John’s Words were True

John 10: 41-42.

And many resorted unto Him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this Man were true.

And many believed on Him there.

Deborah Onoge on Twitter: "and many people came to him. They said ...

We are not told how long Jesus stayed in this place. I’m sure He needed time to recover from all the tension and stress of His confrontation with the Pharisees, who were determined to take His life. Never forget that although Jesus was wholly God, He was also wholly man. That is why He understands our own struggles, weaknesses, and temptations. We have a Savior Who understands our hearts!

The common people understood that, although John the Baptist had never performed a miracle, everything he said about Jesus was true. I would love to have been a fly on the wall as all those people came to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His Words. Just to be in His presence would have been amazing.

All who ever believed in Him, all who ever will, can enjoy being in His presence for all eternity! What a day that will be!

The Father hath Sent Me

John 5: 34-36

But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me

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Referring to verse 33 and the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Himself, Jesus states that He does not need the word of any man to prove Who He is, nor does He rely on the the testimony of man to prove His deity. However, those who heard John’s witness needed to believe it, and to understand that John was the forerunner, not the main event.

Jesus says here that the works the Father has given Him to do, and to finish,
are a greater witness than the words of John. The works that the Father had given Him to do are witness to the world that the Father had sent Him.

So far, they had seen miracles of provision (water turned to wine) and healing. Jesus has told them, though, that the greater things were still to come.

The Jewish leaders had also heard Him say, more than once, that He had come to do the will of His Father. He had identified Himself as the Son of God; not just A son of God, but THE Son of God. As such, He was equal with God, and was in fact God.

Of course, these claims were enough to send the Jewish leaders into convulsions. The words were enough to have Jesus killed as a heretic. But it wasn’t time for that yet, and Jesus knew there was still work to be done.

More Than One Witness

John 5:31-33.

If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.

There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of Me is true.

Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

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Jesus is not saying that His own witness about Who He is wasn’t true. What He refers to goes back to  Deuteronomy 19:15, which says by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.  One person’s witness was not enough to convict a man. There had to be at least two, and preferably three, whose testimony agreed with each other, to convict a man of wrong-doing, Jesus knew very well that His own testimony alone would not persuade the Jewish religious leaders.

Then, Jesus presents others who have testified of Him. The first name He give the religious leaders is John; not the writer of this book, but John the Baptist, who preached the coming of the Lord and baptized all who would trust that his word was the truth.

Tomorrow we’ll look at two other proofs of Who He was.

Have you ever wondered, if you had been there in Jesus’ time, if you would have believed? Would you have been a skeptic? Would you have followed His progress, then drifted away? Would you have known in your heart that this was indeed the Son of God?

Of course, all of us who are Christians would like to think we would have known, somehow, that He was truly the Son of God.

Today, we have the witness of the entire Bible. We have the witness of all those who have gone before us, some giving their lives in the cause of Christ. And still, down through the centuries, mankind has turned away from the witness, just as they did when Jesus walked the earth.

Prepare Ye The Way of the LORD

Isaiah 40: 3- 5.  ” The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight,  and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. ”

So much of this wonderful book of Isaiah has been set to music.  This is one of my favorite passages from The Messiah.  So–what does it all mean?

This passage, except the last part of v. 5, is quoted in Luke 3:4-6 as being fulfilled with John the Baptist and the first advent of the Messiah. The statements about preparing the way of the Lord are used here figuratively, heralding the coming of the Messiah. It was the custom in the East to send a party of men before a king or prince to prepare the way before him. They cleared the way of thorns, brambles, and bushes, made bridges, found fording places in the streams, and leveled the ground whenever necessary to make it normal for travel. To this the prophet alluded when he spoke of making a way for the Lord (v. 3-6). This was never done literally for Christ, but the custom could be applied figuratively of the preparation of the people to receive Him. If it is ever to be fulfilled literally this will be in the Millennium when a literal highway will be made from Egypt to Assyria, through Palestine, as predicted in 11:16; 19:23-25; 35:8-10.

 

Elijah and John the Baptist

Matthew 17:10-13. “And His disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all t hings. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples undeerstood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist.”

The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, prophesies the coming of Elijah.The last two verses of the book say: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

The disciples had seen Elijah in his glorified form, but there was no light spreading across the land of Israel; no restoration, no turning of fathers to children and children to fathers. So they did the smart thing, as we should learn to do but for some reason we always think of it after we’ve tried everything else–they turned to Jesus and asked Him.  And He provided the answer, as He always does when we seek Him with all of our hearts. 

Jesus confirmed the prophecy that Elijah would come. Then, he told them that indeed Elijah had come, and had been largely rejected by the people, who had “done with him as they listed.” That is, they had imprisoned him and eventually beheaded him at Salome’s request.

The disciples understood, then, that Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist; however, the Malachi prophecy had not yet been fulfilled. Before Jesus returns to earth in all His power and glory, another forerunner, another Elijah, willcome, and his testimony will not be rejected. He will be followed by the coming of the King. 

The questions remain, then: When, where, and what?  When will this Elijah appear, where will he appear, and what will his work be? 

When: It is not possible to pinpoint an exact date. We know only that he will appear during the end times, after the removal of the Church, when  when Jewish history resumes as the nation is gathered back to Israel. It will be at some point during the Great Tribulation.  

He will appear in Israel, not in any other nation.  His work will be directed to Israel, exclusively to the remnant of Israel. He will preach repentance, and his testimony will be received. He will fulfill Malachi 4:5-6. 

 

 

The Backstory

Matthew 14:3-5. “For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison: for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.”

It would seem that John the Baptist was no less outspoken in the palace than he was in the desert.  We don’t know why he was in the palace, speaking to Herod; we only know that he told Herod in plain words that it was unlawful for him to have his sister-in-law as a mistress.  It was wrong at every level, and apparently John felt the call of God to say so.  Herodias was Herod’s brother Philip’ wife, yet she lived in the palace as Herod’s mistress.  She did so openly and without fear of reprisal, it would seem.

Well, you just don’t tell King Herod that he’s wrong and morally reprehensible.  Herod had John tossed into prison; he would have had him killed right then and there, but he feared the people who revered John as a prophet.  So John remained in prison for  a while, and I can’t imagine he was treated with any respect there.

The story continues tomorrow. It looks as if John shouldn’t have messed with Herodias, either!

Ears to Hear

Matthew 11:11-15. “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

These words of Jesus make an amazing statement. No other man born of woman is greater than John the Baptist!  Think now–we know about Adam, Noah, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, and dozens more, yet Jesus said no other man born of woman is greater than John. 

Boy.  That really is high praise, coming from the lips of the Son of God!  I believe it meant that John had fulfilled the purpose God had set for him. He had faithfully gone about preparing the way for Jesus, and he had recognized Jesus even before either of them were born. Truly, a man of God. His life would end soon, but what greater epitaph could there be than the one Jesus stated?

Wait a minute, though. There’s more here, and it’s important.  Jesus went on to say that even the very least person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John! Doesn’t this seem like a contradiction?

The common application of this statement is that the Lord spoke here of the church age, and that the least in this present dispensation of grace is greater than John in the old dispensation of the Law, to which he fully belonged.  He was executed before Jesus died and rose again, and before the establishing of the church. And it is true that New Testament believers hold a special position, or standing, as products of the saving grace of Jesus.

However, the primary meaning of this passage is a different one.  The important question is, “What did Jesus mean by  the Kingdom of the Heavens?  Up to the 13th chapter of this book of Matthew, the Kingdom of the Heavens referred clearly to the earthly Kingdom to be established in the earth, as predicted by the Old Testament prophets.

In the 13th chapter, it is the Kingdom of the Heavens in the hands of man, in its development during the absence of the King.  In this 11th chapter, the offer of the earthly kingdom is still on the table, so to speak.  So it seems clear to be consistent with the whole scope of Matthew, that Jesus meant the Kingdom of the Heavens actually set up in the earth. The littlest one who is in that Kingdom, when it finally comes, will be greater than Joh, who merely announced the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus’ statement here foreshadows the Kingdom age, which will be a glorious time of peace and beauty on the earth, and the littlest one will be greater than John ever could be in the earth.

The rest of the passage also needs to be understood in the proper setting, and the words taken in their literal meaning. There are those who preach and teach that these words indicate the efforts of Satan to destroy Jesus’ work at Calvary, and that finally he will succeed in destroying Christianity.  The devil, the flesh and the world stand in the sinner’s way of salvation, and after strenuous effort and violence Satan will be able to take it (the Kingdom) by force.

Such confusion  exists because of the effort to make this passage something it isn’t! It isn’t about the literal millenial kingdom, and it isn’t about the church.  Think for a moment:  Who were those in Jesus day who took Him by force and violence, trying to destory Him?  Jesus had said, “From the days of John until now.” This isn’t a far future prophesy, but something that will happen soon.  John was violently rejected by the Pharisees. This foreshadowed the rejection of the King, of the preaching of the Kingdom, and the kingdom itself. The Kingdom was rejected by force and is now postponed until He comes again.

If the religious leaders had received John the Baptist, he would have been Elias (Jehovah is my God) in spirit and in power (Luke 1:17) but not in person (John 1:21). That Elias, or Elijah, is still to come, and will preach to the Jews during the great tribulation period.

The phrase ears to hear is Jesus, saying “Pay attention!” I’m telling you some very important truths here!”

This seems to be a more lengthy post than I usually offer.  I felt it was important to pick this passage apart carefully.  I’m so thankful for the great scholars who have gone before, learning the biblical languages and providing us with wonderful commentaries and study materials.

Behold, I send My Messenger

Matthew 11:7-10.
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.”

I think this passage of scripture is one of the most touching there is.  These words of Jesus gave His complete stamp of approval on the ministry of John the Baptist.  They verified that he was indeed prophesied in the Old Testament;  that he was sent by God Himself to prepare the way for Jesus.  That’s pretty high praise.

The crowds of people that followed Him heard the conversation between Jesus and the disciples John had sent.  Human nature is so fickle, it is possible that the people  had forgotten John, or even disrespected him because he was, after all, in prison!

Have you noticed that people who are in authority tend to very righteously espouse the idea that it is wrong to question or criticize authority–until they themselves are no longer in authority! Then the worm turns.  So it is in American politics, and so it has been all down through the centuries in the sad history of man’s inhumanity toward  man, often in the name of religion. Tsk.  And please pardon that little rabbit trail.

Jesus, knowing the fickle hearts of the people, draws their attention to John. First He asks them what they had gone out into the wilderness to see.  Had they expected to see a weak man, perhaps a bit deranged?  A reed, shaken in the wind was a Hebrew idiom for an unstable person, a weakling who was irresolute and unsteady.  John was stable.

Soft clothing?  Beautiful, luxurious fabrics were worn only by the wealthy. John’s simplicity drew attention to his ruggedness.  No weakling, he subsisted on locusts and wild honey (very good for allergies, by the way) and dressed in animal skins.

Did the people go out to see a prophet?  Oh, yes, but much more than that!  This was the one, the very man, that God had promised in Malachi 3:1.  Think of that–a living, breathing fulfillment of the Word of God!

Jesus has more to say, and it is clear that He had great love and respect for His cousin.

Go Tell John What’s Happening

Matthew 11:4-6. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”

Poor John.  Imprisoned, alone much of the time; cut off from the amazing ministry of the One Whose way he prepared. He had sent two of his followers to ask Jesus for some reassurance.

Jesus’ response  was classic.  He simply numbered all the different things He had done that were signs of His power, and were fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He was fulfilling Isaiah 35:5-6; the dead were raised, the good news of the Kingdom was preached.

At the end of the message, He blessed anyone who was not offended in Him. The word used in the Greek is skandalizo, and is obiously the root word of our scandalize. It meant to entrap, trip up, cause to stumble, or entice into sin or apostasy.  What a loving, gentle, kindly administered rebuke and encouragement that was to John. “Don’t despair; don’t be tempted into doubt; I am He.  Look at all the signs I’ve given you, confirming the Messianic power of the King.  I am He. I AM.”

Have you ever wondered what went through John’s heart and mind when he received this answer from Jesus?  Ever wonder  how it must have lifted his head and his spirits to get word from Messiah that all was as it should be?

My life verse is Psalm 119:165. “Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend them.”

If I love God’s Word, not only will I have the inner peace everyone craves; I will also be safe from anything that would entice me, cause me to stumble, cause me to doubt my Redeemer.  I will not be scandalized!

Art Thou He. . .?

Matthew 11:2-3. ‘Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?”

John the Baptist hasn’t been heard from or about since chapter 4:12, which tells us that when Jesus heard that John was in prison, He departed into Galilee.  The spotlight that was on John for a short while had been moved to Jesus, and John spent some time in prison. When we get to chapter 14, we’ll hear the rest of John’s story.

John, like most of the other Jews, probably expected that Jesus, Messiah, would soon establish the Kingdom.  It would be normal for John to expect to have some kind of position or to share in the glories of the Kingdom.  Instead, he found himself in what I’m pretty sure was not a state-of-the-art prison cell, not knowing what his future would be.

Sounds to me like he became discouraged, maybe depressed.  Prison is a lonely place, and hopelessness is common there. John must have wondered if all his efforts had been for nothing.  He was human, after all, and don’t we all question things at times?

There are a couple of theories regarding this passage. One is that John indeed doubted Who Jesus was, and sent his disciples to confront Jesus.  Another is that John was perfect, and needed no reassurance; he sent his disciples because they needed reassurance.

Neither of these theories sets well for me, because they require that things be inserted into scripture that aren’t really there.  I love that old saying, “If the plain sense makes common sense, then any other sense is nonsense.”

So, looking at John as a godly man who wakes up in prison day after day, it shouldn’t be surprising that he sent to Jesus asking for some confirmation of his own ministry.  It makes me think of a child, having been disciplined, tearfully asking his daddy, “Do you still love me?”   Or, it is similar to Gideon asking for a sign from God;  God did not rebuke Gideon, but fulfilled his request for reassurance.

I love the answer Jesus sent back.