Significance of John the Baptist
By Jason Scherzer
The Word: John 10:40-42 (ESV)
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.
Exegesis / Background
In John chapter 10, Jesus gives the teaching that He is the Good Shepherd, and His sheep know His voice and follow Him. He is also the door of the sheep, being the only way for the sheep to enter into eternal life, and leading them into protection, as well as into good pasture (spiritual nourishment).
In this single chapter, we have 2 of the “I AM” statements of Jesus, which are unmistakable claims to the Godhead, revealing Jesus as the Son of God. I AM the good shepherd, and I AM the door of the sheep. While walking around the temple, Jesus makes His teaching even clearer: “I and the Father are One,” He says in John 10:30. The religious leaders were listening, and they picked up stones to throw at Jesus, thinking that His words were blasphemy.
The religious leaders thought Jesus was a deceiver and impostor, and tried to arrest Him, but He slipped away from them easily. It was not the first time that Jesus escaped from the religious leaders, who constantly tried to trap Him and to accuse Him of blasphemy. They had no basis upon which to argue that Jesus’ words were not true, yet they refused to believe the obvious truth of His words.
After Jesus slipped away from the religious leaders, He went away across the Jordan river to the same place that John the Baptist had been baptizing (John 10:40). Some Christians may forget the significance of the ministry of John the Baptist and his importance to the preparation of Jesus’ ministry. But we should keep in mind the incredibly important role that John played to prepare people and the nation of Israel for the coming King.
Malachi 3:1 says, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” In this prophecy both John and Jesus are foretold. “My messenger” is John, and “The messenger of the covenant” is Jesus. The Deity of Jesus is revealed in “the LORD whom you seek,” as He is called Yahweh God (the LORD).
Malachi also prophesies about John when he writes, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (Malachi 4:5). This is confirmed by the fiery character of John in his no-nonsense preaching of repentance, and in Jesus words, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11:13-14). This should be understood to mean that John was a metaphorical Elijah, as he came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
John was also the final person in Scripture to hold the office of a Messianic prophet – that is, a prophet with the task of telling forth the coming of the Messiah; that Christ is going to come. There were more prophets to come, to be sure; Barnabas and Agabus in the book of Acts, just to name two, but they came after Christ and had different roles.
As Jesus stayed at Bethany beyond the Jordan River, the people living in the area recalled John’s ministry there. John was no longer there – he had already been imprisoned and put to death by Herod. As the people thought about John’s previous ministry and listened to Jesus, they recalled the things that John had said. For example, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).
John’s preaching always pointed away from himself and toward Christ. John was now gone, but the truth of his words remained with the people as they looked at Jesus and recognized that He truly was as great as John declared Him to be.
Elijah performed many miracles, but we have no record of John performing any wonders. He didn’t have to, because the power of His preaching came from his prophetic calling, holy life, call to repentance, and the truth of his message: Jesus is the coming King. John said many things about Jesus. The result when Jesus returned was that many believed upon Him.
In John 3:30, John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The attitude of John the Baptist toward Jesus is consistently an attitude of worship, submission of self, and of constantly exalting Jesus the King. Our attitude should be the same; we live to exalt Him as King and bring unending worship to Him. He is so deserving of more worship than we could ever give. Think on Him constantly throughout today and every day.