Yeshua/Jesus – baptism – tevilah in the mikveh [part 25]
Author: C.C. Saint-Clair
It is difficult to make sense of Yeshua’s arrest, the lightning-quick trial and the sentence of death by crucifixion – the most humiliating and the most horribly painful sentence in the books. One way to inject a modicum of logic into the series of events that lead to his death is to place them within a context of sorts.
It was only 60 years earlier that the Roman general, Pompey, had captured Jerusalem. That act put an end to the independent Jewish state of Palestine. In one sense, it also put an end to the self-governed, Hebrew, Hasmonean dynasty.
Though Agrippa II, the grandson of the last king Agrippa I, found himself on the throne, it was by the good grace of Rome. For him, the concession of that crown implied walking a thin, tight rope held at one end by Tiberius and at the other, by the Israelites, his people.
By the time Yeshua was born, this dynasty had been well and truly terminated and, more and more, oppressed Jews dared voice their discontent. The fundamentalist Issyim, however spiritually enlightened, were zealots in their own right and they were at the heart of a fomenting rebellion. It has been said that they were the quiet brain of the rebellion while the dagger-wielding, fanatic Sicarii were the brawn.
Then as now in many parts of the world, citizens have rebel led however passively or however violently to eke a degree of independence from authoritarian regimes in situ. Frequent skirmishes broke out between Hebrew civilians and the Roman army.
Yohannanha-matbil/John the Baptist was the voice of the Israelite rebellion. The New Testament cast him as a visionary man, as a prophet. A prophet, he probably was not, but a visionary freedom fighter, he probably was. Through ‘preachings’ in his native Hebrew, a language not understood by the Roman soldiers, he spoke of an apocalyptic end and the arrival of a mashiach who would be the leader of flesh and blood proclaimed in so many ways by the prophets a few centuries earlier.
No doubt, some of Yohannan’s talks contained ‘news of the front’ intended to connect and hearten the men and women of Judea. In the eyes of many of his compatriots, he was the one, the leader, the mashiach, designated by karmic decree to lead the Zealot rebellion to an apocalyptic conclusion that would see the total destruction of the Roman political rule over the ancestral of the Jews.
Out of Roman earshot, while performing in a body of flowing water the Jewish ritual of tevilah immersion with others, Yohannan was in all likelihood also networking as a militant activist. The added act of pouring a palmful of pure water on his companions’ heads symbolised the bond of brotherhood between them. Yeshua eventually came down from Galilee and joined Yohannan in the communal act of mikveh-liaising.
Ready or not, the writing was on the wall! Soon after the political killing ordered by Herod cut short Yohannan’s life, Yeshua stepped into the breach. He began what, in the New Testament, is referred to as his ministry.
In his sermons, also in Hebrew, the only language he spoke, Yeshua urged the people to live their lives by the 613 mitzvots. He urged them to not become lax in keeping the Sabbath, in performing the circumcision of their male children on their eights day, in eating only bloodless meat and to refresh their total faith in YHWY [Yaweh], Adonai – their one and only God.
In his own way, he took over where Yohannan had left off. For all who understood the subtext, he confirmed the imminent arrival of the great leader, the mashiach/messiah that all Jews, young and old, had been taught to pray for.
It has to be understood that by then there had already been a couple of messianic-claimants, men whom others had designated in their lifetime – and despite the lack of any specific achievement – as a god-sent messianic leader.