Hurlbut's Story of the Bible  by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

Jesus in the Desert, and beside the River

Matthew iv: 1 to 11; Mark i: 12, 13; Luke iv: 1 to 13; John i: 29 to 51.

dropcap image ROM the earliest years of Jesus the Holy Spirit of God was with him, growing as he grew. And in the hour when he was baptized and the form of a dove was seen hovering over him, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit as no man before him had been filled, for he was the Son of God. At that hour he knew more fully than he had ever known before that work that he should do to save men. The Spirit of God sent Jesus into the desert, there to be for a time alone with God and to plan out his work for men.

So earnest was the thought of Jesus in the desert, so full was his union with God, that for forty days he never once ate anything, or felt any wish for food. But when the forty days were ended, then suddenly hunger came upon him, and he felt faint and starving, as any other man would feel who had fasted for so long a time.

At that moment Satan, the evil spirit, came to Jesus as he comes to us, and put a thought into his mind. It was this thought:

"If you are the Son of God, you can do whatever you please, and can have whatever you wish. Why do you not command that these stones be turned into loaves of bread for you to eat?"

Jesus knew that he could do this, but he knew also that this power had been given to him, not for himself, but that he might help others. He said to the evil spirit, "It is written in God's book 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that cometh out of the mouth of God.' "

Then the evil spirit led Jesus to Jerusalem, the holy city, and brought him to the top of a high tower on the Temple, and said to him, "Now show all the people that you are the Son of God by throwing yourself down to the ground. You know that it is written in the book of Psalms, 'He shall give his angels charge over thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.' "

But Jesus knew that this would not be right, for it would be done not to please God, but to show himself before men and as a trial of God's power, when God himself had not commanded it. He answered, "It is written again, 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.' "

Again the evil spirit tried to lead Jesus into doing wrong, as he leads us all. He led him to the top of a high mountain, and caused a vision of all the kingdoms of the world and their glory to stand before the eyes of Jesus. Then he said, "All these shall be yours; you shall be the king of all the earth if you will only fall down and worship me."

Then Jesus said to him, "Leave me, Satan, thou evil spirit! For it is written, 'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.' "

When Satan found that Jesus would not listen to him, he left him; and then the angels of God came to Jesus in the desert and gave to him the food that he needed.

After this victory over the evil spirit, Jesus went again from the desert to the place at the river Jordan where he had been baptized. It was near a city sometimes called Bethabara, a word which means "a place of crossing," because it was one of the places where the river Jordan was so shallow that the people could walk across it. The city was called also "Bethany beyond Jordan," so that it would not be mistaken for another Bethany on the Mount of Olives, very near Jerusalem.

There John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one of whom I spoke, saying, 'There is One coming after me who is greater than I.' This is the Son of God."

And again, the next morning, John the Baptist was standing with two young men, his followers. They were fishermen who had come from the Sea of Galilee to hear him. One was named Andrew, and the other John. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking near by, and he said again, "Behold the Lamb of God!"

When the two young men heard this they left John and went to speak with Jesus, although they had not known him before. Jesus saw that they were following him, and he said, "What is it that you wish from me?"

They said to him, "Master, we would like to know where you are staying, so that we can see you and talk with you."

Jesus said to them, "Come and see."

They went with Jesus and saw where he was staying, and stayed and talked with him, and listened to his words all the rest of that day, for it was about ten o'clock in the morning when they first saw Jesus. And these two young men went away from the meeting with Jesus, believing that Jesus was the Saviour and the King of Israel. These two, Andrew and John, were the first two men, after John the Baptist, to believe in Jesus.


Jesus teaching by the sea of Galilee

Each of these two men had a brother whom he wished might know Jesus. Andrew's brother was named Simon, and John's brother was named James. These four men were all fishermen together upon the Sea of Galilee. Andrew found his brother first and he said to him, "We have found the Anointed One, the Christ who is to be the King of Israel."

And Andrew brought his brother to meet Jesus. Jesus saw him coming, and without waiting to hear his name, he said, "Your name is Simon, and you are the son of Jonas. But I will give you a new name. You shall be called 'The Rock.' "

The word "rock" in Hebrew, the language of the Jews, was "Cephas," and in Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, it is "Petros," or Peter. So from that time Simon was called Simon Peter, that is, "Simon the Rock." So now Jesus had three followers, Andrew, John, and Simon Peter. The next day he was going back to Galilee, the part of the land where was his home, he met another man named Philip, who had also come from Galilee. He said to Philip, "Follow me."

And Philip went with Jesus as the fourth of his followers. Philip found a friend, whose name was Nathanael. He came from a place in Galilee, called Cana. Philip said to Nathanael, "We have found the one of whom Moses wrote in the law, and of whom the prophets spoke, the Anointed Christ. It is Jesus of Nazareth."

Nathanael lived not many miles from Nazareth, and he did not think that such a place as Nazareth could have in it one so great as the Christ, whom the Jews looked for as their king. He said to Philip, rather in scorn, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

Philip knew that if Nathanael could only meet Jesus and hear his words he would believe in him, as the others believed. He said to Nathanael, "Come and see him for yourself."

And he brought Nathanael to Jesus. As soon as Jesus saw him he said, "Here is an Israelite indeed, a man without evil."

Nathanael was surprised at this, and he said to Jesus, "Master, how did you know me?"

"Before Philip called you, when you were standing under the fig-tree, I saw you," said Jesus.

At this Nathanael wondered all the more, for he saw that Jesus knew what no man could know. He said, "Master, thou art the Son of God! Thou art the King of Israel!"

Jesus said to Nathanael, "Do you believe in me because I tell you that I saw you under the fig-tree? You shall see greater things than these. The time shall come when you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God going up and coming down through me, the Son of God."

Jesus had now five followers. These men and others who walked with him, and listened to his words, were called "disciples," a word which means "learners."


Jesus makes Peter and Andrew his disciples