The enlightenment teaching of the Essene was known as the WAY. This teaching became the final interpretation of the Law and the Prophets, as revealed by Yeshua Messiah (Messiah = Anointed One). The Way became the enlightened transitional teaching into the early church.
This article focuses on the anointing of Jesus (see also, The Way-Gideon).
When Jesus arrives, John’s ministry had already become famous throughout Israel. John preaches the basic Essene message of repentance. His emphasis between dark and light and the choice between the two is a continued theme in Jesus’s ministry as well (Lk. 12.3; Jn. 8.12, 12.35, 12.46). John denounces Herod the Idumean, and Herod’s marriage to his own brother’s wife. He denounces Sadducaic Temple authority as well as the rule of law imposed by the Pharisees. He tells the multitudes there is a “sin stain” upon the nation (Mt. 3.7).
John points to Jesus as Messiah
In carrying his message forward John’s broader ministry opens by establishing ‘spiritual place’, planting a standard. All matters of consequence, whether good or bad, will first have a standard planted. Here is where I stand and what I stand for!
John’s message moves past the strict standard of law and asserts a revelatory and prophetic speaking.* Concerning the Qumran Essene priesthood (scribes and lawyers), they would expect to be catapulted into ascendancy. As to the Sadducees, they would prefer to remain as the Temple Priests. John condemns them both, and the Pharisees fair no better. John will confirm none, but instead preaches the coming Messiah.
*Baptism from teacher to acolyte was the usual practice upon entering a new rabbinic teaching or new sect. If we look at the roots of John’s early ministry, the immersion represents the cleansing of the old mind and the establishment of a new mind.* For a new religious order to become established this renewal must take place. John’s repentance message refers to a change in thinking, and not just bad habits to resist—the baptismal initiates a different way of looking at the world.
* Previous prophets also administered the religious calling of the repentance message. Good references are found in Jer. 18.8-11, Jeremiah’s speaking on God’s power in judging nations—evil for evil and good for good—with repentance the pivotal issue. Joel 2.13, tells us to repent of evil and receive the blessing of a merciful God, much like the John the Baptist message. Jonah 3, especially verse 10, wherein God sees the penitent works of Nineveh and repents of the retribution to be levied.
Repentance must arrive as a change in thinking. Thought-change will always remain as the most basic element within conversion. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again (awakened), he cannot see the kingdom of God,” as is spoken to Nicodemus in Jn. 3.3, reflects this change in thinking, and also reflects the conversion of consciousness Jesus begins to teach. Focused on repentance, John’s omnibus message for the land of Israel moves from ritual to a change in thinking as preparation for Messiah. The true repentance pathway always unfolds from within.
Direct preparation for Messiah is a big change in thinking compared to waiting and wondering when Messiah will come. Some pastors underrate John’s baptism and rarely mention it except in passing. But John’s baptism initiates expectancy combined with preparedness for change—enter into the baptismal, participate in hastening Messiah! This message seems much of the fire, the urgency, as John continues to preach.
Even as John stated in Matt. 3.3, he (John) is the voice crying out to “prepare the way of the Lord.” This is an obscure way to say that the Messiah will bring forth the final message, the final conversion. “While all the people were being immersed, Yeshua too was immersed. As he was praying, heaven was opened; the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) came down on him in physical form like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with you,’ ” Lk. 3.22.* No one could deny the godly light which manifested, and by those observing, this experience would have been a witnessing no one could forget.
*The Complete Jewish Study Bible
The power of the anointing would be overwhelming. For those who grasped the meaning of this anointing, the shift in consciousness would have been not only ‘good news’, but news of an unbelievable kind. People were expectant for the Messiah, but no one expected such a powerful and light abounding presentation.
News concerning the anointing would spread into Jerusalem within days. Some of the people at the anointing would be traveling through smaller villages on the way home, quickly welling up excitement. The provocative moves of a resurgent religious order? Perhaps a true revolution? The religious hierarchy watched carefully.
It is here that the clash in consciousness occurs. The people’s view differs from the hierarchical view, illustrated while Jesus is in Bethany, Mt. 21.46, “But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared for the multitudes, because they took him for a prophet.” By the time Jesus reaches Bethany, conversion by the people is well underway.
Was John’s more radical preachment signaling the return of a more active Essene priesthood? Was the anointing of Jesus the triumphal ascendancy of a new high priest? These would be disturbing questions for the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and as word of the Jesus ministry spreads concerns would continue to mount. The Herodian faction, Pharisees* who supported Herod, crank up added heat. Although a minority group, together with the Sadducees, Herod’s connection to the Sanhedrin remains tightly bound. His power base remained with Sadducee Temple wealth and with Rome.
*Some scholars believe the Herodians to be Qumran Essene.
Gracus, the Roman procurator preceding Pilot, appoints Caiaphus as the high priest. As the story unfolds, the Sanhedrin dispatches Nicodemus, this to monitor the Baptist ministry uproar, thence to discover Jesus. As to Nicodemus himself, he will later become an adherent to Jesus the Nazarene, the Jewish Messiah.