Now that we’ve dug a little into the Old Testament “types” (promises) and their New Testament “antitypes” (fulfillment) in Jesus’ early life as we meditate on them in the Joyful Mysteries, it’s time to move on to Jesus’ public ministry.
Jesus’ public ministry is especially appealing to most of us because it's during this very brief time in His life when He experiences some significant “life events” to which we can probably very much relate. Though many of us might not recall our own baptism, certainly we’ve attended those of our children, godchildren, relatives, and friends. Most of us have attended at least one wedding — likely even our own — and we probably have stories affiliated with those weddings, humorous stories that are told over and over again. Jesus’ story of water-to-wine was certainly on repeat in the Cana wedding couple’s household for generations!
Surprisingly, the Luminous Mysteries are a fairly new development in the Rosary. Added by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002, these Mysteries fill a rather glaring void left by the "traditional” Mysteries of the Rosary, which previously jumped from Jesus’ early life straight to His passion and death — completely skipping over His public ministry.
But Jesus’ public ministry is where He very much “gets down to business.” It's during this time of His life when He makes the greatest connection with His disciples, and shows the people, through His own actions and deeds, how our Father expects us to treat Him — and how to treat each other.
Let’s take a look.
The First Luminous Mystery ~ Baptism in the Jordan
Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan can be found in the New Testament in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (often referred to as the "Synoptic Gospels"). In reading the passage from Matthew, we can pinpoint several examples of “fulfillment” ringing through from promises made in the Old Testament.
The Jews were longing for a Messiah king to come and rescue them from oppression, as Moses had freed their ancestors from the Egyptians. Since the Jordan River was the Israelites’ final entryway into the Promised Land after forty years in the desert, it seems that John’s decision to baptize repentant sinners in this river was his way of “announcing” that the final exodus, with the ultimate Messiah, was underway.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)
Jesus is indeed the servant of the Lord. God delights in Him, and the Spirit rests upon Him. But Jesus will suffer greatly for our sins, and ultimately serve as the sacrificial lamb through His victorious death on the Cross.
The image of the sacrificial lamb is foreshadowed in the Old Testament: Genesis 22 tells the story of the testing of Abraham. Isaac, Abraham’s only beloved son, willingly carries the wood of his own sacrifice. In the end, God provides a replacement lamb to be used for Abraham’s sacrifice, thus foreshadowing Jesus as the Lamb which God will provide later to save all mankind.
Now take a look at Isaiah 42:1 in the Old Testament:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased.
Upon him I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations.
The fulfillment of God’s promise of a “chosen servant” is explicitly stated later in the New Testament, in Matthew 12:17-21.
This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
After Jesus’ Baptism, He goes off into the wilderness to fast and pray (Mt. 4:1-11). Both Matthew and Mark are presenting Jesus as a new Moses, who did the same after ratifying the covenant between God and the Israelites (Ex.24:12-18). Just as Moses established God’s covenant with Israel, so too does Jesus establish the new and greater covenant between God and all mankind.
The Second Luminous Mystery ~ Wedding Feast at Cana
In the New Testament, Jesus’ words to Mary in John 2:1-11, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come,” hearken back to two passages in the Old Testament’s Book of Kings.
The first passage is from 1 Kings 17. The Prophet Elijah is staying at the home of a woman whose son dies while he is staying there. So she said to Elijah, “Why have you done this to me, man of God? Have you come to me to call attention to my guilt and to kill my son?” (1 Kings 17:18). Elijah then performs the great miracle of raising her son from the dead. Does this sound familiar?
The second passage is from 2 Kings 3 and involves the prophet Elisha (Elijah’s heir in the prophetic role). When King Joram of Israel faces the grave misfortune of running out of water while warring against Moab, he and King Jehoshaphat of Judah turn to Elisha for help.
Thus says the Lord: Provide many catch basins in this wadi.
For the Lord says: Though you will see neither wind nor rain,
yet this wadi will be filled with water for you to drink,
and for your livestock and pack animals.
And since the Lord does not consider this enough,
he will also deliver Moab into your power.
You shall destroy every fortified city and every choice city,
fell every fruit tree,
stop up all the springs,
and ruin every fertile field with stones. (2 Kings 3:16-19)
In the examples, the wedding feast and the war against Moab, the Lord doesn’t just provide — He goes above and beyond the initial request. At the wedding feast, the Lord not only provided the wine that was lacking, but He provided the best wine. Not only does the Lord provide water to King Joram’s army, but He also provided the victory sought by the Kings of Israel and Judah. In the realm of Salvation History, the best possible outcome — the reincorporation of all mankind into God's covenant family — has been saved for last, and has exceeded all expectations.
Christ is a new Elijah and a new Elisha; He's the fulfillment of all that the prophets foretold.
The Third Luminous Mystery ~ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God
Although much could be pulled from the New Testament, we’re going to focus on Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and in particular, we’ll focus on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Keeping the Beatitudes in mind, let’s take a look at Exodus 19 in the Old Testament.
Moses went and summoned the elders of the people.
When he set before them all that the Lord had ordered him to tell them,
all the people answered together,
‘Everything the Lord has said, we will do.’
Then Moses brought back to the Lord the response of the people.
The Lord said to Moses:
'I am coming to you now in a dense cloud, so that when the people hear me speaking with you, they will also remain faithful to you' (Exodus 19:7-9).
Three times in this chapter, Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive God’s word, and then to communicate it to the Israelites. On his third ascent, the Lord reveals the Ten Commandments.
Every covenant has terms and conditions for the keeping of the covenant. Just as the Ten Commandments are the terms and conditions of the Mosaic Covenant, which established the people of Israel as distinctively God’s people, the Beatitudes serve as an open invitation of the New Covenant which establishes us as the new People of God — provided that we live according to God’s ways.
The Fourth Luminous Mystery ~ The Transfiguration
Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, He keeps the truth and fullness of His glory under wraps. But the Transfiguration gives Peter, James, and John a spectacular display of the truth about His holiness and His ability to fulfill God’s promise of a true Messiah.
The New Testament’s account of the Transfiguration in Matthew 17 affirms that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and points to the fulfillment of the promises from the Old Testament that He will come again, in all of God’s glory, at the end of time.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold,
Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone. (Matthew 17:1-8)
The Old Testament background includes excerpts from Exodus 19-20, and 1 Kings 19:9-18.
Moses went up to the mountain of God.
Then the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying:
"This is what you will say to the house of Jacob; tell the Israelites:
You have seen how I treated the Egyptians
and how I bore you up on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Now, if you obey me completely and keep my covenant,
you will be my treasured possession among all peoples,
though all the earth is mine.
You will be to me a kingdom of priests,
a holy nation.
That is what you must tell the Israelites. (Exodus 19:3-6)
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery.
You shall not have other gods beside me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything
in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them or serve them.
For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God,
inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness
on the children of those who hate me,
down to the third and fourth generation;
but showing love down to the thousandth generation
of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:2-6)
Then the Lord said:
"Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord;
the Lord will pass by.
There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord
—but the Lord was not in the wind;
after the wind, an earthquake
—but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
after the earthquake, fire
—but the Lord was not in the fire;
after the fire, a light silent sound. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Within this context, it makes sense that Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus: together, these two men account for the whole of the Old Covenant. Moses represents the Law, and Elijah represents the Prophets. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are all presenting Jesus as the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets.
The Fifth Luminous Mystery ~ The Institution of the Eucharist
He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16).
The institution of the Eucharist is one of the primary stories shared by all four Gospels. The passages from the New Testament are Matthew 26:26-34; Mark 14:22-31; Luke 22:14-38; and John 13-17.
From the Old Testament, we can read all about the feast of the Passover in Exodus 12. Keep in mind that the Passover meal was the ritual celebration for Jews to memorialize the first Passover in Egypt, when they were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and eat it, putting the blood of the lamb over their doors on the very night the Israelites escaped from Egypt.
So, when they celebrated this meal in Jesus’ day, the expectation was that, one Passover evening, the Messiah would appear and once again God’s people would be freed from oppression. Therefore, when Jesus calls His apostles together in the Upper Room, you can imagine their excitement: the Passover of Passovers is finally here!
The Eucharist is the fulfillment of so much of what is promised in the Old Testament — the list could go on and on. But I’d like to focus on the way in which the Eucharist highlights the importance of the body, beginning with Exodus 12:5, 46: “Your lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish … You shall not break any of its bones.” The sacrificial lamb must be perfect. Peter Kreeft says, in Catholic Christianity, “For Christians, the body is real, good, and immortal … [God] kept His human body forever. Ever since Christ took his human nature, body and soul, to heaven in the Ascension, God has a body forever … [God] now uses matter to save souls in Baptism and the Eucharist.” Our bodies are sacred places for the Holy Spirit to reside. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are consuming the Body and Blood of Christ — we are welcoming God into our own bodies, sharing in His kingdom even in our earthly lives.
We are invited to the table.
Together, the Luminous Mysteries offer us an opportunity to look upon the actions and words of Jesus and mirror our own behaviors after His. When we are praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, this background knowledge allows us to experience even more of a sense of wonderment at the fulfillment of God’s plan for us — even in what must have felt, at the time, like disorder and chaos.
We have received God’s open invitation. Let us accept that invitation with great joy.
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