to John
the Baptist. Jesus had therefore decided to spend some time in retirement rehearsing his apostles and then to do some quiet work in the cities of the
Decapolis until John should be either executed or released to join them in a united effort. ~ The Urantia Book, (144:0.1)
Jesus made it plain to his apostles that they were in retirement for three reasons:
- To confirm their understanding of, and faith in, the gospel of the kingdom.
- To allow opposition to their work in both Judea and Galilee to quiet down.
- To await the fate of John the Baptist. ~ The Urantia Book, (144:1.2)
The Apostles of John and the Apostles of Jesus Combine
Around the first of October, Philip and some of his fellow apostles were in a near-by village buying food when they met some of the apostles of
John the Baptist. As a result of this chance meeting in the market place there came about a three weeks' conference at the Gilboa camp between the
apostles of Jesus and the apostles of John, for John had recently appointed twelve of his leaders to be apostles, following the precedent of Jesus.
John had done this in response to the urging of Abner, the chief of his loyal supporters.
By the beginning of the second week of this month, Abner had assembled all of his associates at the Gilboa camp and was prepared to go into council
with the apostles of Jesus. For three weeks these twenty-four men were in session three times a day and for six days each week. The first week Jesus
mingled with them between their forenoon, afternoon, and evening sessions. They wanted the Master to meet with them and preside over their joint
deliberations, but he steadfastly refused to participate in their discussions, though he did consent to speak to them on three occasions. These talks
by Jesus to the twenty-four were on sympathy, co-operation, and tolerance.
Andrew and Abner alternated in presiding over these joint meetings of the two apostolic
groups. These men had many difficulties to discuss and numerous problems to solve. Again and again would they take their troubles to Jesus, only to
hear him say: "I am concerned only with your personal and purely religious problems. I am the representative of the Father to
the individual, not to the group. If you are in personal difficulty in your relations with God, come to me, and I will hear you and counsel you in the
solution of your problem. But when you enter upon the co-ordination of divergent human interpretations of religious questions and upon the
socialization of religion, you are destined to solve all such problems by your own
decisions. Albeit, I am ever sympathetic and always interested, and when you arrive at your conclusions touching these matters of nonspiritual import,
provided you are all agreed, then I pledge in advance my full approval and hearty co-operation. And now, in order to leave you unhampered in your
deliberations, I am leaving you for two weeks. Be not anxious about me, for I will return to you. I will be about my Father's business, for we have
other realms besides this one."
After thus speaking, Jesus went down the mountainside, and they saw him no more for two
full weeks. And they never knew where he went or what he did during these days. It was some time before the twenty-four could settle down to the
serious consideration of their problems, they were so disconcerted by the absence of the Master. However, within a week they were again in the heart
of their discussions, and they could not go to Jesus for help.
The first item the group agreed upon was the adoption of the prayer which Jesus had so
recently taught them. It was unanimously voted to accept this prayer as the one to be taught believers by both groups of apostles.
They next decided that, as long as John lived, whether in prison or out, both groups of twelve apostles would go on with their work, and that joint
meetings for one week would be held every three months at places to be agreed upon from time to time.
But the most serious of all their problems was the question of baptism. Their difficulties were all the more aggravated because Jesus had refused
to make any pronouncement upon the subject. They finally agreed: As long as John lived, or until they might jointly modify this decision, only the
apostles of John would baptize believers, and only the apostles of Jesus would finally
instruct the new disciples. Accordingly, from that time until after the death of John, two of the apostles of John accompanied Jesus and his apostles
to baptize believers, for the joint council had unanimously voted that baptism was to become the initial step in the outward alliance with the affairs
of the kingdom.
It was next agreed, in case of the death of John, that the apostles of John would present themselves to Jesus and become subject to his direction,
and that they would baptize no more unless authorized by Jesus or his apostles.
And then was it voted that, in case of John's death, the apostles of Jesus would begin to baptize with water as the emblem of the baptism of the
divine Spirit. As to whether or not repentance should be attached to the preaching of baptism was left optional; no decision was made binding upon the
group. John's apostles preached, "Repent and be baptized." Jesus' apostles proclaimed, "Believe and be baptized."
And this is the story of the first attempt of Jesus' followers to co-ordinate divergent efforts, compose differences of opinion, organize group
undertakings, legislate on outward observances, and socialize personal religious practices.
Many other minor matters were considered and their solutions unanimously agreed upon. These twenty-four men had a truly remarkable experience these
two weeks when they were compelled to face problems and compose difficulties without Jesus. They learned to differ, to debate, to contend, to pray,
and to compromise, and throughout it all to remain sympathetic with the other person's viewpoint and to maintain at least some degree of tolerance for his honest opinions.
On the afternoon of their final discussion of financial questions, Jesus returned, heard of their deliberations, listened to their decisions, and
said: "These, then, are your conclusions, and I shall help you each to carry out the spirit of your united decisions."
Two months and a half from this time John was executed, and throughout this period the apostles of John remained with Jesus and the twelve. They
all worked together and baptized believers during this season of labor in the cities of the Decapolis. The Gilboa camp was broken up on November 2,
A.D. 27. ~ The Urantia Book, (144:6.1)
The Twenty-Four Work Togther for Several Months
Throughout the months of November and December, Jesus and the twenty-four worked quietly in the Greek cities of the Decapolis, chiefly in Scythopolis, Gerasa,
Abila, and Gadara. This was really the end of that preliminary period of taking over John's work and organization.
Always does the socialized religion of a new revelation pay the price of compromise with
the established forms and usages of the preceding religion which it seeks to salvage. Baptism was the price which the followers of Jesus paid in order
to carry with them, as a socialized religious group, the followers of John the Baptist. John's followers, in joining Jesus' followers, gave up just
about everything except water baptism.
Jesus did little public teaching on this mission to the cities of the Decapolis. He spent considerable time teaching the twenty-four and had many
special sessions with John's twelve apostles. In time they became more understanding as to why Jesus did not go to visit John in prison, and why he
made no effort to secure his release. But they never could understand why Jesus did no marvelous works, why he refused to produce outward signs of his
divine authority. Before coming to the Gilboa camp, they had believed in Jesus mostly because of John's testimony, but soon they were beginning to
believe as a result of their own contact with the Master and his teachings.
For these two months the group worked most of the time in pairs, one of Jesus' apostles
going out with one of John's. The apostle of John baptized, the apostle of Jesus instructed, while they both preached the gospel of the kingdom as
they understood it. And they won many souls among these gentiles and apostate Jews.
Abner, the chief of John's apostles, became a devout believer in Jesus and was later on made the head of a group of seventy teachers whom the
Master commissioned to preach the gospel. ~ The Urantia Book, (144:7.1)
and the Apostles of John Accept Jesus and the Kingdom
Throughout the week that followed the feast of tabernacles, scores of believers forgathered at Bethany and received instruction from the twelve apostles. The Sanhedrin made no effort to molest these gatherings since Jesus was not
present; he was throughout this time working with Abner and his associates in Bethlehem. The day following the close of the feast, Jesus had departed for Bethany, and he did not again teach in the temple
during this visit to Jerusalem.
At this time, Abner was making his headquarters at Bethlehem, and from that center many workers had been sent to the cities of Judea and southern
Samaria and even to Alexandria. Within a few days of his arrival, Jesus and Abner completed the arrangements for the consolidation of the work of the
two groups of apostles.
Throughout his visit to the feast of tabernacles, Jesus had divided his time about equally between Bethany and Bethlehem. At Bethany he spent
considerable time with his apostles; at Bethlehem he gave much instruction to Abner and the other former apostles of John. And it was this intimate
contact that finally led them to believe in him. These former apostles of John the Baptist were influenced by the courage he displayed in his public
teaching in Jerusalem as well as by the sympathetic understanding they experienced in his private teaching at Bethlehem. These influences finally and
fully won over each of Abner's associates to a wholehearted acceptance of the kingdom and all that such a step implied.
Before leaving Bethlehem for the last time, the Master
made arrangements for them all to join him in the united effort which was to precede the ending of his earth career in the flesh. It was agreed that
Abner and his associates were to join Jesus and the twelve in the near future at Magadan Park.
In accordance with this understanding, early in November Abner and his eleven fellows cast their lot with Jesus and the twelve and labored with them as one organization right on down to the
crucifixion. ~ The Urantia Book, (162:9.1)
Herod Is Haunted by John's Memory
As might have been expected, the fame of this sundown healing at Bethsaida in Capernaum spread
throughout all Galilee and Judea and to the regions beyond. Once more were the fears of Herod aroused, and he sent watchers to report on the work and
teachings of Jesus and to ascertain if he was the former carpenter of Nazareth or John the Baptist risen from the dead. ~ The Urantia Book, (145:3.12)
Herod was...influenced at this time, in his attitude toward Jesus, by his superstitious fear of John the Baptist. Herod was one of those apostate
Jews who, while he believed nothing, feared everything. He had a bad conscience for
having put John to death, and he did not want to become entangled in these intrigues against Jesus. He knew of many cases of sickness which had been
apparently healed by Jesus, and he regarded him as either a prophet or a relatively harmless religious fanatic. ~ The Urantia Book, (154:0.2)
Herod never had fully recovered from the fear that cursed him as a result of killing John the Baptist. Herod had at certain times even feared that
Jesus was John risen from the dead. Now he was relieved of that fear since he observed that Jesus was a very different sort of person from the
outspoken and fiery prophet who dared to expose and denounce his private life. ~ The Urantia Book, (185:4.3)
The Last Mission of John the Baptist's Apostles
ON TUESDAY, January 3, A.D. 30, Abner, the former chief of the twelve apostles of John the Baptist, a Nazarite and onetime head of the Nazarite
school at Engedi, now chief of the seventy messengers of the
kingdom, called his associates together and gave them final instructions before sending them on a mission to all of the cities and villages of Perea.
This Perean mission continued for almost three months and was the last ministry of the Master. From these labors Jesus went directly to Jerusalem to pass through his final experiences in the flesh.
The seventy, supplemented by the periodic labors of Jesus and the twelve apostles, worked in the following cities and towns and some fifty additional
villages: Zaphon, Gadara, Macad, Arbela, Ramath, Edrei, Bosora, Caspin, Mispeh, Gerasa, Ragaba, Succoth, Amathus,
Adam, Penuel, Capitolias, Dion, Hatita, Gadda, Philadelphia, Jogbehah, Gilead, Beth-Nimrah, Tyrus, Elealah,
Livias, Heshbon, Callirrhoe, Beth-Peor, Shittim, Sibmah, Medeba, Beth-Meon Areopolis, and Aroer. ~ The Urantia Book, (165
Jesus and the twelve apostles devoted much of their time to the multitude assembled at
the Pella camp. The twelve paid little or no attention to the field work, only going out with Jesus to visit Abner's associates from time to time.
Abner was very familiar with the Perean district since this was the field in which his former master, John the Baptist, had done most of his work.
After beginning the Perean mission, Abner and the seventy never returned to the Pella camp. ~ The Urantia Book, (165 :1.3)
Differences in John's and Jesus'
When John preached the coming kingdom, the burden of his message was: Repent! flee from the wrath to come. When Jesus began to preach, there
remained the exhortation to repentance, but such a message was always followed by the gospel,
the good tidings of the joy and liberty of the new kingdom. ~ The Urantia Book, (136:0.2)
Jesus made plain to his apostles the difference between the repentance of so-called good works as taught by the Jews and the change of mind by
faith—the new birth—which he required as the price of admission to the kingdom. He taught his apostles that faith was the only requisite to entering
the Father's kingdom. John had taught them "repentance—to flee from the wrath to come." Jesus taught, "Faith is the open door
for entering into the present, perfect, and eternal love of God." Jesus did not speak like a prophet, one who comes to declare the word of God.
He seemed to speak of himself as one having authority. Jesus sought to divert their minds from miracle seeking to the finding of a real and personal
experience in the satisfaction and assurance of the indwelling of God's spirit of love and saving grace. ~ The Urantia Book, (138 :8.8)
Jesus did not vehemently denounce even the Pharisees, as did John. He knew many of the scribes and Pharisees were honest of heart; he understood their enslaving bondage to religious traditions.
Jesus laid great emphasis on "first making the tree good." ~ The Urantia Book, (140 :8.22)
...Said Jesus: "John preached a baptism of repentance, sorrow for the old way of living. You are to proclaim the baptism of
fellowship with God. Preach repentance to those who stand in need of such teaching, but to those already seeking sincere entrance to the kingdom, open
the doors wide and bid them enter into the joyous fellowship of the sons of God." ~ The Urantia Book, (140 :10.1)
[Jesus] explained that the "kingdom idea" was not the best way to illustrate man's relation to God; that he employed such figures of speech because
the Jewish people were expecting the kingdom, and because John had preached in terms of the coming kingdom. Jesus said: "The
people of another age will better understand the gospel of the kingdom when it is presented in terms expressive of the family relationship—when man
understands religion as the teaching of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man,
sonship with God." Then the Master discoursed at some length on the earthly family as an illustration of the heavenly family, restating the two
fundamental laws of living: the first commandment of love for the father, the head of the family, and the second commandment of mutual love among the
children, to love your brother as yourself. And then he explained that such a quality of brotherly affection would invariably manifest itself in unselfish and loving
social service. ~ The Urantia Book, (142 :7.4)
At one of the evening conferences, Andrew asked Jesus: "Master, are we to practice
self-denial as John taught us, or are we to strive for the self-control of your teaching? Wherein does your teaching differ from that of John?" Jesus
answered: "John indeed taught you the way of righteousness in accordance with the light and laws of his fathers, and that was
the religion of self-examination and self-denial. But I come with a new message of self-forgetfulness and self-control. I show to you the way of life
as revealed to me by my Father in heaven." ~ The Urantia Book, (143 :2.2)
"...He who reaps receives wages and gathers this fruit to eternal
life; consequently the sowers and the reapers rejoice together. For herein is the saying true: `One sows and another reaps.' I am now sending you
to reap that whereon you have not labored; others have labored, and you are about to enter into their labor." This he said in reference to the
preaching of John the Baptist. ~ The Urantia Book, (143
John had taught his disciples a prayer, a prayer for salvation in the coming kingdom.
Although Jesus never forbade his followers to use John's form of prayer, the apostles very early perceived that their Master did not fully approve of
the practice of uttering set and formal prayers. Nevertheless, believers constantly requested to be taught how to pray. The twelve longed to know what
form of petition Jesus would approve. And it was chiefly because of this need for some simple petition for the common people that Jesus at this time
consented, in answer to Thomas's request, to teach them a suggestive form of prayer. ~
The Urantia Book, (144 :1.7)
"John indeed taught you a simple form of prayer: `O Father, cleanse us from sin, show us your glory, reveal your love, and
let your spirit sanctify our hearts forevermore, Amen!' He taught this prayer that you might have something to teach the multitude. He did not intend
that you should use such a set and formal petition as the expression of your own souls in
prayer." ~ The Urantia Book, (144 :2.1)
It is not strange that the apostles desired Jesus to teach them a model prayer for believers. John the Baptist had taught his followers several prayers; all great
teachers had formulated prayers for their pupils. The religious teachers of the Jews had some twenty-five or thirty set prayers which they recited in
the synagogues and even on the street corners. Jesus was particularly averse to praying in public. Up to this time the twelve had heard him pray only
a few times. They observed him spending entire nights at prayer or worship, and they were very curious to know the manner or form of his petitions.
They were really hard pressed to know what to answer the multitudes when they asked to be taught how to pray as John had taught his disciples. ~
The Urantia Book, (144 :3.4)
Jesus never called the Father a king, and he very much regretted that the Jewish hope for a restored kingdom and John's proclamation of a coming
kingdom made it necessary for him to denominate his proposed spiritual brotherhood the kingdom of heaven. With the one exception—the declaration that "God is spirit" —Jesus never referred to
Deity in any manner other than in terms descriptive of his own personal relationship with the First Source and Center of Paradise. ~ The Urantia
Book, (169 :4.6)
Jesus foresaw that a social organization, or church, would follow the progress of the true spiritual kingdom, and that is why he never opposed the
apostles' practicing the rite of John's baptism. He taught that the truth-loving soul, the
one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, for God, is admitted by faith to the spiritual kingdom; at the same time the apostles taught that such
a believer is admitted to the social organization of disciples by the outward rite of baptism. ~ The Urantia Book, (170 :5.13)
John the Baptist is Presently One of the Four and Twenty Counselors
At the center of the seven angelic residential circles on Jerusem is located the headquarters of the Urantia advisory council, the four and twenty
counselors. John the Revelator called them the four and twenty elders: "And round about the throne were four and twenty seats, and upon the seats I
saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment." The throne in the center of this group is the judgment seat of the presiding archangel,
the throne of the resurrection roll call of mercy and justice for all Satania. This judgment seat has always been on Jerusem, but the twenty-four
surrounding seats were placed in position no more than nineteen hundred years ago, soon after Christ Michael was elevated to the full sovereignty of
Nebadon. These four and twenty counselors are his personal agents on Jerusem, and they have authority to represent the Master Son in all matters
concerning the roll calls of Satania and in many other phases of the scheme of mortal ascension on the isolated worlds of the system. They are the
designated agents for executing the special requests of Gabriel and the unusual mandates of Michael. ~ The Urantia Book, (45:4.1)
At the present time one John, known to you as "the Baptist," is chairman of this council when it is in session on Jerusem. ~ The Urantia
Sooner or Later...
Sooner or later another and greater John the Baptist is due to arise proclaiming "the kingdom of God is at hand"—meaning a return to the high
spiritual concept of Jesus, who proclaimed that the kingdom is the will of his heavenly Father dominant and transcendent in the heart of the believer—
and doing all this without in any way referring either to the visible church on earth or to the anticipated second coming of Christ. There must come a
revival of the actual teachings of Jesus, such a restatement as will undo the work of his early followers who went about to create a
sociophilosophical system of belief regarding the fact of Michael's sojourn on earth. In a short time the teaching of this story about Jesus nearly
supplanted the preaching of Jesus' gospel of the kingdom. In this way a historical religion displaced that teaching in which Jesus had blended man's highest moral ideas and spiritual ideals with man's most sublime hope
for the future—eternal life. And that was the gospel of the kingdom. ~ The Urantia
Book, (170 :5.19)