A Government Offended, A Prophet Imprisoned & the Works of Christ

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in verses eighteen through fifty of the seventh chapter. “And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another? When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then. Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:18-30) “And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? And to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children” (Luke 7:31-35). “And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with t he hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had hidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touché the him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that for giveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50) When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the third account of John the Baptist in prison. If you begin reading with and from the eighteenth verse of the seventh chapter you will find what is the third of three different accounts and narratives concerning John the Baptist in prison. What makes this truly unique and interesting when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the incredible truth that there are actually three different references to John the Baptist being imprisoned within Scriptures. While all four gospel narratives present us with the truth surrounding John the Baptist’s ministry of baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins and of his preaching the kingdom of God it would be only the Synoptic gospels which actually present us with the account of John the Baptist being imprisoned. In all reality there are two distinct realities concerning John the Baptist being imprisoned within these gospels. On the one hand there is the account of Herod imprisoning John the Baptist and the time of his birthday coming about. Within the first three gospel narratives found at the beginning of the New Testament there are incredibly powerful references concerning John the Baptist and how it would be Herod who would deliberately and intentionally shut him up in prison. Scripture makes it very clear that there would indeed come a point in time during the life of John the Baptist when his freedom would be taken away and removed from him as he would be shut up in prison. Not only would Scripture reveal how John the Baptist would be shut up in prison but it would also reveal how Herod himself would be the one who would shut him up in prison. What makes this all the more astonishing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that Scripture is very clear on the reason why Herod would indeed shut John the Baptist up in prison as it was written and recorded in each of the first three gospels. As I come to the words which are found in this particular section of the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke I can’t help but be absolutely and incredibly intrigued by the words and language found within each of the Synoptic gospels. I am absolutely convinced that one cannot truly understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture without also understanding each of its counterparts recorded for us in the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as by John Mark. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words found in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the imprisonment of John the Baptist and how eventually there would come a point in time when the living and eternal God would sort of remove the hedge that was about his life and ministry and allow him to be seized and imprisoned by Herod. With this being said I have to admit that I would absolutely love to know exactly how long the ministry of John the Baptist truly did last during those days leading up to the manifestation of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and the Son of God. We know that John the Baptist was still free to baptize and preach the kingdom of heaven and repentance when Jesus first emerged on to the scene for it was John the Baptist who baptized Jesus Himself in the waters of the Jordan River. What’s more is that we also know that John the Baptist’s ministry had to continue at least to some degree and measure into the time when Jesus Himself was publicly proclaiming the kingdom of heaven in the earth and teaching and preaching in the synagogues and in every city, town and village. We know that for a certain undefined period of time John the Baptist would indeed continue with teaching and preaching the kingdom of heaven during the days in which Jesus was publicly manifested as the Son of the living God for the apostle John writes and records of the disciples of John getting into a discussion and debate concerning Jesus baptizing more than he was and how all men went unto Him. I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within the four gospel narratives and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the public ministry of John the Baptist and how he was indeed ordained, appointed, chosen and sent by the living God to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It would be according to the prophetic word of Isaiah during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah the word of the Lord would come to him and he would not only prophesy of the coming of the Messiah but he would also prophesy concerning the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah. I am absolutely convinced it is important for us to recognize and understand the words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning John the Baptist for it serves as the foundation for what each of the four gospel authors present concerning this Messianic forerunner and messenger for the Messiah who was to come. There is a great need for us to pay close and careful attention to this for in order to understand the words and language found in this passage of Scripture you must needs recognize and understand how the entire life and ministry of John the Baptist interconnects and is woven throughout the four gospel narratives. I am absolutely convinced that in order to truly understand the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist there is a great need to begin with the fortieth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah—and not only begin with this passage of Scripture but also include together with it the words which are found in the first chapter of the gospel narrative written by Luke. It is that which we find in these passages of Scripture we are given a prelude and introduction to the ministry of this Messianic forerunner who would indeed go before the face of the Messiah. Oh with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah as well as the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: FOR she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: For the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the godliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: Because the spirit of the LORD blowers upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:1-7). “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. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the LORD blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the LORD. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the LORD standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 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. And thou shalt have joy and gladness a; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the LORD their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the feathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believes not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the LORD dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men” (Luke 1:4-25). Both of these passages are absolutely necessary when seeking to understand the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist who would indeed be the prophetic forerunner and messenger of the Messiah. It would be the prophet Isaiah who would indeed prophesy centuries and generations earlier concerning this forerunner and messenger of the Messiah and would even provide the words which John the Baptist himself would declare and proclaim when men came unto him asking whether or not he were the Christ. There is something truly captivating and powerful about the words and language which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah for within it we are brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding this prophetic messenger and forerunner of the Messiah and how he would indeed go before the Messiah to prepare the way and make ready a people for His coming and appearing. Oh while it would be true that from the time of Moses until the time of John the Baptist there was indeed the expectation and anticipation for the coming and appearing of the Messiah there would be absolutely no one who would no exactly when the Messiah would appear. Men and women would indeed live with the expectation and anticipation of the Messiah coming and being manifested unto and among them and yet no one knew precisely when He would come. The prophet Isaiah might very well be considered the prophet of Christ in the Old Testament for no Hebrew prophet saw more and prophesied more concerning the Messiah than he did. It would be the prophet Isaiah who would not only prophesy concerning the Messiah’s being born of a virgin but it would also be the prophet Isaiah who would prophesy of the suffering of the Messiah, of the servant Messiah and even of the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord being upon the Messiah. What we find in the fortieth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah is truly unique when you take the time to consider it for it serves as the foundation for that which we find in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke. It is in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke we find the angel Gabriel appearing unto Zacharias beside the altar of incense in the Temple which stood in the midst of Jerusalem. Here within the first chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the beloved physician Luke we find a powerful declaration concerning the life and ministry of John the Baptist who would not only be born unto two individuals who were advanced and well stricken in years but also to one who was a priest who served in the ministry of the Temple. Oh this is something we must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding this prophetic ministry which John the Baptist would engage in as the prophetic forerunner and messenger of the Messiah. It would be the angel Gabriel who would indeed and would in fact declare of this child who would be born unto Zacharias and Elisabeth that his name was to be John and how they would have joy and gladness while many would rejoice at his birth. What’s more is that it would be the angel Gabriel who would also declare of this child how he would be great in the sight of the LORD and would drink neither wine nor strong drink and would be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. Moreover it would be the angel Gabriel who would also declare of this prophetic forerunner and messenger of the Messiah that many of the children of Israel would he turn to the LORD their God and he would go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. Not only this but this prophetic messenger and forerunner of the Messiah would also make ready a people who were indeed prepared for the Lord. It is with all of this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to following passages which are found in the four gospel narratives presented at the beginning of the New Testament. Here within each of these gospel narratives we encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist and what that looked like before Jesus would come to him to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. I am convinced that we must first considered the words presented in each of the four gospels concerning the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist before transitioning to his baptism of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River, before his proclamation concerning the Lamb of God, and even before the words which he spoke unto those who came unto him concerning Jesus and His disciples baptizing more than he and his disciples did. There is a great need to consider these words for within them we see a powerful picture of the prophetic ministry of this Messianic forerunner and messenger of the Messiah who would prepare and make ready a people for the coming of the one who was ordained and appointed by the living God. Each of the four gospel authors would indeed present us with a wonderful and powerful picture concerning the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist and how at one point in time there would even be those who would come unto him inquiring whether or not he was the Messiah. Before you get into the language concerning John the Baptist being imprisoned by Herod and even before you get into the language of John the Baptist sending two of his messengers unto Jesus inquiring whether or not He was the Messiah there is a great need to consider the ministry which he had engaged in. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of the four gospels concerning the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist: “IN those days came John 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 leather 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. 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? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 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. And now also the axe 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. 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: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:1-12). “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loinss; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; and preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after rme, the latches of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Mark 1:1-8). “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea, and of the region of Trachonities, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Luke 3:1-9). “And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:10-14). “And as the people were in expectation, and all men. Mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latches of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people” (Luke 3:15-18). “And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to walk him, Who art thou? And eh confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? AHE said I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the LORD, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizes thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latches I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing” (John 1:19-28). Please pay careful attention to the words which are presented within these passages of Scripture for within each of these passages we encounter the same truth surrounding John the Baptist—namely that he baptized men and women in water unto repentance for the remission of sins. Moreover John the Baptist would preach the kingdom of heaven and would call men and women to not only repentance but to bring forth fruits meet unto repentance. John the Baptist would call men and women unto righteousness and holiness during those days as he was called and sent by the living God to prepare and make ready a people for the coming of the Messiah. It would be John the Baptist who in addition to preparing and making ready a people meet for the Messiah would also declare and speak of himself that he did indeed and did in fact baptize with water, however there would come one after him who was mightier than he was. John the Baptist would indeed baptize men and women in water unto repentance for the remission of sins and yet he would also emphatically declare and proclaim unto those who were present that there was one coming who would not only baptize with fire but with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of John would indeed be one of water and yet there would come another who was mightier than He was who would introduce a new baptism—a baptism that was not of water but rather one which was of fire. Moreover there would also be one who would come unto them who would baptize with the fire and with the Holy Ghost. It would be this Messiah who would indeed baptize with fire, however, fire in and of itself would not be enough for He would also baptize with the Holy Spirit. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for we must recognize that this second baptism would indeed be one of both fire and the Holy Spirit, thus indicating that they could not be separated from each other. The words which we see in these passages of Scripture are incredibly unique and astounding when you take the time to think about them for they call and draw our attention to the truth surrounding the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist and how he would indeed be used by the living God to bring men and women unto a place of repentance before and in the sight of the living God. It would be John the Baptist who would baptize men and women in the waters of the Jordan after they would come unto him confessing their sins. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in each of the four gospels for it would be the beloved physician Luke who would also write how the publicans, the soldiers and the people would come unto John the Baptist asking him what they must do in response to his preaching. Undoubtedly there would be those who would be convicted within their consciences and hearts and would come unto John the Baptist inquiring what they must needs do in response to his preaching. Although John the Baptist was not the Messiah there would be those who would come unto him confessing their sins prior to being baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. Oh that we would recognize and pay close attention to these words for they would call and draw our attention to the wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the ministry of John the Baptist and how He was indeed one who called men unto repentance and would preach a gospel of repentance unto all those who would come unto him from Judaea, from Jerusalem and from the surrounding region. This is something which must needs be carefully considered for John the Baptist would indeed call men and women unto repentance and upon the confession of their sins he would then baptize them as an outward proclamation and manifestation of their confession and repentance. With all of this being said if you continue reading the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives you will find that while John the Baptist did indeed baptize with water unto repentance unto remission of sins and while John the Baptist would instruct men and women in righteousness he would also proclaim the truth concerning the Messiah. John the Baptist would preach the kingdom of heaven, John the Baptist would indeed preach and proclaim repentance unto the remission of sins and yet we must also recognize and understand that he would also publicly proclaim and bear witness to the person of the Messiah. For a good portion of the ministry entrusted unto him he would speak of the Messiah in the future tense and yet there would come a point in time when he would actually begin to publicly reveal and call men and women to that One who was truly the Messiah and the Christ which was to come. It would be in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find wonderful and incredible truths concerning John the Baptist and how in addition to preaching repentance and in addition to baptizing unto repentance for the remission of sins he would also publicly proclaim the truth and reality concerning the Messiah. Within the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find a wonderful and powerful description of this prophet of the Messiah who would preach and proclaim concerning Him that He was not only the Lamb of God but also that He was the Light. Oh consider if you will the following words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle John beginning with the first and opening verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:1-18). “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” (John 1:29-34). “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” (John 1:35-36). It is quite clear from each of these passages of Scripture that John the Baptist was indeed the prophetic Messianic forerunner and messenger of the Messiah who did indeed come and was manifested that he might publicly proclaim the coming of the Messiah. Within these passages we find it clearly written and stated that John came to bear witness unto the Light and how he did indeed come to point men and women unto the one who was both the Christ and the Son of the living God. It is in this first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find this messenger of the Messiah seeing Jesus coming unto him and publicly proclaiming unto those who were present that they ought to behold the Lamb of God which took away the sin of the world. Not only this but John the Baptist would also go on to declare concerning Jesus how this was he of whom he had said, “After him comes a man which was preferred before him for he was before him.” John the Baptist would go on to declare how he knew this one not but that he should be made manifest to Israel he had come baptizing with water. In addition to this John the Baptist would also bare record emphatically declaring how He saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and abiding upon him. John would also go on to declare how he knew this one not but that he had been sent to baptize with water. That one who had sent John to baptize with water had declared unto him that he whom he saw the Spirit descending and remaining on him that same was he which would baptize with the Holy Ghost. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for the words which we find here seems to suggest that these words were indeed spoken by John the Baptist AFTER he had baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River. I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and am captivated with and stuck by the fact that these words which were spoken by John the Baptist might undoubtedly have been spoken AFTER he had baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River. Here in this passage of Scripture we find John the Baptist publicly proclaiming concerning Jesus of Nazareth that He was the Lamb of God which took away the sins of the world. Oh please don’t miss this for this is something which is truly unique and astonishing about John’s proclamation concerning the Messiah and Christ which was both the Son of the living God and the Lamb of God. It would be here when John would see Jesus coming unto him that he would publicly proclaim that Jesus was indeed the Lamb of God which took away the sins of the world. What’s more is that in addition to this there seems to be every indication that these words were spoken after Jesus had come unto him to be baptized by him in the waters of the Jordan River. Scripture reveals how Jesus would come from Galilee unto John the Baptist that he might be baptized by him in the waters of the Jordan River. It would be there at the waters of the Jordan River where John would indeed baptize the Son of God and would then behold and witness a tremendous and incredible supernatural work and manifestation of the living God. As Jesus would emerge from the waters of the Jordan River the heavens would be opened before and unto Him—and not only would the heavens be opened unto Him but the Spirit would descend (and rest) upon Jesus in the bodily form of a dove while the voice of the Father would break the silence of that moment and would publicly proclaim concerning Jesus that He was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. There at the Jordan River John the Baptist would not only see the heavens opened—much like Ezekiel saw the heavens opened before him by the river in the land of the Chaldeans—and would see the Holy Spirit descend in bodily form as a dove upon the person of the Lord Jesus. It is having said and written this I find it necessary to continue in our journey of the studying of the public ministry of John the Baptist for within the Synoptic gospels we find these gospel authors presenting us with the account of Jesus coming unto John there at the Jordan River to be baptized of him in the waters of that river. The apostle Matthew, John Mark, and the beloved physician Luke would all present us with the account and narrative of Jesus coming forth from Galilee unto John at the Jordan River that he might be baptized of him. What makes this truly captivating is not only that Jesus would entreat John to baptize Him that all righteousness might be fulfilled but it would be after John obeyed the voice of Jesus and baptized Him that he would witness and behold the heavens opened before and unto the Messiah and the Christ who was the Son of the living God. There at the Jordan River the voice of the Father would speak from heaven and would declare concerning Jesus that he was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. Not only this but the Holy Spirit would indeed descend from heaven in the bodily form of a dove and rest upon Jesus—the very thing which John the Baptist would see and which would be revealed unto Him. It would be this descent of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent resting and abiding upon Jesus of Nazareth that would confirm that this was indeed the One who would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. John the Baptist would indeed prophesy and proclaim of one who would come after Him who was mightier than he was who would not only baptize with the Holy Ghost but also with fire. Here at the Jordan River John the Baptist would indeed witness the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus of Nazareth and rest upon Him thus confirming that this was indeed the Messiah and the Christ who was to come who would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The baptism of Jesus there at the Jordan River would indeed be one of the most powerful and profound moments for it would not only be an open declaration that Jesus was the Son of the living God but it would also confirm the reality that Jesus would indeed be the One who would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Oh consider if you will the following words which are found in each of the first three gospels concerning the baptism of Jesus at the hands of John the Baptist there at the Jordan River: “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John for bad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesu answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it be cometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 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: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17). “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11). “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). Each of these passages which are found in the first three gospel narratives present us with the account of Jesus coming forth from Nazareth of Galilee that he might be baptized of John in the waters of the Jordan. Scripture is entirely unclear what caused Jesus to know that it was that time which He ought to come forth from Nazareth from Galilee and how it was revealed unto Him that the time had come for Him to come forth, however, we know that there was something which caused Jesus to come forth from Nazareth of Galilee that he might be baptized of John the Baptist at the Jordan River. Jesus undoubtedly heard all that was being spoken of concerning John the Baptist and how he was not only preaching repentance and not only preaching the kingdom of heaven but was also baptizing men and women unto repentance for the remission of sins. It is within these passages of Scripture we find Jesus coming forth from Nazareth of Galilee unto John at the waters of the Jordan River entreating him that he might baptize him. The apostle Matthew wrote how Jesus came from Galilee unto Jordan untoJohn to be baptized of him but how John initially forbade him saying unto him that he had need to be baptized by him. It would be in response to this Jesus would declare unto John that it must needs be suffered for it became them that all righteousness might be fulfilled. Oh there was something which needed to take place there at the Jordan River and there was a great need for Jesus of Nazareth to be baptized of John the Baptist there at the Jordan River and how it was directly connected unto righteousness. It would be there at the Jordan River John the Baptist would consent to baptizing the Lord Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan and immediately following this baptism—the most important and vital baptism of John the Baptist—a supernatural and spiritual work would take place in the midst of those waters. It would be there on that particular day the heavens would be opened unto the Lord Jesus, the Spirit would descend upon Him in the bodily form of a dove and the voice of the Father would indeed speak declaring Jesus to be His beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. If you continue reading the four gospel narratives which are found in the New Testament you will find in the third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John how Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judaea and tarried there. It would be there in Judaea Jesus and His disciples would come and tarry there and would baptize. What’s more is that within this passage we find that John was also baptizing in Enon near to Slim because there was much water there. Thus at one point—not only were Jesus and His disciples baptizing there in the land of Judaea but so also was John the Baptist baptizing because there was much water there. What the apostle John writes and records is that there was much water there and how many came unto those two men to be baptized. With this being said, however, the apostle John would go on to write how John the Baptist had not yet been cast into prison. During this time, however, there would arise a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying and they would come unto John and speak unto him concerning He who was with him beyond the Jordan of whom he bore witness was also baptizing. What’s more is that not only this but those who would come unto Jesus would be great in number and might very well have eclipsed in size and number compared to that which John the Baptist had known and was even experiencing at this particular time. Oh we must needs pay close attention to the words which we find here for John’s response to those who came unto him not only further confirmed the identity and purpose of the Messiah but also how he was ordained and appointed by the living and eternal God to be the prophetic messenger and forerunner of the Messiah. John the Baptist knew that he was ordained and appointed by the living God to prepare and make ready a people for the coming of the Messiah and that the Messiah was greater and mightier than he was. Oh having said this please now consider the following words which are found in this third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John beginning with the twenty-second verse: “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Robbie, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing,e sceptre it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath that 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. He must increase, but I must decrease. 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. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 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). Oh please pay close attention to the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for not only do they provide us with the witness and attestation of John the Baptist concerning Jesus of Nazareth being the bridegroom and the Messiah and Christ which was foretold but we also find within this passage of Scripture a powerful picture of some of the final words and language John the baptist would speak prior to being cast into prison. The apostle John would clearly write in this passage of Scripture that John the Baptist had not yet been cast into and shut up in prison thus indicating that these would in fact be some of the final words which John the Baptist would speak. Here on this particular occasion we find John the Baptist emphatically declaring how he must decrease but that the Messiah must increase for he recognized that he was but the friend of the bridegroom who was sent ahead of Him and before His face to prepare and make ready a people for Him. What’s more is that I would dare say these words would be somewhat prophetic when you take the time to consider them for they almost seem to suggest and speak to John the Baptist’s imprisonment and the end of the ministry which he himself would be entrusted with during those days. It would be here in this passage of Scripture we find John the Baptist seemingly speaking words that would ultimately point to his being imprisoned by Herod in Galilee for something John would indeed speak out against. It is with this in mind I invite you to first consider the following words which are found in the third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke before coming to the gospels written by each of the four gospels concerning the imprisonment of John the Baptist by Herod: “And John also was baptizing in Enon near to Slim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison” (John 3:23-24). “But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison” (Luke 3:19-20). “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zebulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zebulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw a great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:12-16). “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, and said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in hill .For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, it is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. And the king was sorry; Nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus” (Matthew 14:1-12). “And king Herod heard of him; (For his name was spread abroad) and he said, Thant John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. Other said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, it is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. Therefore HErodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: for Herod feared John knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when she heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birth made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; and when the daughter rod the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which I sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison. And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb” (Mark 6:14-29). Each of these passages must be carefully considered and understood for they not only present us with the fact that John the Baptist was cast into prison but they also present us with the reason behind his being cast into prison. Scripture makes it very clear in the gospels written by the apostle Matthew, John Mark and Luke that it was Herod himself who thrust John into prison and had him shut up. The reason and purpose for John the Baptist being thrust into prison wasn’t because he preached repentance unto the masses nor even because he had baptized men and women in waters unto repentance for the remission of sins. We dare not and must not misunderstand and misread the gospels for John the Baptist would not be thrust into prison for any of his preaching—even when he brazenly and boldly called the Pharisees and Sadducees who came unto him a brood of vipers. We know that publicans, soldiers and the people alike came unto John the Baptist asking what they must do in response to his preaching and yet it would not be for this he would be cast into prison. If you read each of the four gospel narratives you will find that John the Baptist was indeed thrust into prison by Herod because of a quarrel which Herodias his wife who was first the wife of his brother Philip had toward and against him. Scripture makes it very clear that John the Baptist had preached against and decried their adulterous affair and relationship and had spoken against it. John the Baptist would declare unto Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife and it would be as a direct result of this Herodias would in fact have a quarrel and take up an offense against John. Mark writes how Herodias would have had John the Baptist killed were it not for Herod viewing him as a holy and a just man. Instead of having John the Baptist put to death Herod would have him seized and shut up in prison where he would ultimately remain unto his death. If there is one thing that utterly amazes me about the life of John the Baptist it’s that he wasn’t cast into prison because of anything he preached nor even because of his call to repentance. John the Baptist could call the religious leaders of that day a brood and generation of vipers and yet they would not call for his head or for his blood. The sole reason John the Baptist was cast into prison was because he dared speak out against the adultery and immorality which was present within the government of that day. John the Baptist dared speak out against the adulterous relationship which existed between Herod and Herodias his brother Philip’s wife and it would be this outcry that would cause this woman who undoubtedly operated out of and from the spirit of Jezebel to maintain a quarrel against him. Herodias would have had John the Baptist killed and utterly removed from the scene simply because of her offense with him because he dared speak against what was part of the government of that day. What a truly unique and powerful truth this truly is when you take the time to think about it for there is something to be said about the righteous men and women of God taking a stand for righteousness—particularly and especially when they are willing to speak out against the government and its policies and/or practices—and so anger and offend them. John the Baptist would offend Herodias so much that she would undoubtedly cry for his head and blood to Herod. Herod was unwilling to put John the Baptist to death and would instead have him imprisoned—perhaps thinking and believing that having him imprisoned would somehow silence his voice. What we must recognize concerning the imprisonment of John the Baptist is that it would be there in prison where this Messianic forerunner and messenger would not only have doubts concerning Jesus as the Messiah but also might have struggled with his own offense toward Him. The words which you find within each of the first three gospel narratives written by the Synoptic authors are quite intriguing and astonishing when you take the time to consider them for here we find John the Baptist being imprisoned by Herod. Within the opening three gospel narratives we find the account of John the Baptist being imprisoned by Herod the Great and despite all of his declarations and proclamations concerning Jesus of Nazareth being the Lamb of God and the One who baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost he appears to experience doubts within his heart and soul. It is impossible to read the words which are found within these passages of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with one who so mightily declared and proclaimed the identity of the Messiah and Christ as did John the baptist and yet find himself experiencing doubt within his heart and soul. These passages call and draw our attention to the doubt and offense which would rise within this man’s heart while he sat alone and isolated within a prison cell. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what it was like when John the baptist was seized by Herod’s soldiers and guard and was brought to the prison and shut up in the midst of it. I can’t help but wonder what went through the heart and mind of John the baptist when Herod’s soldiers and guards laid their hands on him and not only brought him to the prison house but also thrust him inside securing him without any chance of release. What we must needs understand is this would not be the first prophet of the Lord who would be imprisoned by the government for in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find this prophet who also coincidentally was the son of a priest who was cast into pits, prisons, cisterns and the like for the sake of the word of God. Throughout the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find this prophet of the living God who was repeatedly seized and laid hold of by both the religious and political leaders and thrust into prison because of the words which he had prophesied concerning the city of Jerusalem, concerning the nation and even the government and religious leaders alike. I am absolutely convinced the words which we find within the four New Testament gospel narratives must needs be carefully considered for they call and draw our attention to the offense and doubt this prophet of the Lord must have had within his heart and soul. It’s actually quite remarkable and astounding to read concerning John the Baptist and how this prophet and Messianic forerunner of the living God would indeed suffer, struggle and contend with offense—and not only offense but also doubt—within his heart while sitting in the prison cell. There is a great need to consider this for this offense and doubt would be present within the heart of this prophet of the living God while he would be shut up in prison and effectively cut off from the outside world. With all of his freedom and liberties stripped and removed from him and his being shut up in prison he would experience doubts within his heart and soul concerning this Jesus of Nazareth and whether or not He was the Messiah and Christ or if he should look for another. Oh how there is something absolutely incredible about the words we find here in this passage of Scripture and how we are brought face to face with a prophet of the Lord in prison and there in the midst of that prison wrestling and struggling with doubts as well as perhaps confusion and most certainly offense. If there is one thing we must needs take and learn from this passage of Scripture it’s that there is a tremendous amount of hope that is found here in this passage for although Jesus was approached by two of John’s disciples asking whether or not He was the Messiah—not only would He provide healing and deliverance in that instance but He would also instruct them to return unto John reporting those things which they had seen and heard. Undoubtedly John heard of the mighty works which the Lord Jesus had wrought and performed while in prison and hearing of those works would do something within his heart and soul that would actually create and cast doubt on his belief(s) and understanding concerning the Messiah. As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the absolutely incredible reality of what is presented in the gospel narratives and how we have this prophet of the Lord—that one of whom Jesus said of all those born among women there was not one who was greater than he. There is something truly captivating and challenging about the words we find in these passages of Scripture and how much they bring us face to face with the doubts and offense we might have within our own hearts and souls. It is indeed possible that we as the saints of God and the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are such who can and will find ourselves in positions where we might not only doubt the person and presence of the Lord Jesus but might also grow offended. There might very well be those times when we find ourselves in our own dark night of the soul and as a direct result of this we find ourselves growing bitter, angry and offended with the Lord Jesus Christ. There might very well be times within our lives when we are caught up in our own struggles, our own conflicts, our own trials and troubles and as a direct result of this we find within our hearts bitterness and offense which was not there previously. This is something which must be carefully guarded against for the Lord Jesus would not only send the disciples of John the Baptist unto him there in the prison having seen the works but also confirming that which this prophet of the Lord had heard. It’s one thing to hear of the mighty works which the Lord has done in the earth, however, it’s something else entirely to witness and behold them firsthand and bring back a profound word unto him confirming the mighty and wonderful works which Jesus had wrought in the midst of the earth. Oh that would recognize this within our own hearts and lives and that we would be those who hear and see the mighty works of the living God in the midst of the earth and that we would guard our hearts against any and all manner of offense with the living God—particularly and especially if we find ourselves suffering, afflicted, persecuted and enduring trials and troubles because of the word of Christ and/or for the sake of His name. Oh with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of these passages of Scripture beginning with the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew: “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. 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? 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” (Matthew 11:1-6). “And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? OR look we for another? When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art to thou he that should come? Or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached, and blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:18-23).

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