(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)
The book of Luke is one of the four gospels that are In the Bible. It is the first part of a two part writing. The second being the book of Acts. Luke 1:1-38 shows the heralding of both John the Baptist and Jesus. There are a lot of similarities between the two, including the miraculous conception of both (one mother being older than the age of motherhood, and the other a young virgin), and both of their parents receiving an announcement by the angel Gabriel. John the Baptist’s father is a man named Zechariah, a priest who worked in the temple. During a time that he was burning incense to The Lord and praying, Gabriel appeared to him and foretold his future son, John the Baptist.
I have been wondering forever what the point of John the Baptist was. I mean, I can read what the Bible says about him, but I never really fully understood what the point was of having him come, especially in relation to Jesus. And then something dawned on me while I was reading Luke 1.
John the Baptist’s mission and purpose was to restore the Jews, the people of Israel, back to God. Now this is important in that he was restoring the Jews back to a right heart before God within the context of the Old Testament covenant. Previously the Jews had neglected God and chose to worship other gods. God cast them into exile and they became slaves of the people who worshipped the other gods that they wanted to worship instead of The Lord. Even after they returned from exile they were not very faithful to God, and the cycle of unfaithfulness seems to persist. But through all of that God spoke through many prophets, calling His people, the Jews, to repentance. The most significant aspect of this prophetic calling to repentance is that mixed in it are frequent references to a messiah that would come in the future and redeem the nation.
This is the context that we find John the Baptist in. His purpose and mission is to call these unfaithful Jewish people back to the God of the Old Testament covenant because it is within the context of this covenant that it’s fulfillment is realized in Jesus. This is why Jesus refers to Himself as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He is not a clean break from the law and the prophets, He is their fulfillment.
John the Baptist is called the greatest prophet by Jesus because he got to see Jesus, the fulfillment of all that the prophets spoke of and longed so eagerly to look into. He was the spokesman of this prophetic fulfillment of the messiah. Verse 16-17 says that “he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
He came before Jesus, and so he did not speak of the new covenant that Jesus brought, but came in the footsteps of the prophets before him who called Israel to repentance. All of this happened because God sent him to call Israel to repentance so that their hearts would be right before God, and would readily receive the promised messiah when he came. Funny enough, I don’t think that John thought that the messiah was coming so soon after him. He certainly didn’t think that it would happen right in the middle of his preaching about him.
So what’s the point? Jesus is a big deal. He is the ultimate fulfillment of a history and story of redemption that finds it’s source in a deep root of the promise of an ultimate redemption. Jesus is the hope of Israel. He is what the faithful Jews were waiting for. He is the promise that God made to Israel long ago through the prophets. John the Baptist came in the same way that the prophets of old came, speaking of God’s ultimate redemption in the messiah. In fact, Luke 1:17 says that John was going to come “in the spirit and power of Elijah.”
We as Gentiles (non-Jews) are adopted into this promise of redemption. We are grafted in to this vine and partake in the promise of redemption that was spoken of so long ago by the prophets, heralded by John the Baptist, and realized in Christ. We are redeemed by the messiah of Israel. And because of this redemption we are sons and daughters of God, forgiven, and able to walk in His presence and the power of His Holy Spirit.
So the charge that I leave you with today is that if you are born again to take full advantage of the redemption that you have. Ask God to show Himself to you, and delve into who He is. Do not quench the Holy Spirit or fear to see Him realized in everything that you do. We are the church, the body of Christ. Let’s take this Jesus who redeemed us to the world so that the world will know Him and this redemption too.