The details surrounding Jesus’s birth became part of the lore of his community. Born in Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth, west of the Sea of Galilee, some said he was conceived while his mother was still a virgin and that his birth was a miracle from God, heralded by angels themselves.1 Others assumed that the timing of his arrival—so soon after his parents’ wedding—meant that if he wasn’t an illegitimate son, then at the very least temptation had gotten the best of his parents before they wed.
Still, it was hard to deny that there was something unusual about Joseph and Mary’s son. Even from a young age, his wisdom, understanding, and learning mystified the religious leaders when they heard him speak. His own community regarded him as a man who had found favor with God.2 As his parents watched Jesus mature, they couldn’t help but see his Nazareth years as a time of preparation for a calling they knew would inevitably lead him away from them.
Jesus was around thirty years old when he left Nazareth to begin his public ministry.3 The first thing he did was journey to Bethany beyond the Jordan to find his cousin John.
John was a preacher who lived in the wilderness proclaiming a bap- tism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.4 Dressed in a camel hair coat like the prophet Elijah, he looked like the child of a feral, violent land, but he spoke as one privy to the mysteries of God. People from all over were drawn to hear him.
His message was simple and pointed: “Hope is here. The Lord is with us.” Many in Israel responded to John’s message by coming to confess their darkest secrets—to begin again a conversation with the Maker who promised to never forsake them.5
It had been a long time since the people of Israel had reason to think God was near, let alone active. Their recent history was a sad tale of sifting through the rubble of exile. Yes, they had come home. But like Job, though they were able to reconstruct much of what fell to the Babylonians and Assyrians who had carried them off, what they rebuilt could not replace all they had lost.6 Neither could it take away their grief. They were poor in spirit—mourners, meek and hungry for righteousness. Estranged from comfort and unsure of their inheritance, they wanted to see God, and if not God himself then at least traces of his presence with them.7
Generations earlier, when their ancestors followed Joshua across the river where John now stood, they passed from being slaves in the wilderness to a mighty kingdom built on the promises of their God.8 But now, every Roman sword that clinked against the armor moving through their streets and alleys reminded them that they had again returned to the wilderness of oppression. So when John emerged from the wild, proclaiming the nearness of God, many regarded him more as a guide than a stranger. They came to John, and he led one person after another down into this river that ran through their history as a people—one bank marking who they had been and the other who they would become. And in those waters, between those banks, he baptized them.
John grew up with the stories of how God opened his own mother’s barren womb to bring him into this world. He knew he was born to proclaim the salvation of the Lord.9 He also knew that the Lord had given his mother’s cousin Mary a son of her own—only Mary’s miracle wasn’t that she overcame barrenness to conceive. It was that she conceived while she was yet a virgin.
Back when Mary was pledged to marry Joseph, the angel of the Lord appeared to tell her that the Lord was giving her a boy and he would be called the Son of the Most High God. God was going to give this child David’s throne where he would reign forever over the house of Jacob, and his kingdom would never end.10 Mary would carry in her womb the King of Glory, the Savior of the world.
John’s mother, Elizabeth, used to tell him about the time Mary, whom she sometimes referred to as “the mother of my Lord,”11 came to visit and how when she entered their house, John leapt inside Elizabeth’s belly. It was as though he couldn’t wait to begin proclaiming the Lord’s salvation, she told him.
John knew this was his path. He would never be wealthy. He would hold no position of power. He was the courier of the news that God was giving his forgetful creation the Savior he had promised so long ago.12 John’s purpose was to run wild with the hope that the Messiah had come.
1. Luke 1:26–38; 2:8–21
2. Luke 2:41–52
3. Luke 3:23
4. Luke 3:3
5. Deut. 31:8
6. Job 42:10–11
7. Matt. 5:2–6, 8
8. Joshua 3
9. Matt. 3:11
10. Luke 1:32–33
11. Luke 1:43
12. Gen. 3:17
Taken from Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, by Russ Ramsey. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus stand at the heart of the Christian faith. For many, however, the story is so familiar that it no longer instills a profound sense of awe and wonder. In this carefully researched retelling of the gospel story, pastor Russ Ramsey seeks to reinvigorate readers’ appreciation for Jesus Christ by helping believers and nonbelievers alike encounter the truth about Jesus’s life, work, and message in a fresh and compelling way. Designed to be read at any time of the year, Behold the King of Glory follows the ministry of Jesus in one continuous narrative, culminating in his dramatic arrest, execution, and resurrection. Creatively written yet rooted in the Bible, this resource will reawaken readers’ appreciation for Jesus Christ, the King of Glory.