Friend of the Bridegroom

After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea and there He tarried with them with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim because there was much water there and they came and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.    John 3:22-24.

There comes a point in everyone’s ministry when they must make the right decision and abide under the anointing they received for the work they were chosen to do. Two ministries are in the Judean wilderness, both baptizing. This is an awkward situation but nothing bad has come of it, yet. Ultimately questions will be asked and there will be an accountability required of us.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John and said unto him Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan to whom you bore witness, behold, the same baptizes and all come to him. John answered and said a person can receive only what is given them from heaven.  John 3:25-27.

This discussion raises more questions than answers and demands a serious pause for consideration. John’s ministry is quickly becoming a lesson for future disciples to draw wisdom. Why does John even still have disciples? And he is now addressed as Rabbi? Notice the way they describe the Lord as “he that was with you”. Why did he not become a disciple of Jesus with the revelation he had received concerning Him?

Jesus did not call John to follow Him as he did His first disciples. John was clearly left to his own devices and now his very purpose is coming into question. He gave his own testimony previously that defined his anointing and purpose, “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord”. What remained for him to accomplish? The Holy Spirit gives us one of the most important lessons we could ever hope for: “you can only receive what is given you from heaven.” Will this become an issue in our walk with the Lord?

You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice, this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase but I must decrease. John 3-28-30.

We now come to one of the more frequently quoted verses: He must increase but I must decrease. If only that were true, John would have quietly faded into the background. We would say “whatever happened to John the Baptist, he was so prominent at first and then he just seems to disappear from the narrative.”  Oh, that makes sense, once Jesus was baptized he had fulfilled his mission. The only lingering question would be, why did he not follow Jesus? Instead he ceases to be a voice in the wilderness and goes to Jerusalem. Notice the Bible doesn’t say “and the word of the Lord then came again unto John and said, go tell that rascal Herod he can’t have his brother’s wife.”  Maybe he was just bored, but now we find him in prison, his head soon to be placed on a platter.

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

This is astonishing! John was informed of God how to identify the Messiah. He witnessed the Holy Spirit descend from heaven in a bodily form and light on Jesus like a dove. He testified, this is the Son of God! And now he asks, “Do we look for another?” He is actually saying, if you are the Messiah, why am I in prison!? Aren’t you supposed to be restoring the kingdom of Israel, aren’t you supposed to restore the throne of David!?

Jesus answered and said unto them Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see.  Mt. 11:4.

Jesus tells John’s followers that the works of Christ speak for themselves. Then he adds another critical word for us to always consider:

And blessed is whosoever that shall not be offended in Me. Matthew 11:6.

This was the Lord’s pointed word to John, are you offended in me? We can never allow our own expectations to distort our understanding of what God has chosen us uniquely to have as a stewardship. John the Baptist teaches us that we can come out from under our anointing, we can walk and speak in the flesh what we believe to be the word of God, even quoting scripture verbatim, and there will be consequences. Condemning Herod was not kingdom business, not the Gospel message that Jesus came for: “to save the world, not condemn”.

Truly I say unto you among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Mt. 11:11.

My beloved brethren, abide in Christ, and remain among the least of these.                    Keep a good head on your shoulders!

 

 

The Spirit and Power of Elijah

For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you will receive, this is Elijah which was to come. He that has ears to hear let him hear. Matthew 11:13-15.

His disciples asked, “Why do the scribes teach that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered, “Elijah truly shall come first and restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has come already and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they desired. Likewise shall the Son of man also suffer of them.” Then the disciples understood that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist. Matthew 17:10-13.

The relationship between John the Baptist and Elijah was a stumbling block for the Jews at the time that Jesus was ministering the gospel. Clearly, they were not one and the same person, as Elijah was taken directly to heaven hundreds of years before Christ. When the authorities in Jerusalem sent emissaries to inquire into the baptism of John, he was asked point blank, “Are you Elijah?” He answered “I am not. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord, as spoken by the prophet Isaiah. (John 1:19-23.) He did not suddenly appear on the scene the way Elijah did in 1 Kings 17, but we are given a narrative of his birth to Elizabeth and Zacharias in Luke chapter one. The Holy Spirit clarifies this by the prophecy given to Zacharias by the angel who announced his coming conception.

And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17.

The angel here references the prophecy of Malachi that Jesus also alludes to in Matthew 17 when he said Elijah truly shall come first and restore all things. Of course, John the Baptist did not restore anything, but simply announced the coming of the Lord, as the prophecy in Isaiah 40 that he refers to when questioned by the religious authorities. So what is the significance of this prophecy in Malachi?

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. Malachi 4:5, 6.

This is obviously a prophecy concerning the second coming and the judgment. The greater stumbling block for the Jew was that the Messiah would come twice, first as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. At the end of the age He will complete all prophecy with the day of God’s wrath. Jesus understood that anyone waiting for Messiah would expect Elijah first, and he was provided in the person of John who came in “the spirit and power of Elijah”. Consider how he works around this issue in Luke chapter four in the synagogue of Nazareth one Sabbath day when He was chosen to read from the prophet Isaiah chapter 61.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are bruised.

To preach the acceptable of year of the Lord. Luke 4:18, 19.

After stopping the reading abruptly, he sits back down and every eye is on Him, wondering why He has stopped. He then declares, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing.” So why suddenly stop reading? Because Isaiah 61:2 continued, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God”. We see the first and second coming mentioned in one verse, and Jesus declaring the fulfillment of only the acceptable year of the Lord.

So why do biblical scholars claim that the ministry of Jesus lasted three years? In John chapter 2 Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover when he drives the vendors from the temple, which is immediately followed by the days of Unleavened Bread. In John chapter 5 He returns to Jerusalem for the next feast, which would have been Firstfruits. In John chapter 7 He is at Jerusalem at the great feast, which is Tabernacles. In accordance with the Law of Moses, all Jewish men were required to appear “before the Lord” for these three feasts.

The next time we find Jesus in Jerusalem, Lazarus has been raised from the dead and all the people are already in the city for the upcoming Passover. He is greeted by the people as a coming king, in spite of the fact that He arrives on a donkey to fulfill the words of the prophet. He never sees the feast of unleavened bread and He keeps the Passover a day early because He knows his arrest and crucifixion are eminent. This completed the acceptable year of the Lord. Do you really think that Jesus came to Jerusalem three times as prescribed by the Law, worked miracles, declared Himself to be the Son of God and provoked the religious authorities by calling them a generation of vipers and then said No? Okay, I’ll try again next year for the less acceptable year of the Lord round two. Once Jesus reached the age of 30, He began His ministry and fulfilled His Father’s Will. When He comes again it will the Day of the Lord.

The Beginning of the Gospel

According to Mark the ministry of John the Baptist is the beginning of the gospel.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets: behold I send my messenger before your face which shall prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying out in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Mark 1:1-3.

When the gospel of John is taken in to consideration, we find that not only does the ministry of John the Baptist initiate the gospel, but becomes a litmus test on the hearts of all who hear his message.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness to testify of the Light that all through him might believe. John 1:6, 7.

Notice it is said of John that he was sent from God. Now compare this to the answer Jesus gave to the question: what must we do to perform the works of God?

Jesus answered and said: this is the work of God that you believe in the one whom He has sent. John 6:29.

The first tendency is to take this statement as a reference to himself. However, the words of all who are sent by God (apostles) become a basis for faith. We will now fully examine this as a truth based on John the Baptist and the things Jesus said about him. Jesus was asked by what authority He acted and who gave him this authority.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing which if you tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, did it come from heaven or of men? And they reasoned among themselves saying; if we say from heaven he will say unto us, why did you not then believe him? But if we say of men, we fear the people for all hold John as a prophet. They answered Jesus, we cannot tell. And He said unto them, neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.   Matthew 21:24-27.

Because the chief priests and elders of the people refused to acknowledge the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus refused to answer their question, even though they had the authority to ask, for He answered to a Higher Authority. He then continued to expose them with this parable.

But what do you think, a man had two sons and he came to the first and said son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered I will not, but afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second and said likewise, and he answered I will go sir. But then he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said unto him, the first. Jesus then said, truly I say unto you, the publicans and the harlots are entering the kingdom of God before you. For John came in the way of righteousness and you rejected him, but publicans and harlots believed him. And when you had seen (the works of God done by Jesus), you did not repent and believe. Matthew 21:28-32.

We can see here a fulfillment of the word spoken in John sited above, that all through him might believe. (John 1:7) Now compare this to Jesus speaking of John in a passage found in Luke chapter 7.

For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. But the least in the kingdom of God is greater than him.

And all the people that heard and the publicans justified God being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, not being baptized of him.  Luke 7:28-30.

 

Verse 30 literally translates frustrated the counsel of God within themselves. This is usually referred to as hardening the heart against the counsel of God. Now we go to John chapter 10 for a testimony by the people who believed.

And many resorted unto Him and said John did no miracles but all things that John spoke of this man were true. And many believed on Him there. John 10:41, 42.

So we see that those who received the baptism of John also remained to hear him preach. Jesus fulfilled the words spoken before by this prophet, which confirmed their faith. Those who rejected the baptism of John knew nothing of the word that he preached concerning the Christ.

And John bore record saying I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not, but He that sent me to baptize with water the same said unto me, upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, the same is He who will baptize with The Holy Ghost. And I saw and testified that this is the Son of God. John 1:32-34.

 

 

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