I was raised in the church under great biblical teaching. I’m so grateful for all the preachers and teachers that expounded the scriptures with depth and meaning. I suppose that I’ve heard thousands of sermons and teachings on John the Baptist. John was a voice crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord. John preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, the same sermon Jesus would preach and the same sermon Jesus taught His disciples to preach. John preached with such conviction that his hearers either repented or wanted to kill him. Such preaching landed him in prison where he was beheaded and departed into glory. It is this imprisonment that I want to address and clarify.
Most, if not all the sermons I heard as young boy into adulthood all portrayed John as losing his faith, falling into a moment of doubt and confusion, questioning Christ and who He was. The verse this stems from reads, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” Matthew chap. 11 vs 2. John is in prison and sends two of his disciples to Jesus to ask this question. “Art thou he?” The sermons I heard were all sincere and well-meaning as were the teachings. Unfortunately they missed the point and the meaning behind John’s question. Let’s look at the scriptures and restore the integrity that John had and never lost.
Before we get to the scriptures let’s think about the sermons and teaching on this subject we have heard. Even as a young boy the preacher would say, “you’ve got to picture John there in a cold dark prison, alone, scared, not sure about his ministry, not sure if he had done the job God sent him to do.” The preacher would go on, ” Its ok when your alone, scared and confused to doubt as John did, God understands, after all we are only human.” For 30 years I accepted this teaching, why wouldn’t I ?
The key to questioning this traditional, what seemed to biblical, teaching came to me as the Holy Spirit led me into a new way to study the scriptures. The Holy Spirit taught me to STOP reading the verse and START reading the WORDS. So I went back over the scriptures and started reading the words. Matthew 11 vs 2 “Art thou he that should come, or should we look for another? Everything was going pretty well until I came to the word “we.” And I thought to myself, “we ?” WE ? There is no “we” John your going to die, you have even accepted that fact because you said in the book of John chap. 3 vs 30 “He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.” I had to ask myself, Why did John say this “we” if he knew he had die, to decrease so Jesus could have preeminence? I began to look back at the scriptures.
In the book of John chap 1 vs 29 the Bible reads, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John made it perfectly clear to all those that could hear him that Jesus was THE LAMB OF GOD !!! Well, clear to almost everyone, except his, John’s, disciples. Look now at what happens in vs 35 of John chap. 1. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, BEHOLD (check it out, pay attention, HEY !!) the LAMB OF GOD ! Notice vs 37 And the two disciples heard him speak and they followed Jesus. The first disciples Jesus had were two of John’s disciples. Are you getting the picture now?
Lets look at this man John the Baptist for a minute, who was he really? I can tell you, he was the greatest man who ever lived. Don’t click off yet, that’s what Jesus said not this author. Look in the book of Matthew chapter 11 after John’s disciples come to Jesus and return to go back to John. Jesus begins to defend the character of John and to tell the people who John really was. Matthew chap 11 vs 9 Jesus says about John. 9” But what you out to see? A prophet? yea , I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” Now look closely at verse 11.” Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…” Did Jesus say, “those that are born of man?” NO ! Why? Because Jesus was not born of man , he was born of woman just like John. Jesus said John was greater than he was. Why? I don’t know, maybe it was His humility either way He said it.
Did John know who Jesus was? People love to say their were cousins and grew up together. What do the scriptures say? Lets look at John chap 1 vs. 32 look at what the Baptist says, 32 And John bare record saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and It abode upon him. 33. And I knew him not, but he who sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. (No FIRE !!) vs. 34 And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God. God told John that he would know the Son by the sign of the Spirit and John says he saw it. Did he forget?
Now back to the prison. That cold, dark lonely prison where its ok to lose your faith, to doubt, to be confused. Really? If the greatest man ever born doubts. If the greatest man ever born looses his faith. If the greatest man ever born questions God and the purpose of his life where does that leave me? If the greatest man ever born can’t make it, I might as well give up now and not waste my time…. The fact is John never doubted, John never lost his faith, John never gave up he never wavered. He stayed true to his God. He stayed true to his Savior and he stayed true to his calling, to the end. John was trying to get his disciples to follow Jesus and stop wasting time hanging around him. No one tells someone to follow Jesus, it must be their revelation, their need for something more, something better. If you could, would you not tell those that you love to follow Jesus and them do it? It must be a personal commitment, decision we make for ourselves or it will never stick.
So, what was John saying when he said, “WE”? He was saying, to these disciples at the prison, the same thing that he said when his disciples first followed Jesus, BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD, which taketh away the sin of the world…..Let me add with the Spirits permission…..follow Him..