The story of Jesus’ sojourn on Earth (Isaiah 7.14fulfilling Deuteronomy 18.15&18fulfilling Exodus 34.10, as Jesus states in John 15.24) begins with the pronouncement of John the Baptist in John 1.29. So, we will begin our study of the Gospel of John the Apostle in the same way. In John 3.27-28, John the Baptist (hereinafter, also, JB, for brevity) declares his knowledge of the purpose — that is, the Jeremiah 29.11and Jeremiah 1.5— for which he was born. [Do you know the purpose for your birth? Consider Ephesians 2.10, Romans 8.14, Colossians 3.17&23-24, 1 Corinthians 10.31. I will add more specifics from Jesus’ words in coming weeks.]
Do you believe in reincarnation? JB did not, as he answered those who asked why he was baptizing in the Jordan River near Bethany (not Lazarus’ hometown, two miles from Jerusalem; but on the eastern shore of the Jordan; “there is a place called Batanea farther to the north, and east of Galilee, which may have been the place John called Bethany” (The Apologetics Study Bible (Kindle Locations 87677-87678). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition). John understood that man dies a physical death only once (see Genesis 3.19, Hebrews 10.27, James 2.26, Luke 23.43).
When people asked, John the Baptist told them that he was not the physical reincarnation of Elijah (John 1.19-21). Their expectation was created when God promised the return of Elijah in Malachi 4.5-6. The purpose of his return in verse six is the same as what Gabriel proclaimed to Zechariah about the baby to be born to him and Elizabeth, in Luke 1.17. Did you catch the difference between the verses, written 400 years apart? Gabriel says that John will go “in the spirit and power of Elijah” but not be the physical reincarnation of him. [Perhaps, Elisha and Elijah illustrate this, in 2 Kings 2.9-14. Elijah’s ‘power’ is demonstrated in 1 Kings 17.1-18.46, the drought and, subsequent, defeat of Israel’s pagan gods.]
Further, God had proclaimed that His “messenger” (Malachi 3.1fulfilling Isaiah 40.3) would announce His coming (Isaiah 7.14& 9.6-7); thus, creating an expectation among His Old Testament followers (including the days of John the Baptist and, even, Jesus). And, Jesus would connect the “messenger” to John in His pronouncement recorded in Matthew 11.10-14and Luke 7.26-28. [Note Zechariah’s blessing of his son in Luke 1.76with God’s pronouncement.]
So, John the Baptist, ‘Elijah’, came to “‘turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers’” (Malachi 4.6). The importance of this is magnified in the remainder of verse six: “‘lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.’” This has been God’s complaint stated earlier in Ezekiel 22.30, Zechariah 5.3-4, and Isaiah 11.4, resulting in peoples being conquered by flood and enemies.
What is meant by turning “the hearts of the children to the fathers”?
Deacon Stephen (Acts 6.5) helps us to understand this phrase through his speech to some deceitful Jews (Acts 6.8-14) in Acts 7.1-53. He qualifies himself as a Jew by remembering with them the history of their favor with God from Abraham to Jesus. They were prone to forget God, like us, because of Judges 2.10and had not connected the arrival of Jesus to the earlier prophesies about Messiah. This is Gabriel’s point in changing the last clause from “the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4.6) to “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (Luke 1.17). That present generation was “disobedient” to their ancestors who had received the Decalogue (Exodus 20) and lived through the problems of Israel’s rebellion (captivity in Assyria, 2 Kings 17, and Babylon, Book of Jeremiah). They were, then, subject to Roman occupation. Thus, John’s warning was, essentially, that of Hosea (14.1): “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.” [We, fathers, must remember our responsibilities from Genesis 18.19and Deuteronomy 6.4-9.]
Further, I believe they had forgotten — even Stephen — an important declaration by God regarding His purpose for the Jews, to which the children should “return” to their ancestor fathers and, then, teach to their own children. He had set them apart, i.e., holy, to be a Nation of Priests (Exodus 19.6) for the peoples of the world! God’s declaration made it so! Perhaps without knowing it, Stephen proclaims Jesus as the expected High Priest, the Messiah (Acts 7.51-53) of this Nation of Priests. Paul would, later, declare Jesus ‘the Priest’ and connect Him to the priestly order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7.13-17; Psalm 110.4), because neither came from Aaron’s line of Levitical priests.
So, ‘Elijah’ was God’s ‘messenger’ to call the ‘stiff-necked people’ to repentance from their forgetfulness and to prepare for the arrival of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the highest priest, Messiah Jesus! He came at just the right time, according to Paul’s conversation with Him (Galatians 4.4-7; 1 Timothy 2.6). Just so, the curious request of some Greeks during Passover Week in Jerusalem to see Jesus (Acts 12.20-23) evidenced the need for God’s Nation of Priest going out into the world. [I believe their request was, also, God’s signal to Jesus that the disciples were prepared to assume this task (1 Peter 2.9) and that Jesus would go to the cross soon.]
How would anyone know that “the hearts of the children had been turned to the fathers’” teaching?God sent John to baptize in the Jordan River as one of two evidences of this, as Luke 3.1-14identifies. [This was like God’s instruction to Moses for the people in advance of His coming to Mount Sinai; Exodus 19.10-11. Also, Numbers 31.21-24are Eleazar’s instructions for washing before becoming clean enough to enter the camp after battle. Acts 19.11-20records similar evidence of turning from an evil past.] A second evidence would be the transformed lives of those baptized; Luke 3.10-14(how do these reveal the 10 Commandments: Exodus 20.1-17?).
John’s baptism was bapto and is contrasted with the baptizo he described from Jesus. John was washing the dirt off the people to prepare them for permeation by the Holy Spirit (John 1.33). This is, perhaps, like washing a cucumber cleans the dirt off and readies it for immersion in a briny solution to become transformed into a pickle. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in Jerusalem, as is recorded in Acts 2.1-4.
Believer’s baptism is not just ‘in’ the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28.19), which Name is Jesus (Philippians 2.9-11; Hebrews 13.8). Our baptism is ‘into’ the Name Jesus, as Paul states in Acts 19.4and Jesus in John 17.1-26, especially verses 20-23. Paul writes about the power of “into ‘Jesus’” in Romans 5.1-5and restates his conclusion in 2 Corinthians 12.9-10. He writes two additional Scriptures to emphasis this “into” benefit: 1 Corinthians 2:16: “We have the mind of Christ” and 1 Corinthians 6.19: “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God”. The caution and the treasure of these is reminded in 1 Kings 9.3: “’My eyes and my heart will be there [in Solomon’s newly constructed Temple] for all time.’” God’s eyes see the troubles that lie ahead and guide us to safety. And, He is forever nurturing the one He loves through the daily work of our various epistemologies. Be careful, therefore, what you show Him through your eyes and what you say about life’s challenges. Are “’all things possible’” through God for you (Matthew 19.26)?
John states another reason for baptizing, a most important reason, in John 1.29-34: to identify Jesus as the promised Messiah! JB states the method God gave for him to know who, among all those coming for baptism, was the Messiah: “‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain….’” Apparently, no one else could see the ‘Dove’. God had enlightened John’s eyes!
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn adds an interesting insight into John baptizing Jesus in his devotional for Day 153, The Priests in the Waters, in his, The Book of Mysteries. John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River represented in water the changing of the priesthood that Paul writes about in Hebrews 7.11-16, 22; 8.8-13; & 9:15. For, JB was of the tribe from which Aaron was chosen the first high priest. In fact, both Zachariah and Elizabeth were descended from Aaron’s line (ibid, Day 66; Luke 1.5). “He was the purest and highest of Israel’s priests and the truest representative of the Aaronic priesthood.” (ibid, Day 153)
The responsibility of the priests was to present the lambs for sacrifice, who certified them as acceptable. “So it was Yochanan, John, who first identified Messiah as the acceptable sacrifice. He was the first to identify Messiah as the sacrificial Lamb” (ibid, Day 66) “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1.29).
Messianic Rabbi Cahn writes:
As two high priests standing face-to-face, the old priesthood bearing witness of the new and declaring it the greater. The Aaronic priesthood began with water, as Moses washed Aaron in the waters of cleansing [Leviticus 8.5-6]. And so again with water begins a new priesthood, as Aaron, in Yochanan, John, dips Messiah into the waters of the Jordan. And so the torch is passed. The cosmic changing of the guard is complete. And the priesthood of Messiah begins…that we might be saved. (ibid, Day 153).
JB came to identify Jesus, so “that all might believe through Him” (John 1.7). Believe what about Jesus? John 1.17-18: that God is truth and that God is real (as we will discuss in coming studies). This is the “sin of the world” that Jesus would take away (John 1.29); that is, not believing that God exists. This is what Paul states in Hebrews 11.6. Jesus said the same thing in John 12.44-45, 5.24, 14.7-11. Apostle John would write about this, later, in 1 John 4.1-3; if Jesus has not come in the flesh, there is no evidence that God exists; this seems to be the argument. And, about ‘truth’, Pilate and the Pharisees reveal society’s confusion in John 18.38and John 8:44, respectively (note the ‘author’ of this deception; “darkness” in Genesis 1.2).
JB was different, perhaps for a reason. Luke 1.7&13tell us that John the Baptist was born in a somewhat unique manner and at just the right time and for just the right purpose. He was not a snappy dresser; no one wanted to share his foods; his speech was acerbic; and his message was unpopular. But, like a good advance man, he prepared the people who wanted a Savior and introduced Him to them. And, when his work was done, he was well rewarded (Matthew 25.23).
John 3.27, indeed!
Cahn, Jonathan. 2016. The Book of Mysteries. FrontLine. Florida.
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