The Baptist

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There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light…

Let’s talk more about John for just a few minutes. . Let’s skip forward a few verses, to 19.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

He came baptizing people for repentance. There’s more about him in other places in the Bible. He was the son of an older couple who had been infertile for a long time. The book of Luke says his father was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that he would be born, and named John- in fact, Gabriel said more than that. He said, “

“…he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will 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, and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared.”

After John was born, his own father was filled with the Spirit and prophesied, which means, he spoke God’s words, and said this…

“…you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
   whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

And he was. John came before Jesus, he was born only months before Jesus was. The book of Matthew says he acted like a prophet- not like a normal man. He wore strange clothes like the prophets from the old Testament did. He went out to the wilderness of Judea, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And people went out from the town to hear what he had to say, and this is what he told them:

Repent!

Repent. It’s a word that means many things. In the Greek, it’s “metaneo,” which means to “change one’s mind for the better, to reconsider,” which is how we usually think of it. We usually translate it to mean, “Hey! Admit you’re wrong and change!”

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But in the Hebrew language, the word is nacham, or nichuwm, which is sometimes translated “comfort.” In the way of “to sigh, to be sorry, to pity, to console, to ease, to comfort.” In fact, it’s similar to a word that means, “God comforts us.” There is even a verse that says,

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says the Lord. “Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned…”

And John came saying, “Repent! Prepare the way for the Lord!”

Was he saying, “Turn from your sins and be better!” Or was he saying, “Take heart! The sin-conqueror is coming!”?

Maybe both.

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I think of John coming ahead of Jesus, and getting people in the mood for the real thing.

He was like an appetizer, opening up people’s hearts and minds and saying, “Get ready! It’s about time!”

He baptized people in water for the repentance of sins. Baptism was a ceremonial washing that usually signified conversion- like when a person wasn’t Jewish, and they wanted to be. They were fully immersed, and cleansed. But there were other times to wash- like the priests, before they went into the temple to meet with God. Or normal people, when it was about time to give their gifts to God or celebrate Him. They washed fully to clean themselves and get themselves ready for God, because he’s holy.

So John came washing people, and getting them ready to meet Jesus, who was holy.

And the story goes on- the religious rulers have more to ask him.

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

And John did just what he was supposed to do. He pointed to Jesus. 

This is what I want to do. In these posts, I want to point to Jesus. I want to call out to you, to everyone, and say, “Hey! There is comfort! Turn and come see Jesus, he’s the BEST!”

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The book of John (1)
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here

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