Come and See: Recognizing Christ as King - In Detail

The first chapter in John is rich with information causing me to spend this past week reading articles, looking up definitions, watching videos, and comparing translations.  I feel like I could spend just an entire year trying to understand all that this chapter has to offer.  This version of the "Come and See" is more detailed with links for even more information.

For a simpler analysis, you can read this article by clicking here.

First let's look at two things that John the Baptist reveals.


I think it's important to first understand the meaning of the word Christ.

Many wrongly assume that Christ was Jesus' last name, a way to distinguish him from all other men walking around named Jesus.

Christ is a Greek word.  The Hebrew word is Messiah.  Both mean anointed one.

In John 1, John the Baptist is asked if he is Christ.  They are asking him if he is the anointed one who Isaiah said would become the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace.  Recognizing Jesus as the Christ meant recognizing him as the Anointed One--anointed to be the King of Kings.

To get a better understanding of why the Jews were looking for the King of Kings, I decided to study the political climate at the time.  I had no idea what I was in for.

For an overview, I watched this discussion of BYU scholars explaining the different regimes.

This discussion begins at 2:55 in this video.  If you don't want to watch the video, I explain it below in greater detail.

In 539 B.C., the Jews were allowed to leave Babylon and return to their homeland. This was known as Cyrus' edict.  But this doesn't not mean they were free.  In fact they remained under Persian rule for 200 more years.

Then Alexander the Great came along and overtook the Persians.


He now had control over Judah.  He introduced what is known as Hellenism, or a mixture of Greek and ancient philosophies.  This included pagan traditions, values, and beliefs including the nature of God.  After Alexander the Great died, his empire was divided into four.  Judah was now under control of the Seleucid Empire ruled by Seleucus who loved Hellenism.

King Antiochus IV decreed that the Jews had to express their faith in a more Hellenistic way. Mattathias Hasmonean refused to worship the Greek gods and even killed a Hellenistic Jew who tried to step in Mattathias' place.


In 166 B.C. Mattathias' son Judas used guerrilla warfare to fight the Hellenistic Jews and the Seleucid Empire. They destroyed Pagan altars in villages and circumcised boys.  Because of Judas' success he got a new family name that his brothers also eventually adopted.

Can you guess their name?

Maccabee, or the hammer.


Note: Now you know the reason for the Hanukkah celebration.  

But I'm going to keep calling them Hasmoneans.

So Jews were finally free of a king and no longer oppressed by an empire.

I'd argue no.

The Hasmoneans declared themselves to be the new high priests of the temple in Jerusalem and subsequently people could only be ordained to be priests if they had enough money.  Hellenistic Jews were forced to practice the Mosiac law.  It was a pretty corrupt government that didn't allow for religious freedom.

I'm skipping a lot here, but let's just say the Roman empire is getting stronger as the four empires from Alexander the Great fight with each other.

Enter Antipater.  He comes from the land of Edom, the kingdom south of Judah.  This guy is really savvy.  He always seems to know which side to join in any war.  First he manages to become a powerful official under the Hasmonean empire.  (Yes, I said it, empire.)

When the Roman general Pompey the Great conquers Judea, the Jews are now what is known as a client state under the Roman Republic.  When Julius Caesar defeats Pompey,  Antipater rescues Caesar in Alexandria.  Caesar then selects him to be the chief minister of Judea giving him the right to collect taxes.

When Caesar was assassinated, Antipater sided with Cassius.  Cassius tried to extort hundreds of talents out of Judah, we're talking millions and millions in today's dollars, and Antipater paid him 100 talents of his own money to appease Cassius.  I estimate this would be about $17 million today.

There is so much more to tell about Antipater, but let me just say he was a power broker between the Hasmoneans, Arabians, and Romans.  He was always looking out for himself and ways to get richer.  He ended up dying by getting poisoned.

Are you wondering why I'm going into so much detail about Antipater, whom you probably have never heard of?

Here's why.  Antipater had a son.  His name you know really well.


Herod the Great.  

Because his father was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau whose ancestors had converted to Judaism, Herod considered himself to be a Jew.  But he didn't act Jewish.  While his father is brokering powerful alliances, Herod is moving up the political ranks thanks to his father.

Rome really liked Herod.  The Jews did not.

Just like his father, Herod was willing to align himself with whomever he thought was next to gain power.  Herod saw that it would be to his political advantage to marry a Hasmonean princess Mariamne.  Problem was he was already married with a child.  So he banished his first wife.  Not cool, Herod.

One of the reasons why he married Mariamne was because she was the niece of the current king of Judah, Antigonus, a Hasmonean.  Herod helped the Romans defeat Antigonus and conquer Jersusalem.  As a result he was named by the Roman Senate to be the King of the Jews.

The "freedom" the Jews enjoyed under the Hasmonean empire was over.

I might talk more about Herod in future articles, but let me just say this about Herod.  He knew he was king because of corruption, deception, and brutality.  Of course he was worried that someone would do the same to him.  He ordered the killing of all 2 year old males when he heard that the King of Israel had been born.  This is known as the Massacre of the Innocents.


That shows just how threatened he felt.  He eventually had several family members executed including his wife Mariamne.

All this research gave me a better sense of what the Jews were going through when Christ was born.  I also see more clearly why they would be excited to hear that the King of Kings had been born, and he wasn't going to become just the king of Israel, he was going to become the king of the whole world.  He was going to be able to do what Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar couldn't, conquer all the empires and governments.  Judah was going to be on top.


Have you seen season 1 of The Crown?  If not, I don't think I ruin it for you when I tell you Elizabeth becomes the Queen of England.

One thing that is emphasized in that show is Elizabeth's belief that she was chosen by God to be Queen.  In fact, during her coronation ceremony she is anointed with oil, symbolic of being God's chosen one.

The idea that a king or queen is chosen by God, is not new.  In fact, we read of it in the Old Testament.

The prophet Samuel anointed Saul to be king.

Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?
And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?  And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.    
~ 1 Samuel 10:1,24
 The prophet Nathan anointed David to be king.

And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.  Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul 
~ 2 Samuel 12:7 
 The prophet Elijah anointed Hazael to be king.

And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:  
~ 1 Kings 19:15

And many more, but the point I'm trying to make is that the concept of a king being anointed by God was not new to the Jews when Christ was born.

In Malachi 4:5, God tells His people that the prophet Elias (Greek) or Elijah (Hebrew) will come back before the end of times.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
When John the Baptist says that he is not Elias, he means he's not the person who lived on the earth and performed many miracles and who will come again.  But he is AN Elias, meaning a forerunner.  That's why in John he says he is not Elias, but Jesus says he is Elias in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Can you see why people wanted to know if John the Baptist was Elijah?  If this was THE Elijah, that means the end of times was near and they would finally be free.  But by being AN Elijah means that he is a messenger with a specific purpose, to lead people towards Christ.

And just who was doing the asking?


I imagine we are going to be learning quite a bit about the different sects as we study the New Testament this year.  Let's find out who they are.


Remember when the Jews were under the Hasmonean empire?  Hasmoneans basically rejected the Mosiac Law which stated that those who were Levites were to be the high priests in the temple.   They let the position go to the highest bidder.

We get a clue that this was still happening in John 1:19 [emphasis added]:

... when the Jews sent priests AND Levites from Jerusalem to ask him... 
When writing my article about Christ being presented at the temple, I learned that priests and Levites used to be the same.  The word AND in there tells us that they are still practicing as Hasmoneans--at least to some extent.

The Pharisees did not like the Hellenistic or Hasmonean traditions.  They wanted it how it was during the time of King David and King Solomon.  A time when the Mosaic Law was strictly observed.

I think of the Pharisees as the "King Davidites."

In John 1:24 we learn that it was the Pharisees who wanted to know who John the Baptist was.


Another group was the Sadducees.  They were Jewish aristocracy.  I'm sure it will come as no surprise to learn that they were a small yet powerful group mainly from the high priests during the Hasmonean empire.  They were happier with the status quo than the Pharisees.

I think of the Sadducees as "Hasmoneanites."

And although they were both members of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees and the Sadducees did not like each other.


There was also a third group called the zealots. They wanted to rise up against the Romans just like the Maccabee family did almost 200 years earlier.  They wanted to be free again.

I think of the zealots as "freedom fighters."  But I imagine others would think of them as terrorists, especially the Romans.



There is another sect not mentioned in the New Testament, the Essenes.  This was a small group of people who lived on the shores of the Dead Sea.  Their priests did not participate in marriage, wine, or meat.  They did not worship in the temple.

I think of Essenes as... honestly, I don't think of them at all.  I just found out they existed.  Hopefully I can learn more in the future.

Putting all this information together makes the story at the end of John 1 all the more meaningful for me.  Phillip wants to introduce Jesus to Nathanael.  When they meet, Nathanael says:

"Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel."


Nathanael is most likely Bartholomew, a future apostle.   Accepting Jesus as the Christ was a big deal.

After all of this study of political corruption and intrigue, quite a few lessons stand out to me.


Lesson #1 - Faith is harder BEFORE it happens. 

Today accepting Christ means believing that 2000 years ago he died for our sins and was resurrected three days later.  When he was alive, none of that had happened yet.  There were no songs about Jesus, no artwork, no churches with his name.  I'm realizing just what a leap of faith it was for these people to see an ordinary carpenter now an itinerant rabbi not as a messiah but as THE Messiah.

This makes me think about events I'm required to believe in that haven't happened it.  The biggest one that comes to mind is Jesus Christ's second coming.  We know it is coming.  We know the events that will occur beforehand.  We know that he will become the King of Kings and rule all the earth.  The government will be on His shoulders.

But will I recognize Him when he comes?  Will I know him as the Messiah?  

Lesson #2 - Look forward, not backward. 

It's easy to long for the past.  We look back and think about how much simpler life was.  No cell phones to charge.  No texts to distract us.  I recently saw a video of two teenagers trying to use a rotary phone.  They didn't even know what a dial tone was.  Ahh, the good ol' days.  

But we are on this earth to progress, not to stay the same.  The world is changing.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is changing.  Society is changing.  Are we like the Pharisees and want to go back to when everything was decided for us and life was "easier."  Or are we like the Sadducees and just want to keep things as they are?  Or maybe we are like the zealots who think that solutions that worked in the past will work again.  

But Christ calls out to us and says "Come and see."  Come see what I have in store for you.  I know you like the former visiting teaching program, but come and see that there is a holier way.  I know you liked being taught the gospel for three hours each week, but come and see what church at home teach you.  Come follow me and see.  

Lesson #3 - Worldly problems are temporary, salvation is not.  

I think about Simeon and Anna who saw Christ in the temple when Jesus was 40 days old.  Those two had seen some stuff.  If Simeon was really over 200 years old then he still remembered what life was like under the Seleucid Empire when paganism was all the rage.  He lived through the Maccabean wars, saw the Romans swoop in, and Herod become king.  That's a lot to worry about.  

But I think Simeon had an eternal perspective and didn't look to Jesus to save him from Roman tyranny.  He looked to the Christ to save him.  I think he knew that this time on earth was temporary, but living with God was eternal.  

I remember years ago reading an Ensign article by Elder Kevin W. Pearson called Improving Your Personal Prayers.  In it he says:

Prayer is not a negotiation process... Prayer is less about changing our circumstances and more about changing us. 

How often do I pray for my circumstances to change?  If I was paying taxes to the Romans and was ruled by a corrupt king would I be praying for that to stop?  You bet I would!  But what about my life in 2019?  We see corruption, deception, bribery, calamities, etc.    At times I have difficulty remembering that our God in heaven is in charge and knows all.  I realize that like those in Jerusalem, I want it all to be wiped away... like now.  Am I praying for my trials to go away or am I praying that I might be changed in those trials?  


Oh boy, studying this chapter has woken me up to so many things I need to work on, I couldn't possibly tackle them in a week.  

Here are some goals that I have: 

1. Don't let the world news get me down.  Keep reminding myself that God is in charge and knows all.  Christ will come again, no one can stop Him from becoming our ruler.  

2. Make sure my prayers are about changing me and not my circumstances.  

3. Be willing to accept changes and don't wish for the past.

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This is not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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This post coincides with the January 14-20 lesson of the Come Follow Me 2019 Individual Study Manual.

To see the collection of all the posts that coincide with Come Follow Me 2019 manual, follow this Pinterest Board.