May 1, 2018
HOW WELL DID JOHN KNOW JESUS?
John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins born six months apart. Both births were miraculous, foretold by the prophets and announced by the angel Gabriel. Yet, John said that he “did not recognize” Jesus as the Messiah until after His baptism. Some suggest that since John grew up in Hebron and Jesus in Nazareth, they had never met before. But this seems unlikely. Mary and Elizabeth were apparently close before their sons were born, but they were no doubt bound together even closer after the spiritual experience they had together during their pregnancies (See Luke 1:39-56). In addition, the gospel of Matthew reported that John recognized Jesus before His baptism and felt unworthy to baptize Him (Matt. 3:14).
So what did John mean by saying he didn’t “recognize” Jesus, if he already knew Him and already considered Him to be greater than himself? Perhaps John did recognize Jesus as his cousin, and as one who was well known in their families as being announced as the long awaited Messiah. But that was thirty years ago and John had seen no confirmation as of yet. So, it was on the day of Christ’s baptism that the Lord spoke to John and revealed to him that Jesus was indeed the Messiah by the appearance of the Spirit descending like a dove upon Jesus. What his mother, Elizabeth, had told him was true. Jesus was the Messiah. John finally saw Him with spiritual eyes and proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Messiah, as he had been born to do.
April 30, 2018
THE UNEXPECTED MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
Although he was the son of the Levite priest, Zechariah, in the line of Abijah, one of the 24 orders of priests in the line of Eleazar, son of Aaron, John did not serve in the Temple. Instead, led by the Spirit, he preached in the wilderness on the East side of the Jordan. He did not wear the rich flowing robes of the Temple leaders, but was clothed in a cloak of camel’s hair. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild honey. He did not answer to the Jewish leaders, but to the Lord, for his authority came from the Lord. It was this that the Jewish leaders came to question. For their real question was, “Who gives you the right to baptize?” In other words they were saying, “We are the religious authority and we don’t remember ordaining you.”
John knew that they did not recognize him, nor did they recognize that the Messiah was already standing right there in the midst of the crowd (John 1:26). John refused to be cast in one of their expected eschatologies. His only answer to their question concerning his identity was to quote the prophet Isaiah, “I am a voice crying in the wilderness” (Isa. 40:3). It was a voice they had no ears to hear. John’s ministry was not the one they expected. But it was the one the prophets foretold.
May 31, 2017
The apostle John, who was the only disciple near the cross when Jesus was crucified, was also the only gospel writer who reported these final details of Christ’s death. Perhaps John made sure to include his eyewitness testimony of the grisly details because of the Gnostic heresy that was already at large by the time of John’s writing.
The Gnostics (From the Greek word “gnōsis,” meaning “knowledge”) believed that they had obtained mystical or secret knowledge of the divine. They saw the material world as inherently evil and only the spiritual as good. Therefore, they rejected the idea that Jesus had actually come in the flesh. And as a result, they rejected that Jesus had truly died on the cross. In their view, “it only appeared” as if Jesus had died (The Gnostic heresy clearly affected Islam’s view of the crucifixion as the Quran uses an almost identical description).
John’s gospel was especially concerned with reporting the diligence of the Roman executioners in confirming Christ’s physical death. He reported the soldier’s spear piercing Christ’s side and the mixture of “blood and water” pouring out. Although John had no awareness of modern medical knowledge, many physicians today have noted that a piercing of the pericardium, the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the heart, would’ve resulted in the sight that John witnessed. The blood and water was a sure sign of Christ’s death.
John followed his reporting of the blood and water with a strong declaration that reminds one of a courtroom witness taking an oath to speak the truth. He said, “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe” (John 19:35).
John wanted to make sure that everyone knew that he had witnessed Christ’s physical death. For if Jesus didn’t die, there would be no redemption, no payment for our sin. And if Jesus didn’t die, there would be no need for his resurrection.
But Jesus did die and He was raised. That is the truth that John reported. And that is the truth that we believe.
May 30, 2017
The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, warned Jesus that he had the power to crucify or release him. Jesus replied that the only reason he could have any authority against Him was because it had been given him “from above.” In other words, God the Father had authorized the crucifixion of His Son.
Jesus gave His life willingly, no one took His life from Him. As Jesus said, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).
As believers, we are under Christ’s authority. We have received His charge. We can walk in confidence that no worldly power can touch us without His knowledge and permission.
May 21, 2017
When John reflected back on the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Spirit brought to his mind this Messianic prophecy from Zechariah concerning how the Lord would come to Zion. The name “Zion” (or “Sion”) is a synonym for Jerusalem. And Jesus entered Jerusalem, “sitting on a donkey’s colt,” just as it was prophesied.
John and the other disciples “did not understand these things at first.” The Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Christ weren’t in the disciples minds in the moment of His ministry with them. But after Jesus was raised from the dead and glorified, the disciples began to understand how all that He had done was in fulfillment of the Word of God.
Remember how the risen Christ taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus? “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Jesus opened their eyes to the truth of His purpose in fulfillment of the Father’s Word.
The Spirit of Christ is ready to teach us too concerning the ministry of Jesus, if only we will have ears to hear.
May 12, 2017
On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews commemorated how the Lord had brought them through 40 years in the wilderness, Jesus stood up in the Temple and cried out with a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, come to Me and drink.” There was surely a great and noisy crowd in the Temple courts that day. Yet, above all the voices, Christ was heard crying out.
How appropriate. What perfect timing. During the Feast when the Jews remembered the rock from which Moses called forth water to quench Israel’s thirst, Jesus called spiritually thirsty people to come to Him to drink.
Why? Because “that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor.10:4).
May 9, 2017
After Jesus had miraculously fed the multitude, He “perceived” that the crowd had it in their minds to make Him king. So, He went into the mountain alone, staying there until nightfall. Jesus would not allow the people to determine His identity and purpose. The Father had not sent Him to be a temporal king, but a Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world. He was establishing an eternal kingdom.
We do not get to make of Jesus what we will. He will not allow it. We must receive Him for who He claims to be. Then, willing submit to Him, asking Him to make of us what He wills.
May 8, 2017
An hour is coming when the resurrecting life of Jesus will raise all of humanity bodily. The resurrection of the body is both the hope and the dread of the Christian faith. For the “voice” of Christ will call and all will “come forth” just as Lazarus did. Those who have believed in Jesus will be raised to eternal life with Him. But those who have not believed will be raised to “condemnation,” which is the judgement of God already passed against them because of their sin.
The resurrection of the righteous will come first, preceding the resurrection of the condemned. There is much more on this in the Scriptures, yet this point is to be understood: The resurrection of the body is central to Christ’s teaching. This is not to be understood as a metaphor, but a reality. Christ taught the resurrection of the dead, then He proved it by being raised from the dead on the third day.