The dreaded 'J' word ? (part 9)

What's a nice Jewish boy ... ?

Jesus was a nice Jewish boy, who any mother would be proud of. He was born in Bethlehem (as per the prophecy given earlier, from Micah), as the Christmas cards show us, in very humble surroundings. After birth he had been circumcised and consecrated at the Temple and, by all accounts, had the typical childhood of one from a poor family in a Galileean village.

The first sign that there was something different about this little chap was when he was 12 years old and, along with all Jews, was at Jerusalem with his family for Pesach. But unlike any other boy of his age, he wasn't content following in his father's footsteps, in a passive role dictated by his tender years. This boy went missing and, unlike a typical 12 year old today, who would be found in an amusement arcade, or hanging out in a shopping mall, this boy was eventually found hanging out in the Temple itself, impressing the teachers with his grasp of religious matters.

From then on his mother, Miriam, kept one eye on him, as he 'grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.'

We next see him, when he was about 30 years old, by the banks of the river Jordan, where his cousin, John the Baptist (Yochanan the Immerser) was dunking people by the coach load into the waters. John was the first century's equivalent of the New Age traveller, but without the dodgy theology.

He dressed in camel's hair, with a matching leather belt, but it wasn't his dress sense that marked him out from the crowd, it was his message. As the last of a long list of Old Testament prophets, stretching from Noah to Malachi, he gave a familiar message. He preached that people should 'repent of their sins', and baptised them in the waters of the Jordan as a symbol of their compliance.

So baptism was around long before Jesus. It was, like most physical expressions of Christianity, a thoroughly Jewish concept.

One fine day Jesus suddenly appeared and asked John to baptise him. This was the starting point of Jesus's ministry.