Sharpen Your Sword.
Topic: The Gospels.
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John the Baptist denies being Christ.
Scriptures – Jn. 1:19-28
The study today is focused on an event that unsurprisingly was noted only by John as not even Luke who highlighted how widely he consulted in the course of compiling the facts he used in writing his Gospel, captured this event. Unsurprising because the writer of the Gospel book of John, as we have noted in earlier studies, was more focused on the divinity of Jesus Christ and all the facts that supported such notion.
John the Baptist was just beginning to gain some traction and acceptance from the people, when Jesus Christ started his own ministry. This as should be expected, created some form of confusion, not among the principal figures of both ministries but among their disciples, followers and independent observers with some beginning to question why Jesus Christ, who they had just witnessed, submitting to John the Baptist to be baptized, was suddenly floating what seemed like a rival ministry, more so, he seemed to be gaining grounds – Jn. 3:26. The Jews, who had been expecting the coming of the promised messiah (Lk. 2:25), on seeing what John the Baptist was doing had sent emissaries to him wanting to ask if he was the Christ (saviour) that they were expecting, or Elijah or just another of the prophets. John on that occasion had made it clear that he was not a the Messiah or Elijah, neither was he whom they could classify as ‘another of the prophets’ – Jn. 1:19-24. Nevertheless he and his message could not be discounted as he made two points clear to them;
- His mission was to call people to repentance so as to avoid the coming wrath of Jehovah and baptize all those who chose to accept his message with water for the remission of their sins – Jn. 1:23
- However, he also was waiting in expectation of the messiah like them, though he was yet to identify him also, he was sure he was already among them, and going by what was spiritually revealed to him, he will only be able to recognize him with signs that will accompany his baptism, which was an additional reason for why he was baptizing – Jn. 1:24-34. This was a personality that was greater than him and he was only a fore-runner to that him.
No wonder he quickly announced the personality of Jesus Christ when he saw all the signs that occurred during and after he was baptized, and at a later occasion, actually called him ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ – Jn. 1:29-30.
His faith must however, have been shaken when he experienced so much oppression in the hands of Herod. Probably wondering why he could not be saved from this experience by the same one he had confirmed to be the Saviour, he sent emissaries to him to confirm if indeed he was the expected Saviour but all he got in response to his enquiry was the report of the miracles that Jesus Christ was performing – Lk. 7:18-23. How far that went in helping his faith is best left to imagination but the prayer of Jesus on that occasion captures the possible state of the faith of John and probably several others at that time. They were most likely already falling away from the Faith – Jn. 1:23.
Jesus Christ subsequently used the occasion to testify to the greatness of John the Baptist in relation to earthly and heavenly Beings (Lk. 7:23-29) and concluded with the expression of the difficult nature of the people of his generation – Lk. 7:31-35
The Christian Today.
The Christian today definitely has a lot to learn from this unique event as reported by the writer of the gospel of John, the first of which is to know and accept limitations. Though his intention was to let the Jews of his time know that John the Baptist whom they revered so much, ceded greatness and superiority to Jesus Christ, and also confirmed his divinity, it is simply impossible to ignore the extreme humility on display by John the Baptist. For someone who was evidently commissioned by Jehovah (Lk. 1:76-79), and accepted as such by the people (Lk. 3:7-18), some Christian leaders of today, with a fraction of such level of acceptance and recognition, would have used every opportunity to let anyone who cares to listen believe that they are next to Jehovah, and will be unwilling to accept the superiority of someone who as it seems, met them in the Ministry. To them it is simply impossible for the one who they introduced into the Ministry to ever be greater than them but that was not the case with him – Jn. 3:30. Today’s Christian, especially the leaders, must realize that they cannot be more than who Jehovah wants them to be and so, should operate in the advise of the Apostle Paul to the Romans and the Ephesians – Rom. 12.6-8; Eph. 4:7.
It should also be highlighted that the length of time spent in the ministry and the status attained is not sufficient to prevent one from losing Faith in some situations. With the amount of evidence that John the Baptist was presented with, it was very easy for him to preach because he had not experienced any situation that was overwhelming, but that was not the case when he found himself being persecuted by Herod, with death directly staring at him. Truth be told, everyone will need spiritual and moral support in such situations which is probably why the Apostle Paul pleaded that they should be prayed for, when he found himself in a similar situation – 1Thess. 5:25; Heb. 13:18; Rom. 15:30. Never consider yourself too spiritually matured to have your Faith shaken by challenging and overwhelming situations, after all you are not super human. John the Baptist in all his spiritual Faith entertained doubt in the face of earthly trials (Matt. 11:2-3), just as Peter entertained doubt when he saw the storm – Matt. 14:29-32. Do not be ashamed to admit that the situation you are in, has affected your Faith level as greater men of Jehovah have been similarly affected. Even Jesus Christ in the Garden of Getsemane, had to battle such dip in Faith when he pleaded that he should be aided to avoid the challenging situation that was ahead of him (Matt. 26:39-45), but then, he quickly renewed his spiritual strength by handing the situation over to Jehovah. This was the same approach that Peter and John the Baptist took as they both, in their situation, called for support from Jesus Christ. The problem is not with a shrunken Faith but with not knowing whom to run to in such situations. That situation that is affecting your Faith does not in anyway spiritually diminish you, so do not be afraid to admit it. Just do the needful and you will not drown in it.
The third point that the Christian today needs to learn is the need to acknowledge the greatness of others. Yes you are no doubt huge in reputation and have been so acknowledged, but acknowledging the greatness of others will only increase your rating and not otherwise. The one that does not acknowledge the greatness in others should expect to lose the acknowledgement that is being received from others. Acknowledging the greatness in others is actually a way of glorifying Jehovah who is the source of the greatness in all, in the first place. Not to acknowledge the greatness of others is an indication of someone who is low in self esteem and is threatened by the success of others. It is also an indication of one who is jealous and envious of the achievement and success of others. Such has the erroneous belief that no one else is entitled to any form of acknowledgement since he or she is god or at the worst, just a little below Jehovah, to whom all praise and adoration should belong to. The only one who is Almighty is Jehovah and whatever anyone else may be was received from Him, who also has the sovereign authority to bestow such greatness on any other. The one who does not acknowledge this cannot claim to operate in the Spirit of Jehovah as all the character traits on display remain some of the product of a carnal mind – Gal. 5:19-21. That John the Baptist acknowledged the greatness of Jesus Christ just as Jesus Christ also did same in him, shows the greatness of both of them.
Lastly, today’s Christian must avoid unnecessary competition and rivalry, after all we are all supposed to be working towards achieving the same goal – 1Cor. 1:12; 3:4. All are messengers of Jehovah and should consider one another as co-workers in the vineyard. Just as the Apostle Paul advised the Corinthian Church, Jehovah and His Christ are not divided and so should those claiming to be the representative of the Gospel should not be divided. Nothing is killing the Church today as much as the unnecessary rivalry, not with unbelievers, but amongst so called followers of Jesus Christ, who are supposed to be preaching the same message. Christians should avail themselves with the advise of the Apostle Paul to the Galatian Church where he cautioned them to desist from saying and wishing evil towards one another if they are to avoid the consequence, which can only be destruction – Gal. 5:14-15.
Christians and their leaders need to take few steps backward and consider this relationship between Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, and how they both handled the challenges of the differences in their messages though they are both working towards the same objective of bringing souls back to Jehovah by sincerely and honestly answering the following questions;
- Do you have a clear picture of what you are called to do? No doubt, all were called but definitely for different purposes. It is important to identify such purpose so that you will not find yourself operating at cross purpose with the reason for your Call.
- Are you operating within the limits of your Call? Operating outside your Call can only bring shame, dishonour, disgrace and possible loss of grace of Jehovah. It is not about your zeal but about adherence to his reason for calling you – 2Sam. 6:7; 1Sam. 13:1-14.
- How have you approached that fellow Christian who you believe you are older than in the ministry but seems to be gaining acceptance more than you? You must remember at all times that it is not about your effort but about what was allocated to you. Focusing on the achievements of others will only make you lose the reason for your call. You will only be assessed by the task allocated to you and not that of others – Matt. 25:14-30.
- How have you reacted to the comments of people who have attempted to create discord, albeit unknowingly, by making you feel inferior to others in their Ministry? King Saul reacted negatively and it only ended in his destruction – 1Sam. 18:6-9; 31:1-6.
- Are you able to see and publicly acknowledge the goodness of others or all you see are points to criticize with destructive intentions? – Neh. 4:1-3; Lk. 21:1-4.
It is not about the size of your Ministry but about how well you succeed in what has been handed over to you – Lk. 16:10. Jehovah is not unfair to assess you on what He has not given to you (Lk. 12:48). Remain in your Call as that remains the only way He will render you the required support should anyone attempt to challenge you.
- Jehovah, please show me the purpose of my Call and help me to remain in that purpose.
- Jehovah, please help me to see and acknowledge the greatness in others.
- Jehovah, please grant me the wisdom to avoid unnecessary rivalry in the ministry.
- Jehovah, help to sustain my faith till the end, even in the midst of the storm that may show up in the course of operating in my Call.
References:, Matt. 25:14-30; Matt. 18:1-5; Lk. 9:49-55.