“…but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11
Precious little is known about the man we know today as Jesus Christ. While the central figure in both the Bible and the Christian faith, we have a very faint picture of what life was like for the man who has been called the Prince of Peace. Whether you believe Jesus Christ was the Son of God or not is a matter of faith. But the turbulence and faith of the time he spent on earth is still a vibrant communal, human memory–much of it still affecting us into modern times. Please enjoy,
A Messiah for His Time
by Tom Averna
Mariamne always enjoyed being up early enough to enjoy the sunrise in Jerusalem. It was a time of reflection and meditation for her. She had always been a precocious child and even when she was five, before being sent to the Temple for her own protection, she recalled wonderful times with her father Heli-Joachin. She loved to listen in on her father’s talks about history. He was the son of King Alexander, the last king of Israel who had been killed by Pompey two years before she was born. Her grandmother Rachel of Arimathea quickly planned for Heli and Anna, her parents, to be quietly moved to Nazareth. For a brief time, they found peace there and Mari, as Mariamne was more commonly called, was remembering one of those times.
As her father spoke, he made the last three hundred years come alive, especially the time of the Hasmonean house and the liberators of Judea. Although the ending was not nearly as glorious as the beginning, she was proud to be a part of that line.
Since Israel’s conquest by the Assyrians and Judah’s by the Babylonians there was not much hope for the people’s survival as a nation or as a people defined by the faith of their ancestors. It was unheard of for any people thus conquered to maintain their identity after being carried off and dispersed throughout the conquering empire’s people. Indeed, the fate of the ten tribes of Israel seemed to prove that point. But Judea was different. Those who held onto the faith of their father’s knew that it was the fulfillment of the promise made by G-d to preserve the line of David and therefore the tribe of Judah and all who remained faithful.
So, when Judah and the other tribes who were carried off with her into Babylon began their captivity, they had hope. Jeremiah gave them that hope and the belief in a Messiah king to be sent by G-d to restore them to the Promised Land grew stronger within each of them. Meanwhile they faithfully served G-d where they were and were able to accomplish the impossible. Not only did they not lose their identity, but they thrived in Babylon becoming advisors and respected citizens to the leadership there.
Torah study, instead of declining, became a central part of Jewish life. Traditions such as prayers and festivals still held sway over the hearts of the people. While it is also true that some did give way to the lure of pagan practices and lost their identity, there was always a strong core who did not. Miracles could be found in all of this, but especially in the stories of the courage and faith of Daniel under the Babylonian rule as well as G-d’s salvation during the subsequent rule of Persia through Queen Esther who was the Jewish wife of the Persian king Xerxes or Ahasuerus. And whose grandson Darius (Cyrus) finally allowed many Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild. Some even called Cyrus the awaited Messiah, but to most Judeans that was nearly heresy given the clear understanding that the Messiah would be a man of G-d and a descendant of King David. Cyrus was neither.
Because of that there was also quite a controversy as to whether there should be a return to the Promised land before the coming of the true Messiah. In fact, only a relatively small group of families chose to overlook the objections of most of the teachers in Babylon causing a division that would remain to Mariamne’s day. Looking from the distant perspective of time, Mari herself tended to believe the Babylonian concerns were right.
The return consisted of at least three waves of emigrations from Babylon over several decades. The first was led by Zerubabel of the House of David who brought some 50,000 exiles into Jerusalem.
But the joy of those returning was short lived. In slightly more than a century of exile the empire machinery that was so good at obliterating a people chosen for exile had been accomplished in what was Northern Israel. Forced intermarriage between the Jews that had remained there as well as an influx of others from the Assyrian empire had created a new people.
They took the name Samaritan from the country they inhabited and had brought many pagan beliefs into the land with them. But the story was told that at some point before the return of the Babylonian Jews, the land had apparently been overrun with wild beasts. The Samaritan’s feared this might have been a reprisal for bringing their beliefs into the land of Israel’s G-d and so they made the decision to convert to Judaism. But they had no Torah scholars to show them the way, so they were not practicing as the Levite’s coming into the land believed they should. With perhaps a little too much arrogance, The Levites declared that they were not properly converted Jews and therefore would not be recognized or accepted as such in the now to be reestablished kingdom of Judea.
As might be expected this did not go over well with the Samaritans who now separated themselves as their own kingdom and started a political war with their neighbors. At first, the Samaritans were successful in stopping the rebuilding of the Temple, but ultimately, they would lose creating an enmity that remained to the current time. To those who were against the return, this proved their belief since once again Israel remained divided. But the Levitical and National leaders Ezra and Nehemiah were certainly powerful and charismatic figures who in their hearts were genuinely wanting to see the Kingdom of David and the Laws of Moses restored to the Land of Promise. And because of that G-d seemed to bless their undertaking or at least did not block their way. And there were even prophets like Haggai and Zachariah who gave G-d’s approval to the endeavor.
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In this novel, for the first time, Yeshua (Jesus) is presented to the world with a complete history including his family, his lineage and his time. As a descendant of King David, he is not some itinerant peasant rabbi who stumbles into his role, but the son of Davidic royalty who is trained by the greatest minds of his time. He was to become the promised Messiah, but was the world ready? Was he? Experience first century Israel and its amazing similarities to our time and a messiah who wanted to bring peace to a world of chaos and war.
Tom Averna spent his life as a student of spirituality and positive communication. His passion for the power of words led him on a journey of discovery that has brought him to his current writing endeavor. His two careers in radio broadcasting and teaching enabled him to live his passion. Averna believes in the power of positive communication and the potential of humanity to create a world of harmony and peace. Both of these are embodied in the hopes and desires of almost all religions who await a coming leader, but especially in the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity.