JOHN THE BAPTIST’S
THE GREATNESS OF THE WORK
John the Baptist was the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-20, 39-80). His mother, Elizabeth, was of the lineage of Aaron, but his father was of the lineage of Abija, and did service in the Temple at Jerusalem. Of his parents it is said that "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Luke 1:6).
"And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel."
Jesus Who was found teaching the priests in the Temple when He was twelve years of age, must have been teaching the forerunner of the Messiah as they met during their years growing up. Both were serious about their coming ministries, and though Jesus did not announce to John the Baptist that He was the promised Messiah, Jesus obviously knew that John was the forerunner.
Their meetings would have been fascinating to observe. For as John would retire to the wilderness to practice his sermons, to study the Scriptures about the Messiah. Jesus would go along and explain such Scriptures to John. John knew the loving nature of Jesus, admired the knowledge and revelations of this son of Mary.
John was not part of the denomination we know as the "Baptists", for he predated by centuries their formation. The word "baptist" literally means the "baptizer". It comes from the Greek word "baptidzo" meaning "to immerse."
Since Zacharias was a priest, in his youth, John was likely prepared for a priestly ministry, but he did not enter the priesthood ministry. The priesthood studied the Scriptures, prayed, offered sacrifices, read the Scriptures to people. Their lives, as priests, were predictable, easy, and organized.
Some who were prepared for such a priestly ministry, entered a prophetic ministry instead. The prophet spoke a "thus saith the Lord." The prophet attacked sin, spake against sin and its promoters, This was a tough job, and as a symbol of their ministry, the prophets wore rough garments. They were controversial, hated, feared by many, and certainly not predictable, easy, or organized as was the priesthood ministry.
John, son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, chose to follow a prophetic ministry, instead of doing a priesthood ministry as had his father.
He began his ministry by going into the wilderness, deserted fields, about the countryside. He did not seek the fame of huge crowds in Jerusalem, but the loneliness of empty fields. People watching from the towns on the hillsides, and from the walk paths through the empty fields would wonder at seeing a prophet preaching a sermon to no one in the field.
They began to stray from the towns, and from the paths to the empty field, to see what he was saying. Like Ezekiel, who preached to trees and mountains as directed by God; John the baptist preached first to empty wilderness, and soon a crowd would gather.
John the baptist was imprisoned because of his sermon condemning Herod's marriage to Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Luke 3:19-20, Matthew 14:3-4, Mark 6:17-18).
says that John the baptist was imprisoned and put to death due to the:
"fear lest his great influence over the people might put it in his power or inclination to raise a rebellion..." (Ant. XVIII v, 2).
This does not disagree with the motivation and events recorded in the Bible... for though Herod wanted to avoid a rebellion being started... he also feared to behead John the baptist for fear of the reality of his ministry to God.
Salome, daughter of Herodias, danced before Herod Antipas. As a reward for pleasing him thereby, she was granted her wish, which was for the head of John the baptist upon a platter. (Matthew 14:3-11, Mark 6:17-18, Josephus Ant. XVIII v 4).
Herod Antipas was son of Herod the Great and his Samaritan wife Malthace, was therefore half Idumean and half Samaritan. He had no Jewish blood in him. Yet, he ruled as "tetrarch" of Galilee and Peraea from 4 B.C. till 39 A.D. Herod Antipas was cunning, superstitious, immoral.
John the baptist was not afraid to announce to his congregations that the sin of Herod Antipas taking the wife of his half brother, Philip.
The first wife of Herod Antipas was the daughter of Aretas, king of Petra. He sent her back to her father, and then married an already married Herodias. An angry Aretas declared war on this insult and shameful action of Herod Antipas.
Herodias proved to be the undoing of Herod Antipas. She made her husband protest to Caius Caligula, emperor of Rome, about a favor given to Herod Agrippa, and not to Herod Antipas. Going to Rome to protest personally, led to the banishment of Herod Antipas to Lyons in Gaul where he died in great misery (Josephus Ant. XVIII v11 2).
When John baptized Jesus, his ministry began to decrease. Some of his disciples followed Jesus at that point, and others followed later. However, we do also know that some of John's disciples went out and began to preach the same message as John. This we know, for twenty years later, Paul came to Ephesus and found they did not know of the Holy Spirit baptism, but only of the baptism of John.
The repentance that John the Baptist preached is the starting message of Jesus’ ministry also. We are commanded to preach repentance also. Repentance, as shown in the Word of God involves more than a few words of regret, they involve a change in the heart that changes also the actions.
Jesus is approached by some of the disciples of John the Baptist. He preaches a bit to them, then deals with the matters concerning this prophet, John. We need to understand the truths herein, and we find that sermon in Matthew chapter 11.
Matthew 11:1-8 (KJV)
1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3 And said unto Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.
commanded His twelve disciples
Everything that Jesus commanded His twelve disciples are still in effect, still necessary for us. There are theories out there that these commands were for the Old Testament time, not for the church age. When Jesus commissioned them for the time after His departure, He plainly taught them to teach to all further to
be saved, the things He had taught them.
Matthew 28:19-20 (KJV)
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
It is erroneous and un-Scriptural to believe that we can evade these commands, or that we are not to show forth good works after our salvation.
Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
From prison, John sends some of his disciples, and questions if Jesus were truly the Messiah. Perhaps the loneliness and isolation of prison, the confusing ending of his ministry, put a doubt in his mind. Doubts are normal, and to be expected, especially when tired, persecuted, and disappointed in events. Perhaps, he wanted these disciples to see for themselves, and this was an illustrated lesson for them to build their faith. He knew that he would need to decrease, and he wanted his disciples to see that not he, but Jesus was the One to follow.
Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see
The credentials of Jesus was not an ordination certificate, not a college degree, not a ‘doctor’ title at the end of His name. The credentials of Jesus were the works of the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament.
Isaiah 11:2-3 (KJV)
2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
Isaiah 61:1 (KJV)
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
The divine calling and ordination of all of the Lord’s disciples, then and now, are the same.
Mark 16:17-18 (KJV)
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
John 15:16 (KJV)
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Acts 1:4-8 (KJV)
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me.
5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. ...
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.
This is the first beatitude since Matthew 5, and shows that a special blessing is given to those who do not stumble at the teachings of Jesus, nor do they stumble at glorying in His person, and His ways. Many did stumble, and some still stumble today. We must not be ‘offended’ by the teachings, and by the relationship we have with Jesus.
These disciples were encouraged, and took the message of encouragement back to John. He, I am sure, was gladdened with the report of this sermon of Jesus.
JESUS EVALUATION OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? ... But what went he out for to see? A prophet?
Jesus questions the multitude that were there. Why did they go out to hear John preach? The ‘reed shaken with the wind’ refers to the Persian reeds of the Jordan River. They were sometimes 20 feet tall. They would be green when everything else around was dead and dry. They were shelter for birds and animals. This phrase that Jesus said, ‘reed shaken in the wind’ is a Hebrew idiom for a weakling, someone unsteady and unstable. Some would be believing and speaking one thing, and then the next day, speak and believe something altogether different. Jesus was saying here that John was not unsteady, shaky in his beliefs. No, they did not see such a person when they went to a sermon of John the Baptist. They saw a ‘prophet’, one who spoke the sure rhema word of God, called of God, commissioned of God, and anointed by God.
John was not clothed in ‘soft raiment’. The mantles of the rich and powerful were normally silk or linen. John was not making enough money to afford such garments, and he wore animal skins for clothing, and ate locusts and wild honey. He had a mission, and it did not include the goal of riches and prosperity.
JESUS PROCLAIMED THAT JOHN IS
THE GREATEST OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS
Matthew 11:9-10 (KJV)
9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee
John was ‘more than a prophet’, for he not only prophesied about the Messiah to come, but he actually touched Him, baptized Him, fellowshipped with Him. The prophets of the Old Testament looked forward to the Messiah’s coming, but did not get to enter the kingdom age, as did John.
ALL OF THIS KINGDOM AGE NOW,
HAVE GREATER BLESSINGS AND MINISTRY
THAN DID EVEN JOHN.
Matthew 11:11-15 (KJV)
11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
greater than John the Baptist...kingdom of heaven is greater than he
The privilege of being on this side of the cross, with all the ability to preach about One Who has come, has conquered sin and death, and has made a way of salvation, is greater by far than those who only could preach a message that One would someday come. We also now have the Holy Spirit, the Other Comforter, Who has come to empower us to do the very works of Jesus, and even greater works. We are all able to walk daily with Jesus, not just preach about One not yet come. We have Him interceding for us in heaven, lest we fall or are attacked.
days of John the Baptist until now... suffereth ... violence...
The word ‘suffereth’ is the Greek word, biazo (G971), meaning to use force, to force one's way into a thing. The teaching here is that before John one had to view the kingdom in the light of prophecy. Then, men pressed into it with zeal resembling violence or desperation. They seized their faith by force.
this is Elias, which was for to come
John the Baptist represents Elijah in spirit and power. He was not the literal Elijah to come yet, but had a similar ministry, announcing Jesus’ first coming, as Elijah will announce His second coming.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear
This phrase was spoken at least 15 times by Jesus. Seven were spoken while here on earth. Eight were spoken to us after He went back to heaven. This phrase is only spoken by the Lord, when the message He was giving is of vital importance. This message of this sermon is vital for us to understand.
more to come on this sermon