Let’s go to John, chapter 2. In the early days after Jesus’ ministry began, the author of this book, John, the “beloved” disciple of Jesus, records some behind the scenes information that helps us to understand a few things more clearly.
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was already publicly declaring the need for each person to repent and be baptized for the remission (forgiveness) of their sins. According to Jewish law, there were proper places, proper officials and proper sacrifices involved in that process, so the priests and Levites, the religious leaders of the day, began to challenge the Baptist’s authority.
John, chapter 1, makes it clear that both Jesus and John the Baptist had a mission in life. The words, “In the beginning… ” let us know that Jesus was with God, the Creator and Light of the world, and that God sent the Baptist to bear witness of Jesus. It also said that the world did not know who Jesus was and that “His own,” the Jewish people, did not receive Jesus. (Interesting that scripture doesn’t say that His people didn’t know Him…) John 1 also tells us that the law was given through Moses, but that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
The chapter continues with the testimony of John the Baptist who is challenged by the priests and Levites who’ve been sent by the Pharisees. They ask, “Who are you?” John responds with a confession, “I am not the Christ.” The Jewish leaders continue, “Are you Elijah?” “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No.” Since they must have an answer to give the Pharisees, they ask, “Who are you?” and the Baptist responds in chapter 1, verse 23, “I am, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness; Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” The leaders didn’t seem shocked by his response or the reference connecting him to a prophetic word from Isaiah. Instead, they challenged John’s authority to baptize since he was not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet and John responded by saying that he baptized with water, but that there was Someone standing in their midst that was far more important than he. John adds that the leaders didn’t know the identity of this Someone. That statement must have created quite a reaction , since the religious leaders prided themselves on knowing everything!
The next day, John, the Baptist, sees Jesus coming and begins to proclaim Jesus’ true identity. He knows that it’s Jesus because there is something distinctive about Him. God had already told the Baptist that the Messiah would be the One who would have the Holy Spirit resting on Him in the form of a dove. In Matthew 3: 13-17, we are told that Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. The Baptist protested saying that he, John, should be baptized by Jesus. Jesus responds, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” So, Jesus was baptized. Matthew then records an extraordinary event. When Jesus comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove! In Luke’s gospel, chapter 3, verses 21 and 22, it says, “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased’.” Since John, the Baptist, couldn’t mistake the sign, His announcement became very clear, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
John, the Baptist, is now linking Jesus with the lamb… the animal most used as an offering for the sins of the people. The Baptist also tells all who are within the sound of his voice that, although he baptizes with water… for repentance… Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. After that, the Baptist becomes more vocal and Jesus gains more attention.
Jesus begins to have followers, like Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, who share with others that they have found the Messiah… the Christ! The word spreads and more and more people follow Jesus! Are the religious leaders rejoicing with all the others and following Him to learn and repent and submit to this Messiah who has been prophesied? Are they huddling together to pray and seek God’s face? Are they sitting in sackcloth and ashes… the sign of mourning in that day? Are they rejoicing in the streets at the Good News that has come to them… that the Messiah arrived in their day? Or are they upset that they did not receive the memo… and before John the Baptist?
Stay tuned for Part 2…