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Wednesday, January 4 2012

John's Congregation

The prophet John, more-popularly known as "John the Baptist," was the son of a righteous Levite couple ("1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" Luke 1:5-6 KJV; see also Are Levites 'Jews'? and No Levites In The Lost Ten Tribes?). John was born as the result of a miraculous conception ("1:7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years ... 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John" Luke 1:7,13 KJV), for the purpose of preparing a following, a congregation, for the Messiah. John was "a man sent from God."

"1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 1:7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 1:8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light." (John 1:6-8 KJV)

John's ministry was a fulfillment of a prophecy by the prophet Isaiah (see also What Did Isaiah Know About Jesus Christ?). John was to prepare the way (preaching repentance; see The Path To Glory) for The Way ("14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" John 14:6 KJV; see also The Rock Of The Church).

The Holy Scriptures

"3:1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3:3 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.

3:4 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 [see What Was Strange About John The Baptist?]." (Matthew 3:1-4 KJV)

John became well-known throughout the area of "Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan."

"3:5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 3:6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matthew 3:5-6 KJV)

John's ministry was not a sugar-coated load of "patriotic" or "harlot in a pulpit" nonsense that is so typical of what calls itself "Christianity" today (see The True Gospel Of Christ). John joyously encouraged people to repent, but also warned, in plain language, what is going to happen to those who cling to their ignorance and arrogance, thinking that they can obtain salvation any way that they choose.

"3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 3:9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 3:10 And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:7-12 KJV)

"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John"

John's ministry became so popular that some even wondered if John was the prophesied Messiah to come (keeping in mind that the actual Messiah's ministry hadn't yet begun - He did not become known until John's ministry of preparing the way for the Messiah had ended). John made very clear that he was not the Messiah. The verses quoted below also show how people then, just as many still do today, interpret the prophecies about the "Elijah to come" as meaning that the original Elijah would return, but John also made plain that he was not Elijah - he was the "Elijah," the prophet, to come.

The Jordan River

"1:19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

1:20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

1:21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?

And he saith, I am not.

Art thou that prophet?

And he answered, No.

1:22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

1:23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

1:24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 1:25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

1:26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 1:27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

1:28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." (John 1:19-28 KJV)

John's ministry culminated with his baptism of the Messiah. The Messiah did it, not because He needed to repent of anything, but rather to formally transfer that task of preparing the way, that God had given to John, to Jesus (John to prepare the way for the Messiah's coming; the Messiah to prepare the way for God's coming - see The True Gospel Of Christ and What Was The Lesson Of John 3:16?).

A Dove

"3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17 KJV)

Notice carefully who were among the people that John prepared the way e.g. a soon-to-be apostle of Jesus began as a disciple (which means student) of John i.e. "the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples ... One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother." The primary reason that the twelve were so quick to follow Jesus when He called them was because John had prepared them.

"1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 1:30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. 1:31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

1:32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 1:33 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. 1:34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

1:35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 1:36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

1:37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

1:38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?

They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?

1:39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

1:40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother." (John 1:29-40 KJV)

Immediately after John baptized Jesus, Satan's "temptation of Christ" occurred, during which Satan mis-quoted Scripture (just as his deceived or deceiving ministers still do today; see also Who's Hiding On Your Wall? and Is Your Church A Cult?) to the Son of God.

The Negev Wilderness

"4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. 4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

4:5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 4:6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written,

He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 4:9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

4:10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

4:11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him." (Matthew 4:1-11 KJV)

There was a brief time in which both of the ministries of John and Jesus were functioning, but only to give John time to announce that his ministry was successful - and over ("his my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease").

"3:22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 3:23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 3:24 For John was not yet cast into prison. 3:25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. 3:26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

3:27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 3:28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

3:31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. 3:32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. 3:33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. 3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. 3:35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:22-36 KJV)

John's disciples, and John's enemies because of the Truth that he preached, were also then transferred to Jesus.

"4:1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 4:2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) 4:3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee." (John 4:1-3 KJV)

John was then arrested because of His preaching the Truth (see the Fact Finder question below), upon which Jesus, after being rejected by His hometown people at Nazareth for the same Truth that He preached (see The Hill Of Nazareth), moved to Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. There, the first apostles were called - including, as we read above, Andrew, the disciple of John the Baptist.

Fishermen On The Sea Of Galilee

"4:12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; 4:13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 4:14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

4:15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 4:16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up [see also Why Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth And Capernaum?].

4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

4:18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers [see The Ships Of Galilee]. 4:19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 4:20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

4:21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 4:22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. 4:24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. 4:25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan." (Matthew 4:12-25 KJV)

There was some communication between John and Jesus after John had been "detained" (the present-day "politically correct" term for imprisoning someone), but the transfer was then in effect. John's standing in the eyes of God and the Messiah did not diminish however; in the Messiah's own words (keeping in mind that the Messiah's own ministry had then just begun), "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist."

"11:1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.

11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 11:3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

11:4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: 11:5 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. 11:6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

11:7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 11:8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 11:9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written,

Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 11:14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come." (Matthew 11:1-14 KJV)

The Messiah occasionally stayed at the very same place "beyond Jordan" (see Beyond Jordan) that John had baptized. It was the natural place for John's congregation to become followers of the One that John had prepared the way for, so "many resorted unto him." John did no miracles, but John's greatest "miracle" was to prepare the way for the Messiah.

"10:39 Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, 10:40 And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.

10:41 And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. 10:42 And many believed on him there." (John 10:39-42 KJV)

As we've read, the ministry of John the Baptist had a direct and profound effect on the Ministry of the Messiah. Even the famous "Lord's Prayer" was taught by the Messiah, in answer to a question about John the Baptist.

"11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

11:2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say,

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 11:3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 11:4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." (Luke 11:1-4 KJV)

Fact Finder: Why was John the Baptist arrested and killed?
See Lethal Lust


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This Day In History, January 4

46 BC: Julius Caesar defeated Titus Labienus at the Battle of Ruspina (see also The Politics Of Rome).

41: The Roman emperor Caligula was murdered (see Pax Romana: The Birth Of The Roman Empire).

771: Upon the death of his brother Carloman, Charlemagne becomes sole ruler of the Frankish Empire - that grew into the so-called "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" (see The Holy Roman Empire).

871: The forces of Ethelred of Wessex were defeated by a Danish invasion army at the Battle of Reading.

1493: Christopher Columbus set sail from the New World to return to Spain on his first voyage of discovery.

1528: Ferdinand of Austria, brother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (see The Holy Roman Empire), outlawed the Anabaptists.

1642: King Charles I of England ordered the arrest of members of Parliament, triggering England's civil war.

1643: Isaac Newton was born. According to Carl Sagan in Cosmos (listen also to our Sermon The Creator of Cosmos), Newton was "so tiny that his mother told him years later, he would have fit into a quart mug. Sickly, feeling abandoned by his parents, quarrelsome, unsociable, a virgin to the day he died, Isaac Newton was perhaps the greatest scientific genius who ever lived" (see also No 'Flat Earth' In The Bible).

1754: King's College was founded in New York. After the revolution of the New England colonies, the college was taken over and renamed as Columbia University.

1861: The Confederate States of America were formed, first consisting of South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana - in effect, a rebellion against the states that had rebelled against Britain.

1863: During the U.S. Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln ordered General Ulysses Grant to revoke Grant's infamous "General Order Number 11" that expelled all Jews from Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky.

1912: The moon made its closest approach to the earth in the 20th century, 438,249 km. / 272,315 miles.

1944: The British Fifth Army launched an attack upon Monte Cassino, Italy. On the same day, Soviet troops crossed the former Polish border.

1948: Burma withdrew from the British Commonwealth and became independent after more than 100 years of British rule.

1951: During the Korean War, Chinese and North Korean troops captured Seoul, South Korea from United Nations forces.

1974: Richard Nixon refused to deliver evidence subpoenaed by the Senate Watergate Committee.

1990: Panamanian President Manuel Noriega surrendered to U.S. invasion forces after taking refuge in the Vatican Embassy.

2010: The Burj Khalifa, in the United Arab Emirates, was officially opened. At 829 meters / 2,723 feet in height, it is the world's tallest building (in comparison to former record holders, the World Trade Center Towers in New York were 1,368 feet high and Canada's CN Tower is 1,815 feet tall).






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Copyright © Wayne Blank