Nothing but the Truth

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Matthew 11:11a
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:

One of the most unique relationships recorded in the Scriptures is that of Jesus and John the Baptist. In addition to being related by blood, both were called of God for a particular purpose. Both had their births foretold and their names given by way of the angel Gabriel.1

As these two remarkable children grew, it is likely that they had some degree of interaction, due to their blood relationship. But their most significant meeting, and the first recorded in God’s Word, occurred many years later.

Matthew 3:1–6, 13–14
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Imagine this moment! Among the multitudes, Jesus was just the carpenter’s son, just another nameless supplicant standing in line with the rest. But John saw him for who he was. How this must have touched the heart of Jesus.2

As we have read, John initially refused to baptize Jesus. What changed his mind?

Matthew 3:15  (New International Version)
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

Upon hearing this short statement, John agreed. Why? Because another thing which Jesus and John had in common was a knowledge of and reverence for the Scriptures. Both knew of the foretold Messiah, and of the things he would need to accomplish in order to fulfill his calling. Thus, the moment he heard these words, John recognized that the baptism of Jesus wasn’t just a token, but a necessity.

After this event, John continued to acknowledge the true identity and purpose of Jesus Christ.

John 1:29–34
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

And I knew him not: but he that 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.

And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Clearly, although he may have been told some details about Jesus’ birth, John did not fully recognize him as the Messiah until this was revealed to him. Once he did know, he responded with complete allegiance.

John 1:35–37
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

In a day when so many ministers will persuade, cajole, or even deceive people into staying within the confines of their group, how loudly this record speaks! Whatever his personal desires, John was a man whose trust in God and obedience to the Scriptures stands as an example to us all.

Which makes a later event even more puzzling and heartbreaking. Most of us know that shortly after Jesus commenced his ministry, John was imprisoned, and later beheaded, by King Herod. During the time of his imprisonment, John sent two of his disciples to speak with Jesus.

Matthew 11:2–3
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,

And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

As we know from God’s Word, though he was the only-begotten son of God, Jesus was fully human. He was tempted with everything that tempts us, and he felt everything that we feel.3 I can only imagine what Jesus felt in this moment. This great man John, who had recognized and proclaimed him as the Lamb of God, is now questioning that truth.4

We can only speculate as to what caused John to doubt. But whatever the reason for John’s wavering, Jesus’ response is precise and masterful.

Matthew 11:4–6
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:

The blind receive their sight, 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.

And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Why did Jesus respond in this way? Many have taught that John would be convinced when his disciples reported on the miracles they had witnessed. However, this teaching fails to note that John was already fully aware of the works that Jesus was doing (see verse 2).

The answer lies not in what Jesus did, but in what he said: “The blind receive their sight, 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.”

What is significant about these words?

Isaiah 35:5–6
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

Isaiah 61:1
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.

In Jesus’ response to John, he was making reference to these prophecies of Isaiah concerning the Messiah. He knew John’s heart. Thus he knew that despite his momentary wavering, he would recognize and honor these words. Words, not miracles, would bring John back to the stability of faith.

What an example to God’s people today! John and Jesus were men with a common language. We can and should be the same.

I am not suggesting that we should become like those who can quote a verse for every occasion. Verse-slinging never leads to peace, only contention. There is no mystical power in memorizing verses. But if I learn those verses in order to know and follow God’s ways, then those verses can become the building blocks of clear understanding and unshakeable conviction.

When this common persuasion exists within a group of believers, there is no disagreement that goes unresolved, no hurt that can prevail. Circumstances cannot sway us when God’s Word is our chosen source, our common source, and our only source for truth.

John 17:17
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

 

[1]  Luke 1:11–19, 26–33.

[2]  It should be noted that, despite the ignorance of the masses, two others present on that day did recognize Jesus as the son of God ─ God, Himself, and the Devil (Matthew 3:16–17; 4:1–3).

[3]  Hebrews 4:15.

[4]  The example of Jesus may be instructive to us in that, despite any hurt or disappointment he might have felt, his evaluation of John was dictated by truth, not feelings (Matthew 11:7–11).