Revolution: Roman occupation, Birth of Christ, John the Baptist, Jesus and Peter

The Romans dominate the Mediterranean through fear and oppression, and the Jews crave a new messiah. Instead they have Herod the Great, put on the throne by the Romans. When pious Jews rebel, Herod executes them. In Galilee, Mary and Joseph watch helplessly as tax collectors ransack their village. Then Angel Gabriel’s words to Mary change everything – she will bear a child, the Son of God. Bravely, Joseph takes Mary as his wife and on to Bethlehem for the census. Others are also traveling... Balthazar and other astrologers are tracking a new star. They enquire of Herod whether he knows where the prophesied King of the Jews will be born. As baby Jesus enters the world, these strangers are the first to pay their respects. But the next will be terrible - jealous Herod orders the death of all Bethlehem’s male babies. But he Holy family escapes. When they return years later, they find an even more divided land - Judea is now under direct Roman rule, headed by the ruthless Governor Pilate. Out in the wilderness, prophet John the Baptist shouts wildly that the Jews must repent, prepare, be baptized. Jesus appears, ready to take on his mission, and John baptizes him. Almost ready, he takes on Satan in the desert and emerges stronger, more certain. Now he just needs followers. He finds Peter, his first disciple, and now he is ready... the revolution can begin.


by Rick Love
Associate Director of WEA Peace and Reconciliation Initiative

Jesus was born into a world of violence, growing up and living under the heavy hand of Roman occupation. How would this promised “Prince of Peace” usher in God’s kingdom? Would He crush the Roman oppressors and lead a violent overthrow of Rome? This was the longing and hope of many Jews.

But the revolutionary kingdom of which Jesus’ spoke and came to establish was different. It was a kingdom of love and non-violence. As the prophets predicted, Jesus came to usher in a kingdom of peace (Isaiah 9:6-7; 52:7; Micah 5:2-5; Zechariah 9:9-10).

Jesus began His work by gathering a team to follow Him. His disciples often failed and fell, but ultimately they learned how to follow His example and teaching. They later embodied His message and became ambassadors of His kingdom.

Together with His disciples, Jesus instigated His mission to rescue the world from the dominion of Satan. He came to restore a fallen creation and to heal the brokenness of humanity. He demonstrated what the kingdom was like by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, casting out demons and forgiving sinners. Jesus taught and modeled exclusive truth claims. You and I entered the kingdom through Him: "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He repeatedly said that a person’s eternal destiny depended on their relationship with Him (John 3:16; Matthew 7:21-27; Mark 8:34-38).

Jesus also commanded His followers to love their neighbor and even their enemy (Luke 10:27-37; Matthew 5:43-48). He modeled the nature of this new world order by loving the marginalized – reaching out to society’s outcasts, to the sexually immoral and to “sinners” of every type. Jesus demonstrated a kingdom of compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation.

In my experience, far too many Christians act more like Jesus’ opponents, the Pharisees than they do Jesus. Pharisees were antagonistic toward sinners. They demonstrated love for God by hating sinners. Their devotion to God manifested itself through hostility.

By contrast, Jesus demonstrated love for God by loving sinners and manifesting hospitality. Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd. Because of this, one of Jesus’ nicknames was “friend of sinners.”

Jesus not only modeled exclusive truth claims but also inclusive love aims! The strong “both-and” nature of this radical Jesus unnerves many people. The majority of evangelicals contend for Jesus’ exclusive truth claims but somehow miss or minimize Jesus’ inclusive love aims.

Jesus said that His children would be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Thus, much of His teaching was aimed at building a community that learned how to love (John 13:34-35). He repeatedly called His followers to pursue reconciliation and forgive one another (Matthew 5:23-24; 7:3-5; 18:15-17; Luke 17:3-4).

Jesus’ mission was a preview of the future kingdom. In heaven there would be no more sickness, no more hunger and no more evil. It would be a world of perfect love. Peace would reign! Through Jesus, the Kingdom of God was launched on earth as it is in heaven. Through His disciples, the world would see a tangible, though imperfect, demonstration of the kingdom …now!


John baptizes people from miles around, helping them cleanse their hearts in joyful preparation for the coming of the Messiah, bringing them back to God, one baptism at a time. But many don't just come to be baptized. Many who step into the Jordan at John's behest believe that John himself is actually the Messiah.

"There is one to come, more powerful than me, whose sandals I am not fit to carry," John always tells those who ask. "He is the Messiah. Trust me, you'll know him when you see him."

But John sees him first. From out of the crowd steps Jesus, now ready to begin his life's work. John is stunned. His entire life has been building to this moment.

The crowds along the shore notice the look in John's eyes. They turn to Jesus, wondering what makes him so special.

"Surely I need to be baptized by you," John says humbly, "And yet you come to me?"

Jesus gently takes hold of John's hand and places it atop his own head. "Let this be so now, John. It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness."

John nods in understanding. With all the people along the shore looking on, John the Baptist immerses Jesus in the cold waters of the Jordan. And in that moment, the weight of John's ministry becomes lighter. He is no longer a prophet, foreseeing the distant coming of the Messiah.

The Messiah is here. Now. His head and body are submerged in a baptism that he does not require, for Jesus has no sin. But the ritual sends the symbolic message that a time of renewal for all mankind has begun. He is on the threshold of the greatest mission in human history. All of the world's imperfection, suffering, and pain will soon be laid upon him. Mankind will receive God's salvation.

As Jesus emerges from the water, the heavens open. The Spirit of God descends, and a voice from heaven says, "This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased."

A Story of God and All of us

This novel is a companion to The Bible miniseries. Readers will revel in this epic saga of warriors, rebels, poets and kings, all called upon by God to reveal His enduring love for mankind. Ultimately, God’s plan is fulfilled in the story of Jesus the Messiah, whose life, death and resurrection bring salvation to one and all. Hardcover 337 pages.



The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-21)

The Birth of Jesus

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

© New International Version (NIV)

The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

© New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

© New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Calls His First Disciples (Matthew 4:18-22)

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

© New International Version (NIV)


They were all downtrodden, unfortunate, and even persecuted.

He was an educated teenager from a noble family in Jerusalem. His city was destroyed and who knows what happened to his family. He was marched off to exile in Babylon. A future derailed. So much potential wasted.

His three friends were taken captive, too. They stayed strong when everyone else wavered. They stood for the truth when everyone else buckled. And what did they get for it? They were arrested, condemned, and thrown into a blazing hot furnace.

An eighty-year-old man prays in private to his God and is betrayed by his coworkers. Thrown to the lions-literally.

A teenage girl has kept herself sexually pure. She's never been touched by a man. And then she's pregnant. No one will believe her story. Her fiance breaks their engagement.

Even the Son of God, whose Heavenly Fatehr thunders his approval at his baptism, can expect no breaks. He's gone forty days without food. Forty parched days in the wilderness. Forty frigid nights. He's weak. He's famished. He's lonely. Sure enough, that's when the tempter shows up and hits him below the belt.

Maybe you've known similar times. Times when you were downtrodden, unfortunate, and even persecuted. It is only natural at such times to feel like a victim. But from all indications, none of those people did. Though it would have been perfectly understandable in such circumstances, none of those situations produced victims-only victors! Daniel became an influential advisor to the king. His three friends survived the fiery furnace and prompted the king to praise God. Daniel, again, remained faithful to God and endured the lions' den without a scratch. Mary became the mother of the long-awaited Messiah; and Jesus not only endured temptation but triumphed over it.

God's great salvation (Hebrews 2:3) is a salvation from victimhood. He delivers his loved ones from sin, and with it from guilt and shame. The soul who trusts in him is no longer a victim of sin and circumstance, but can be victorious by entrusting their lives into his hands. As Scripture says, "In all ... things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Roman 8:37)

The Bible 30-Day Experience Guidebook © 2013 by Outreach, Inc.

Review is From The Bible 30-Day Experience DVD Study + Guidebook

This five-week study for individuals and small groups based on some of the epic stories of the Bible, with an emphasis on God’s plan of redemption for mankind through Jesus Christ. This study features inspirational video clips from the epic Bible miniseries.


Fisher of Men

God uses the simple things of the world to change the world.

Jesus saw success where Peter saw failure.

Jesus called Peter as he was, doubtful and simple, and showed him a great destiny: “You will be a fisher of men.”

Jesus demonstrates that he is Lord, also, of the sea and all in it. His miracle demonstrates his claim to divinity.

Jesus also reveals his life’s purpose here with the challenge: “You will be a fisher of men.” Jesus wants to rescue (save) humans and bring them into the Kingdom of God and into relationship with Him.

Peter, while doubtful at first, does demonstrate great awe and faith at witnessing one miracle. He does not know how God works through Jesus, only that he does. It is only after Jesus’ resurrection that Peter, and the other disciples, fully begin to understand who Jesus really is.

Christ’s model of love is revealed here. He met Peter’s need before communicating spiritual truths.

Questions to reflect upon:

In what way was this moment in Peter’s life the beginning of a new life for him?
Why does the phrase “Change the world” explain Christ’s purpose on earth?
What does Christ mean by being “a fisher of men?”
Is this a calling for us as well as Peter?
How can we be “fishers of men?”

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