Luke 3:15-1715Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, 16John 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. 17His 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.”
John’s gospel gives additional information regarding this testimony of John the Baptist about himself. John (the evangelist) reports that this testimony of John the Baptist was in response to direct questions from the Pharisees whether he was the Messiah. We looked at this testimony when we discussed John the Baptist’s coming in the spirit of Elijah, as Gabriel the angel said when he announced John’s coming birth to his father, Zacharias, at the altar of incense…
John 1:19-2719Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”20He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”He said, “I am not.”“Are you the Prophet?”And he answered, “No.”22Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”23He said: “I am‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:“Make straight the way of the LORD,”‘as the prophet Isaiah said.”24Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”26John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”
Notice that John the Baptist also told them point blank in this passage that the awaited Messiah was already in their midst, but most still failed to recognize he was speaking of Jesus.
Luke 3:18-2018And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. 19But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.
Luke gets a little ahead of himself here. Obviously, Herod could not have imprisoned John before he baptized Jesus as we see him doing in the next few verses. The tetrarch referred to here in verse 19 was Herod Antipas who became tetrarch of Galilee following the death of his father Herod the Great in 4 BC. It was Antipas to whom Pontius Pilate would later send Jesus for trial. Although not perfectly clear from this verse, John the Baptist rebuked Antipas for having divorced his first wife in order to marry Herodias, his brother, Phillip’s wife. She was also the granddaughter of Antipas’ father Herod the Great, so not only did Antipas divorce his own first wife without valid cause to marry his brother’s wife, the marriage to Herodias was also an incestuous one because she was Antipas’ niece as well! Small wonder that John the Baptist rebuked him or that Jesus would later refer to him as “that fox.” [Luke 13:32]
Luke 3:21-22 (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:29-34)21When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22And 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.”
All four of the gospel writers report on the baptism of Jesus. Matthew relates in his gospel that John objected at first to the idea of baptizing Jesus, but that Jesus convinced him it was proper.
Matthew 3:13-1713Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”15But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.16When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
John’s gospel relates the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus’ baptism. John says here that God had revealed to him that the Christ would be the one upon whom he would see the Spirit descend and remain.
John 1:29-3429The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”32And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
Thus it is a little incongruous that after Antipas had put him in prison, John would later send some of his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was the Christ.
Matthew 11:2-62And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”4Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
By this answer, Jesus reminded John of some of the prophecies concerning Him with which John would have been well familiar, having no doubt been taught them by his father, Zacharias the priest.
Isaiah 35:4-64Say to those who are fearful-hearted,“Be strong, do not fear!Behold, your God will come with vengeance,With the recompense of God;He will come and save you.”5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.6Then the lame shall leap like a deer,And the tongue of the dumb sing.For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,And streams in the desert.
Isaiah 26:19Your dead shall live;Together with my dead body they shall arise.Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;For your dew is like the dew of herbs,And the earth shall cast out the dead.
Perhaps best known is the prophecy of Isaiah that Jesus would later read on the Sabbath in the synagogue at Nazareth.
Isaiah 61:1-31“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,Because the LORD has anointed MeTo preach good tidings to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,To proclaim liberty to the captives,And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,And the day of vengeance of our God;To comfort all who mourn,3To console those who mourn in Zion,To give them beauty for ashes,The oil of joy for mourning,The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;That they may be called trees of righteousness,The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
God willing, we’ll take a much closer look at that in a later study. In the meantime, we might well wonder how John could have doubted after seeing God’s Spirit alight and remain on Jesus, and after hearing the Voice from Heaven proclaim, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Yet, we can take encouragement from this story of John’s crisis of faith in prison, knowing that Jesus Himself said of John…
Luke 7:28For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
There are numerous examples in God’s Word of great men of faith who went through seasons of doubt and disobedience – David, Peter, and Jeremiah to name just a few. Thus we are in good company when we experience such crises. Nevertheless, we should always bear in mind Jesus’ admonishment.
Luke 9:62bNo one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
It is certain that we are going to fail Jesus, much as we might strive otherwise. Praise God that Jesus will never fail us.
John 10:27-3027My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30I and My Father are one.