Good Monday morning. It has warmed up a bit here in Madison, but freezing rain is falling and school has been canceled. So, grab your Bible and join me as we look at today's lesson. Today, we will begin looking more at the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. This will be rather lengthy, so we will not do it all in one day. I want to begin by looking at a question raised by John.
"John's disciples told him about all these things. (all that Jesus had been doing) Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'" (Luke 7:18-19)
Apparently John was not impressed by Jesus healing people and casting out devils. That must not have been enough to qualify one to be the messiah. Why did John ask such a question? Did John not know that Jesus was the messiah? In the Gospel of John, John introduces Jesus as the Lamb of God. (John 1:36b) In Matthew John reluctantly baptized Jesus arguing that "I need to be baptized by you..." (Matthew 3:14) Didn't John know? If he did, then why did he ask this question?
Well, we have looked at John the Baptist and his birth already. We know that he is mentioned in all four gospels. (Not even Joseph is mentioned in all four gospels) We know that he baptized at the Jordan River and ate locusts and wild honey. (I like honey, but...) His wardrobe consisted of the latest and finest camel skins. (Where and how he got them I don't know) According to Luke he was a relative of Jesus. The KJV tells us he was a cousin, while the NIV translates the word "relative. We also know that John died a violent death at the hands of Herod. Luke gives us more information on John than any other gospel writer. Only Luke tells us about John's parents and his birth. Now, we have already discovered that John's father Zechariah was a priest and he heard the angel announce John's birth in the temple. We know that Joseph was Jesus' father (sort of...) and he was a carpenter. But, we know little else about Joseph and what happened to him. However, we do have some information on Zechariah. According to Orthodox Christian tradition during Herod's slaughter of the innocents Zechariah was ordered to disclose the location of his son. (John and Jesus were only a few months apart in age) Zechariah refused to do so and was murdered by Herod's soldiers. This is also mentioned in what is known as the Infancy Gospel of James. In 2003, an inscription was deciphered (by archeologists) to read: "This is the tomb of Zechariah, the martyr, the holy priest, the father of John."
What happened to Elizabeth and her son John? Legend has it that they fled into the desert. According to Luke "the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel." (Luke 1:80) So, it sounds like John spent his entire life in the desert. We know about John's diet and attire and where he lived, but what kind of person was he? Jesus gives us some insight. Jesus said about John; "among those born of women there is no one greater than John." (Luke 7:28) Then Jesus compared himself with John in interesting fashion: "John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'here is a glutton and a drunkard..." (Luke 7:33-34) O.k., so what do we make of this? In Zechariah 13:4 and II Kings 1:8 the description of the prophets attire is that they are dressed in garments of hair. John comes forth resembling a prophet. John resembles Elijah, the new Elijah who heralds in the messiah. The Jews expected Elijah (who did not die) to return and usher in the messiah. John fits this description. In fact, when we read Matthew 17:11 we discover that Jesus says: "I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him; but have done to him everything they wished...Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist."
If the Jews were expecting Elijah the prophet to herald in the messiah, would they have accepted Jesus had John the Baptist declared himself to be more than he did? In John's Gospel the priests and Levites question John as to his identity. They ask him; 'Are you Elijah? "Are you the prophet?' He answered, 'No.'" (John 1:21) We know that Jesus was generally not accepted as the Messiah. Did John make a difference in this?
Tomorrow we will continue trying to answer the question: "Why did John want to know if Jesus was the one? Didn't he know?" We will look at what John may or may not have known. Plus, we will look at the death of John before we answer our question. You will not want to miss it. -Pastor Rick