In this column concerning Jesus and John the Baptist is enough material for an entire book and many sermons.
I would like for us to pause for a moment and consider the profound encounter of these two most unusual men.
One was God the other a prophet. One was the prophet and forerunner and the other the Savior and Lamb of God; Jesus and John the Baptist.
Their lives were connected even before birth and remained so after. John was born just before Jesus. One awesome thing about John the Baptist is that he was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ in his mother’s womb! How glorious and stunning. Talk about predestination! This was a sovereign act of God.
Mary the mother of Jesus was a relative of Elizabeth the mother of John. (They must have met many times with their children Jesus and John. The Bible does not say this but I feel sure Jesus and John must have been friends as they grew up. This again is my idea and I want to keep my ideas apart from the Word of God)
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John .
“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
“And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
“He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:13-17
“Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. Luke 1:36
Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,
and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
“For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy .
“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. Luke 1:39-47
John the Baptist burst upon the stage for history preaching and crying out ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ This man of God out in the desert mountains clothed in camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey!
Just the type of man most would try to avoid in today’s world. Should this man appear walking in your town, ‘neighborhood watch’ people would be phoning the police to check him out.
Imagine this man walking into your church!
It would be hard to receive him because of both his appearance and message. Wow!
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying : “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.’ ”
And John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:1-6
John’s message pointed not only to repentance but also to a Person, Jesus!
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him .
And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
I remember in China when I was carrying the cross there back in 1987. We led a man to Jesus and was disciplining him. After giving him some scripture to read and study over night I will never forget what he said the next day. “John is more important than Jesus. It was John that baptized Jesus’. Here was a man with no background about Jesus or John and reading this passage he assumed John was the number one man. I then showed him what John said and that John only baptized Jesus because Jesus ordered him to do so.
But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:11-17
Here at the baptism of Jesus we find this awesome and glorious revelation of the Holy Trinity:
The Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus
Jesus coming up from the water
The Voice of the Father
Yes, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit
Much later we read the following story.
So he (Herod the king) sent and had John beheaded in prison.
And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.
Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. Matthew 14:10-13
Oh, the close relationship and love that was shared between these two men. Upon hearing of John the Baptist’s death Jesus went by boat to a deserted place by Himself. This death was so moving to Jesus that He wanted to be alone from all other people. I have often wondered what Jesus did during that time and how He felt. The scripture is silent on the subject. It is a Holy Moment.
As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? “But what did you go out to see?
A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
This man of God was so different from the priest. No flowing robes or gold or adornment that announced his ‘religious stature’. No, this was a man of God accountable only to God and not to a religious order or group.
Religious people often ‘look’ the part, but not John the Baptist. This was an outdoors man for God. Jesus pointed out the fact.
Wonder what reception John the Baptist would have at your church ‘national or international’ convention?
“For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matthew 11:7-11
Here Jesus clearly declares the fulfillment of a great Old Testament prophecy.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6
Another time we read of Jesus and John the Baptist.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16
No, Jesus was not John the Baptist but “The Christ, the Son of the living God’.
And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’
Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.
“But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist. Matthew 17:10-13
Here Jesus compares Himself to John the Baptist in the matter of dying in violence.
When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. Luke 7:20-22
Jesus here sends a message back to John the Baptist to confirm ‘who He is’. Notice that Jesus reveals Himself with the suffering and poor receiving healing and salvation.
I do love this comparison Jesus gave between Himself and John the Baptist.
“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’
“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton (means ‘to eat’) and a winebibber (wine drinker), a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Luke 7:33-34
Some preachers and people have problems with this passage of scripture and try to explain it away. It seems funny that often the most fundamentalist try to take a liberal interpretation of this. I have no problem with the fact that Jesus drank wine. Should you have a problem with Jesus, take it up with Him. First, look at the Greek meaning of these words.
We see John the Baptist simply doing what he was called by God to do. It was a tough job. Consider the criticism and rejection he received. Consider the tough live he must have lived out in the desert and mountains. It gets cold there in the winter and can even snow and in the summer it is blazing hot, well over a hundred degrees. Yet the people came out to hear him. They left the beautiful temple in Jerusalem to hear a man of God in the desert proclaiming the truth. He never tried to usurp his place. He was only the forerunner not the Savior. He knew his place and stayed there lifting up and pointing to Jesus.
There are some things for us to learn here. One is that our life and words and actions should point people to Jesus.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Blessitt