No Other Name // Part 2
This evening let’s take another look at the life of Jesus by taking a look at the ministry of John the Baptist in Luke 3.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”
Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.
When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
/// Luke 3:1-22 (NKJV)
Last week, we spoke of the importance of timing in the will of God. Chapter three begins with a reference to timing being right for the revelation of Jesus’ ministry. But by necessity, a predecessor was prophesied to appear who would as scripture states, “prepare the way of the Lord”. Isaiah’s prophecy was not the only one about this predecessor.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. /// Malachi 4:5-6
Since this prophecy was given to Israel after the ministry of Elijah the prophet, we know it was referring to one yet to come. Jesus enlightened us as to who this was in the following words:
And His disciples asked Him, saying , “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist. /// Matthew 17:10-13 (NKJV)
John the Baptist was the prophesied forerunner of Jesus. Why was it necessary for Jesus to have a forerunner? What ministry did he provide? The ministry of John the Baptist was not just important to Jesus’ ministry but was imperative. John’ ministry was described by Isaiah as “preparatory”. What John preached would make the landscape of the lives of those who heard and obeyed conducive to the further ministry of Messiah. As a matter of fact, Messiah’s ministry would not take place unless the message of John would open the door.
John’s words revealed clearly the options before the people. Judgment for a lack of repentance – the ministry of the Holy Spirit for those who do. Just like must other kingdom of God things, there is a counterfeit to the true when it comes to repentance. John stated that there are fruits that accompany true repentance (“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance…” /// John 3:8). When the people asked John what they should do in response to his message, baptism in water was simply symbolic. It was a statement of faith but not the fulfillment of the life of faith. John told the people coming for baptism that fruits worthy of being called true repentance were found in a changed way of life. Just like today, the message of repentance was not popular or politically correct. John’s message of repentance to Herod Antipas did not change with the receiver nor in any circumstance. The road to the kingdom of God still begins in the station of repentance.
2. Recognition and Honor
There was one more vital aspect to John’s ministry. First, John was a member of the family of Aaron, the family entrusted with the priesthood of Israel. In Israel, it is taught that when John was orphaned at a young age – being a member of the priestly family, he was taken in by the Essene community near present day Qumran. The Essenes were a part of the Aaronic family – believed to be Kohen descendants of the first priest of Israel to serve in the First Temple: Zadok – the prophesied lineage of the High Priest. The Essene community became dissatisfied with the corruptions of the priestly line and went into the desert to form a community focused on the preservation of Messianic scripture. They eschewed riches and entered the waters of the mikvah daily. An interesting side note is that the Essenes believed in the coming of a “Teacher of Righteousness”.
The Teacher of Righteousness (in Hebrew: מורה הצדק Moreh ha-Tzedek) is a figure found in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, most prominently in the Damascus Document. This document speaks briefly of the origins of the sect, probably Essenes, 390 years after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and after 20 years of “groping” blindly for the way. “God... raised for them a Teacher of Righteousness to guide them in the way of His heart”. The Teacher is extolled as having proper understanding of the Torah, qualified in its accurate instruction, and being the one through whom God would reveal to the community “the hidden things in which Israel had gone astray”.
The identity of this “teacher” is unknown but doesn’t it fit the ministry of John the Baptist? John had the heart and zeal that the priesthood of Israel should possess. To understand the aspect of John’s ministry as recognition and honor. Let’s go back to our Sunday study of the priesthood. When Abraham met Melchizedek, Priest of God Most High, the book of Hebrews tells us that Levi honored him even from the loins of Abraham:
Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak. For he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. /// Hebrews 7:9-10
So, when Abraham, the father of Israel – the father of the faithful met Melchizedek, he recognized him and honored him through the payment of tithes. And so, when John the Baptist, representative of the true priesthood of Israel met Jesus, who is our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, he recognizes Him and honors Him by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” and “he must increase and I must decrease.” John did not fully understand the purpose of his baptism of Jesus (you want me to baptize you? I should be baptized by You!) but Jesus said that it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness. The recognition and honor of Jesus’ priesthood by the Aaronic priesthood was important in the coming of the Messiah.
- Luke 3:1-22 (NKJV)
- Malachi 4:5-6
- Matthew 17:10-13 (NKJV)
- Hebrews 7:9-10
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