Man, the son of God, is weak in the flesh but free in the spirit.
The birth of Jesus Christ was thus: His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph. But before they began to live as man and wife it appeared that Mary was pregnant. Joseph however was a good man and did not wish to shame her: he took, her as his wife and had no relations with her till she had given birth to her first son and had named him Jesus.
And the boy grew and matured and was intelligent beyond his years.
When Jesus was twelve years old Mary went once with Joseph for the holiday at Jerusalem and took the boy with her. When the holiday was over they started homeward and forgot about the boy. Then they remembered, but thought he had gone with other lads, and on the way they inquired about him but he was nowhere to be found, so they went back for him to Jerusalem. And not till the third day did they find the boy in the church, where he was sitting with the teachers and asking questions. And everyone was surprised at his intelligence. His mother saw him and said: 'What have you done to us? Your father and I have been looking for you and grieving.' And he said to them: 'But where did you look for me? Surely you knew that a son should be looked for in his Father's house?' And they did not understand him, nor did they understand whom he called his Father.
And after this Jesus lived with his mother and obeyed her in everything. And he advanced in stature and in intelligence. And everyone thought that Jesus was the son of Joseph. And so he lived to the age of thirty.
At that time a prophet John announced himself in Judea. He lived in the open country of Judea near the Jordan. His dress was of camelhair belted with a strap, and he fed on bark and on herbs.
John said: Bethink yourselves, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. He called on the people to change their lives and get rid of wickedness, and as a sign of that change of life he bathed them in the Jordan. He said: A voice calls to you; Open a way for God through the wilderness, level a path for him. Make it so that all may be level, that there may be neither hollows nor hills, neither high nor low. Then God will be among you and all will find salvation. And the people asked him: What must we do? He replied: Let him that has two suits of clothes give one to him that has none, and let him that has food give to him that has none. And tax-gatherers came to him and asked: What are we to do? He said to them: Extort nothing beyond what is due. And soldiers asked: How are we to live? He said: Do no one any harm, nor defraud any man, and be content with what is served out to you.
And inhabitants of Jerusalem came to him, and the Jews in the neighborhood of Judea near the Jordan. And they acknowledged their wrong-doings to him, and as a sign of a changed life he bathed them in the Jordan.
And many of the Orthodox and conventional religionists came to John, but secretly. He recognized them and said: You are a race of vipers: or have you also seen that you cannot escape the will of God? Then bethink yourselves and change your faith! And if you wish to change your faith let it be seen by your fruits that you have bethought yourselves. The ax is already laid to the tree. If the tree produces bad fruit it will be cut down and cast into the fire.
As a sign of a changed life I cleanse you in water, but as well as that bathing you must also be cleansed with the spirit. The spirit will cleanse you as a master cleanses his threshing-floor when he gathers the wheat and burns the chaff.
Jesus, too, came from Galilee to the Jordan to be bathed by John, and was bathed and heard John's preaching.
And from the Jordan he went into the wild places and there felt the power of the spirit.
Jesus remained in the desert forty days and forty nights without food or drink. And the voice of the flesh said to him: If you were the son of Almighty God you could make bread out of stones, but you cannot do so, therefore you are not a son of God.
But Jesus said to himself. If I cannot make bread out of stones, it means that I am not a son of God in the flesh but in the spirit. I am alive not by bread but by the spirit. And my spirit is able to disregard the flesh.
But still hunger tormented him, and the voice of the flesh again said to him: If you live only by the spirit and can disregard the flesh, you can throw off the flesh and your spirit will remain alive.
And it seemed to him that he was standing on the roof of the temple and the voice of the flesh said to him: If you are a son of God in the spirit, throw yourself from the temple, you will not hurt yourself but an unseen force will keep you, support you, and save you from all harm. But Jesus said to himself. I can disregard the flesh, but I may not throw it off, for I was born by the spirit into the flesh. That was the will of the Father of my spirit, and I cannot oppose him.
Then the voice of the flesh said to him: If you cannot oppose your Father by throwing yourself from, the temple and discarding life, then you cannot oppose your Father by hungering when you need to eat. You must not make light of the desires of the flesh; they are placed in you, and you must serve them. Then Jesus seemed to see all the kingdoms of the earth and all the peoples, just as they live and labor for the flesh, expecting gain therefrom. And the voice of the flesh said to him: There, you see, these people work for me and I give them what they wish for. If you will work for me you will have the same. But Jesus said to himself: My Father is not flesh but spirit. I live by him. I am always aware of his presence in me. Him alone I honor and for him alone I work, expecting reward from him alone.
Then the temptations ceased and Jesus knew the power of the spirit. And when he had experienced the power of the spirit, Jesus went out of the wild places and came again to John and stayed with him.
And when Jesus was leaving John, John said of him: That is the savior of men. On hearing those words of John two of his pupils left their former teacher and went after Jesus. He, seeing them following him, stopped and said: What do you want? They replied: Teacher, we wish to be with you and to know your teaching. He said: Come with me and I will tell you everything. They went with him and stayed with him, listening to him till ten o'clock.
One of these pupils was called Andrew. He had a brother Simon. Having heard Jesus, Andrew went to his brother Simon and said to him: We have found him of whom the prophets wrote-the Messiah has told us of our salvation. Andrew took Simon and brought him also to Jesus. Jesus called this brother of Andrew's, Peter, which means a stone. And both these brothers became pupils of Jesus. Afterwards, before entering Galilee, Jesus met Philip and called him to go with him. Philip was from Bethsaida and a fellow-villager of Peter and Andrew. When Philip had got to know Jesus he went and found his brother Nathanael and said to him: We have found the chosen of God of whom Moses and the prophets wrote. This is Jesus, the son of Joseph of Nazareth. Nathanael was surprised that he of whom the prophets wrote should be from a neighboring village, and he said: It is most unlikely that the messenger of God should be from Nazareth. Philip said: Come with me, you shall see and hear for yourself. Nathaniel agreed and went with his brother and met Jesus, and when he had heard him he said to Jesus: Yes, now I see that it is true that you are a son of God and the King of Israel. Jesus said to him: Learn something more important than that: henceforth the heavens are opened and men may be in communion with the heavenly powers. Henceforth God will no longer be separate from men.
And Jesus came home to Nazareth and on a holiday went as usual into the Assembly and began to read. They gave him the book of the prophet Isaiah; and unrolling it he read. In the book was written: The spirit of the Lord is in me. He has chosen me to announce happiness to the unfortunate and the brokenhearted, to announce freedom to those who are bound, light to the blind, and salvation and rest to the tormented, to announce to all men the day of God's mercy.
He folded the book, returned it to the attendant, and sat down. And all waited to hear what he would say. And he said to them: That writing has now been fulfilled before your eyes.
- Full name: Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
- Russian novelist and philosopher
- Born September 9th, 1828 and died November 20th, 1910
- Best known for War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877)