When John began to preach in the wilderness, crowds flocked to see Him. He baptized those who confessed their sins but rebuked the pious religious leaders for their self-reliance (Matthew 3:7-10). After 400 years without a prophet, people rushed to John, wondering if he might be the Christ, the one for whom they as a people had been waiting for centuries. John pointed them to One more powerful than himself who was to come — Jesus. While John baptized with water as a sign of repentance, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11).
The power Jesus demonstrated in His baptism differed from John’s to an infinite degree. To observers, their physical actions looked similar.
While both used water, Jesus’ baptism pointed to an imminent change, the time when God would take up residence in the lives of believers through the person of the Holy Spirit.
Each of the Gospel writers reference this distinctive element of Jesus’ work (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, John 1:33), foreshadowing the nature of the Trinity: one God in three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, His disciples experienced power for immediate tasks in Jesus’ name (Luke 10:17-20). While the disciples relished these experiences, Jesus knew they would soon experience a substantively different reality — something that could only happen when He returned to His Father (John 16:7). Before He ascended into Heaven after His resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the gift His Father had promised, the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Once the Holy Spirit came in fullness, the Holy Spirit’s filling became the confirmation that God had accepted people by grace through faith in Jesus. This grace extended even to Gentiles who had not kept the Law of Moses (Acts 11:15-17).
Throughout His ministry, John stated firmly that Jesus must become greater while he became less (John 3:30). John understood that he was responsible for preparing the way for Jesus, calling people to repentance. Jesus affirmed this role, stating that John was a great man (Matthew 11:10-11) who had faithfully fulfilled his purpose. During his life, John never confused his role or ministry with that of Jesus. He knew Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world — One who was more powerful than himself and greater in all possible ways (John 1:36).
Excerpted from The Jesus Bible, copyright Zondervan.
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What a blessing for John to be called “a great man who had faithfully fulfilled his purpose” by Jesus! Let’s live our lives on mission for Him so that the same can and will be said of us by Him when we see Jesus face-to-Face! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
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