Legends, myths and folk tales live forever in our genetic memories - because they carry great lessons that impact on our everyday lives. Look around, folks, you're living in the midst of an unfolding epic drama...
JOHN THE BAPTIST is a prophet in the tradition of Elijah who lives a simple, ascetic life, preparing candidates for the kingdom of heaven by baptizing them in the river Jordan. He announces the coming of a great Master who will save humanity and redeem us from darkness and moral degeneracy.
John does not belong to the conservative Jewish sect known as the Pharisees, who venerate the Torah (akin to the Koran) and the Talmud (akin to the Hadith), and value outward piety in daily life; nor does he belong to the Sadduccees, an urban elite sect (akin to Mahathir's Melayu Baru) with a more sophisticated understanding of the outside world and who have embraced Hellenistic (secularist) lifestyles and values. John is more aligned with the Essenes (akin to the Sufis), a mystic sect that teaches conscious union with the Paraclete (or Holy Spirit).
As he isn't part of any institutionalized priesthood, John the Baptist answers only to himself and his God. He preaches to all who will listen and fearlessly criticizes the liars and hypocrites who compromise their ethical values in exchange for petty favors from the corrupt and decadent court of Herod Antipas (right), puppet King of Galilee and vassal of the Roman Occupation Government. John openly denounces the moral degradation that has overtaken his beloved land and accuses Herod Antipas of transgressions against the law.
As the traditional "Voice in the Wilderness," John the Baptist's rantings against the government are tolerated as the mutterings of a madman. However, after Herod Antipas abandons his official consort and marries his sister-in-law Herodias - an ambitious, heartless woman who some suspect poisoned her own husband - John the Baptist condemns their liaison as an unholy one, thereby angering the witchy Herodias. To pacify her Herod Antipas orders the arrest of the wild prophet and throws him in prison.
At the royal marriage feast, Herodia's voluptuous daughter Salome (left) dances for the court and so delightful is her performance that the King drunkenly announces that she can demand whatever reward she desires. Salome consults her mother, who suggests that she asks for the head of John the Baptist.
Nonetheless, John's earthly mission has already been accomplished. Prior to his arrest, incarceration and beheading, he had recognized and identified The One who will save the people from eternal enslavement to the forces of evil - indeed, Ha Adon Yeheshua Ha Mashi'akh or long-awaited Messiah - and baptized him in the living waters of the river Jordan. The young Master Yeshua's encounter with his shamanic initiator, John the Baptist transforms him into The Christos or Anointed King.
Yeshua emerges from his full immersion in the Jordan reborn as The Christos, awakened to his own earthly mission, even as a voice from heaven resounds in his head: "You are verily my Sun in whom I am so well pleased!"
John the Baptist is widely acknowledged as a Man of Godly Wisdom and his naming of Yeshua as The One facilitates the Master Yeshua's mission of awakening the people.
Traveling from village to village to explain his vision of humanity's New Dawn, Yeshua amasses a following that grows by the day. Few can resist his penetrating intelligence and charisma, his aura of nobility and innate leadership. The Galileans are convinced that the King has finally returned to reclaim his Heavenly Kingdom on Earth.
However, obstacles abound on the road to Glory, Kingdom and Power...
The Sadduccees fear radical change, having adapted nicely to Roman Occupation and invested their lives in mercantile activities, they cling anxiously to the Status Quo and speak of compromise, patience, reconciliation with Herod, and appeasement of Rome, lest turmoil descend upon the nation.
The Pharisees and Scribes, on the other hand, realize that the Return of the King could result in a diminution of their worldly authority and wealth; possibly total loss of their powers and privileges, gained at the expense of the ignorant masses. For generations they have toiled under the yoke of Roman Occupation, learning to serve time and their own self-interest. Now, along comes a visionary from out the blue whose impassioned talk of the Kingdom of Heaven sends shivers of incomprehension through their weakened spines. They are being asked to make a leap of faith into uncharted territory, to live by aspirations long forgotten and ideals long forsaken... never before has a crisis of such magnitude befallen the nation!
Can this Miracle Worker, this self-proclaimed Messiah, this uncrowned King be trusted? Will he lead us to the Promised Land at long last... or to Damnation and Ruin?
This is a story that has been told and retold throughout the ages. The plot remains the same, as do the key characters. What changes are the time and place, the costume and set design. And, as always, how the story ends - whether in tragedy or triumph - is entirely in our own hands.
[First posted 25 September 2008]