John the Baptist and the powerful lessons we learn from his life.
With Peter Veysie
George Methodist Family Church
17th October 2021
8am and 10am
John and Jesus
Apart from Jesus Christ, John the Baptist is probably the most theologically significant figure in the Gospels. As was the case with Jesus, his birth was meticulously recorded ( Luke 1:5-25 ). His entrance into the world was marked by angelic proclamation and divine intervention ( Luke 1:57-80 ). John is clearly a pivotal figure in the salvation history of God.
His life and ministry
Although his formative years were lived in obscurity in the desert ( Luke 1:80 ), his public ministry ended nearly four hundred years of prophetic silence. John was that voice crying in the wilderness preparing the way for the coming Messiah ( Isa 40:3 ; Matt 3:3 ; Mark 1:2-3 ; Luke 3:3-6 ). In this sense his message and ministry marked the culmination of the law and the prophets, but brought about the inbreaking of the kingdom of God ( Matt 11:12 ; Luke 16:16 ). So John was truly a transitional figure, forming the link between the Old and New Testaments. He spans the ages with one foot firmly planted in the Old Testament and the other squarely placed in the New.
The central theme of his ministry was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” ( Matt 3:2 ).He was called “The Baptist” because his practice was to baptize those who responded to the message he proclaimed and sincerely repented of their sins ( Matt 3:1 ; Mark 6:14 ; Luke 7:20 ).
John was an end-times prophet. He conducted his ministry with an eschatological authority that demanded immediate action. He taught that judgment is at hand. The axe is laid to the roots and God will thoroughly purge his threshing floor ( Matt 3:10-12 ; Luke 3:9 Luke 3:17 ). And the authenticity of repentance was evidenced in very practical terms: share with those in need, eliminate graft, and prohibit extortion ( Luke 3:11-14 ).
John’s lifestyle was pretty wild and he definitely went against the grain, living in the wilderness, clothed in camel hair and living on locusts and wild honey ( Matt 3:4 ; Mark 1:6 ). Unlike Jesus, he expected people to come to him, rather than he going to them ( Matt 3:5 ).
John was no “crowd pleaser.” He willingly confronted the hypocrisy of the religious establishment ( Matt 3:7 ; Luke 3:7 ). He did not hesitate to expose the immorality of Herod and chose to die a martyr’s death rather than compromise his convictions ( Matt 14:3-12 ; Mark 6:17-29 ).
All of these characteristics portray John as a fiery prophet. Luke says that John came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” ( Luke1:17 ). He goes on to allude to Malachi 4:5, which states that Elijah will return “before that great and dreadful day of the Lord.” In fact, some contemporaries of John inquired if he were Elijah ( John 1:21 ).
The belief that Elijah would return and prepare the way of the Lord can be traced to Malachi 3:1 and 4:5.
John flatly denied that he was Elijah reincarnated ( John 1:21 John 1:25 ). Nevertheless Jesus affirmed that Elijah must come first and that he had come in the person of John the Baptist ( Matt 17:11-13 ; Mark 9:12-13 ). John fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy in a spiritual sense, rather than in a literal way.
Jesus acknowledges him as the one who prepares the way for Him the Messiah.
In this way Jesus acknowledges the central role that John played in God’s plan of salvation. He was the greatest born among women because he had the privilege of pointing to the Lamb of God ( John 1:29-34 ).Yet as the last great prophet of the pre-Christian era, he was the least in the kingdom of God ( Matt 11:11 ; Luke 7:28 ).
John fully accepted his subordinate role to Jesus. He denied that he was the Christ and repeatedly emphasized that he was simply a witness to the Light ( John 1:19-23 ; cf. also John 1:6-9 ; John 3:27-30 ). John stated that Jesus was greater than he, and that Jesus had a more powerful ministry and baptism ( Mark 1:7-8 ; Luke 3:16 ; John 1:26-27 ). He did not want to baptize Jesus, but rather desired to be baptized by Jesus ( Matt 3:13-14 ).John allowed his disciples to leave his own leadership and follow after Jesus ( John 1:35-39 ). The story of the sandals and the Kinsman Redeemer in the story of Ruth and Boaz.
Even though John was merely a witness serving as a transitional figure, the impact of his life and ministry should not be underestimated. During his lifetime he had a following of disciples who shared common practices such as fasting and prayers ( Matt 9:14 ; John 1:35-37 ; 4:1-2 ). John’s disciples survived his death and spread throughout the Mediterranean world.
John the Baptist and the powerful lessons we learn from his life.Matthew 3:1-17
1. The power of the prophetic John. The breaking of the silence. Speaking into situations is not always easy as John’s life showed so clearly, but we need to speak out at times which may even make us unpopular. We always need to ask what would Jesus say and do ?
2. The destiny of his numbered days. He was born for such a time as his and we are born for such a time as this. Baptism and repentance and baptism and a sign of redemption.
3. His strength of spirit!! In the middle of all that John went through he kept his spiritual fervour by staying close to the Lord. We need to do the same.
4. His strong direction and path. Pointing others to Jesus. Our soul purpose here in earth is to worship the Lord and glorify Him forever. John knew that his path would not be easy, that he would be criticised for the choice that he had made, but he knew that his steps were ordered by the Lord and he stuck to it.
5. His humility. The fact that he chose to play second fiddle and to point to Christ – the sandal thing, baptising and this is the One you should follow as a cousin and family member is very powerful in the narrative of his life. How we live in humility is key.
6. His ability to speak the truth even to the point of death!! The Truth sets us free. Galatians 5:1 not my truth or your truth but His Truth and how we do this is critical. John had to continuously ask himself the question even to the point of death as to the truth he was declring that Jesus was the son of God.