Welcome to the Mountjoy Ministries Blog

This blog was authored by Bryan W. Sheldon, author and Bible teacher. His books are listed below. The studies in the blog are offered in the desire that they may be helpful in directing readers to the truths contained in the Bible.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Birth of Christ

Our Christmas study continues to look at the condition of the world as seen in the condition of Israel at the time

When God sent His Son

Scribes and Pharisees:

The Pharisees, in contrast to the Sadducees, accepted the whole of the T’nach, (the Law, the Writings and the Prophets); and added other regulations which they sought to impose on the population.  These other laws and regulations were called the ‘tradition of the elders’; and revolved around the practical application of the T’nach.  The Pharisees worked hand in hand with the interpreters of these traditions, the Scribes, but Jesus condemned both Scribes and Pharisees for hypocrisy.  They pretended spirituality, they pretended integrity, they pretended they were following the light of the Word of God, but Jesus said, they were, like the Sadducees, corrupt, extortioners, exploiting the people, devouring widows’ houses.  Described as blind leaders of the blind, they were a generation of vipers.

Historically, these ‘rulers of Israel’, (Sadducean priests and Pharisaic elders and lawyers), met in the house of polished stones in the Temple compound, but at the time of the ministry of the Messiah they were meeting in the end chamber of the royal porch, located on the southern wall of the Temple mount.


The population itself was largely in a state of unbelief, and ripe for the activities of the Adversary.  When Jesus began His ministry, one of His first tasks was as a medical missionary to the demon possessed. This condition revealed itself in many ways, with some deaf, some blind, some mute, some paralysed, some lunatic and some spastic. Many in Israel had been ‘bound by Satan’ for a considerable period.  Lightfoot expresses it in his exercitations on Matthew 10: ‘When I consider with myself that numberless number of demoniacs which the evangelists mention, the like to which no history affords, and the Old Testament produces hardly one or two examples, I cannot but suspect …that the Jewish people, now arriving to the very top of that impiety, now also arrived to the very top of those curses which are recited in Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28’.  Then there were those who, while not possessed, were oppressed of the devil. Luke refers to it when he reported, ‘Jesus of Nazareth … went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.’ It appears that Jesus first had to cleanse the nation of demonic activity before they could have the freedom to consider His claims of office. Jesus likened the nation to a man possessed of an unclean demon.
The Birth of the Saviour
Into such a world and at such a time the Son of God came, born of a virgin in David’s town of Bethlehem, of the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David
We magnify the grace and condescension of God in this great act of mercy. Christ Jesus, who,   being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:5–7)

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!

More Next Time

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Birth of Christ

Since Christmas is just around the corner, I thought we could have an early look at the condition of the world:

When God sent His Son
The condition of the Jewish nation at the time of the incarnation
Writers of the Jewish Scriptures prophesied the coming of a deliverer, an anointed one, a Messiah; an individual who would be of the seed of woman; and descended from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David.  Moses said he would be an anointed prophet,   David said he would be a priest of the order of Melchizedek, Micah said he would rule Israel. Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be that Messiah. 
At the time of His birth, Israel was in captivity both nationally and spiritually.  The land, promised to Abraham and his seed, was enemy held territory. The standards, symbols and activities of Rome, the unlawful occupants, were everywhere.  The Jewish Temple, for all its great height, was itself overlooked by the towers of the  Antonia      Fortress. This was a physical illustration of the plight of the nation.
Another King of the Jews: Under Rome, there was a period when the secular rulers of the nation were the Herods. There are   seven of them mentioned in the New Testament.  The first was Herod the Great, the king of the nation at the time of the birth of Jesus. He was not of David’s line, not even of Jacob’s line, therefore not of ‘Israel’. He was an Idumean, a descendent of Esau, and a Jewish proselyte. Under Rome, he ruled over an area the size of which rivalled that of Solomon. He thought of himself as a new Solomon, building the Temple while overcoming all obstacles. He obtained the title, ‘King of the Jews’ and some of the Herodian party considered him a Messiah. However, he was evil, a murderer, his infamous act, the massacre of the innocents of Bethlehem, was not out of character
The Spiritual Climate
More serious than Israel’s political state was its spiritual state.
Sadducean/Boethusean  High Priests
It is likely that one of the sons of Boethus was High Priest at the time of the birth of Jesus. Boethus was a pupil of Antigonus of Sokho who taught the maxim, "Be not like the servants who serve their masters for the sake of the wages, but be rather like those who serve without thought of  receiving wages". He and another of his pupils,  Zadok  repeated this maxim to their pupils. In the course of time, either the two teachers or their   pupils understood this to express the belief that there was neither an afterlife nor a resurrection of the dead and  founded the sects of the Sadducees  and the Boethusians. They lived in luxurious splendour; using silver and golden vessels all their lives.
Historical in this story is the statement that these two sects denied the immortality of the soul and resurrection. Josephus asserted their rejection of “the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades”. “Souls die with the bodies” was what they said.  The   practical effect of this doctrine was ‘eat, drink and be merry, for    tomorrow we die’.  They were called the Epicureans of the Jews. Since their theological position did not include reward or retribution after death, they were left with no restraint in the present.
Interspersed with the High Priesthoods of the    family of Boethus was the High Priesthoods of the family of Annas who were of the Sadducean persuasion.  It was a son in law of Annas, Caiaphas, who was High Priest during the period of Jesus’ ministry.
The sum of all this was that for six decades around the birth, ministry and death of Christ, the Temple was controlled by those who did not believe that they would ever stand before the judgement seat of God. These doctrines opened the door to all kinds of excesses and misdeeds. 
The Priesthood
The commercial enterprises of  the priesthood on the Temple Mount exposed their corruption.  Items essential for ritual offerings were sold at exorbitant prices. The great religious festivals, when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from other parts of the Roman empire as well as the faithful in Israel, were used to collect vast amounts of money. A Rabbi described them not as priests but as treasurers. Jesus referred to them as ‘thieves and robbers’. The Temple ‘market’ in Rabbinical writings is referred to as ‘the Bazaars of the Sons of Annas’ (Chanuyoth beney Chanan).  The priests were running a monopoly and worshippers were fleeced like the sheep they sacrificed!    

More Next Time