John the Baptist 3
March 22, 2019
by Barry Fike
John the Baptist 3
(much of this is from a lecture given by Dr. Roy Blizzard in the last 80's)
In Matthew 3 we’re introduced to John the Baptist who is preaching the kingdom of Heaven has arrived. We’re told that this is the one of whom the prophets wrote, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness” which is a mis-punctuation. It’s the wrong punctuation of the text. What does that mean? If you look at Isaiah 40:3 it reads: “The voice of one that crieth, ‘Prepare ye in the wilderness the way or YHVH; make level in the desert a highway for our God.” Now go to Matthew 3:3 and read: “…The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight.” Notice that in Isaiah it reads to prepare in the wilderness the way of YHVH. In Matthew the punctuation makes it read that there is a voice crying in the wilderness. Isaiah is correct because it in the wilderness that John is preaching, it is in the wilderness that Jesus is tempted, it is in the wilderness that the Qumran community is founded who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.
I want to point this out to you because it’s of the utmost importance that we understand what Johns’ submission was. It figures prominently into some of the statements that Jesus is going to be making a little later on. It says, “In the desert, prepare a highway for YHVH. Make straight in the dry places a pathway for our God.” It’s not talking about some Messiah figure or a great teacher of righteousness. This is specific! John the Baptist was preparing the way for whom? YHVH! That you might know who John is, we want to keep this in mind. It’s going to figure prominently as we move through the text. John went out into the wilderness. Why did he go into the wilderness? Because it says, prepare in the wilderness the pathway for the coming of YHVH. That’s why they’re all out in the wilderness. This is why the Qumran community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, is out there. The people were baptized of him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
We’re told that this is the one of whom it was spoken by the prophet Isaiah (40:3) “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”. This is of the utmost importance that we understand what John’s mission was. This will figure prominently in some of the statements that Jesus will be making a little further on. In the desert prepare a pathway, or highway, for YHVH. Make straight in the dry places a highway for our God. This isn’t talking about some Messiah figure, a great teacher of righteousness. This is specific: John the Baptist was preparing the way for whom? YHVH!
That you might know who John is, we want to keep this in mind. It will figure prominently as we move through the text. John went out into the wilderness. Why? Because it says to prepare in the wilderness the pathway for YHVH. So he goes out there, and it’s also the reason why the Qumran community was out there. People were baptized of him in the Jordan confessing their sins. Let’s notice something here before we get too far. Who is it that’s being baptized of him? Their Jews. These are not pagans that are being talked about here. These are people who are already a part of the family of God. Are they already going to have their part in the world to come or not? Is this baptism going to guarantee them a part in the world to come that they didn’t have before? What’s the point? Sin, in Hebrew, is not the same thing as what you think of in English. In English sin is something that when we commit it’s going to get us zapped. But in Hebrew it’s missing the mark. Notice whose coming – Pharisees, Sadducees. John’s admonition is for them to bring forth fruit meet for repentance. What is repentance in Hebrew? To return. When a Jew repents what does he do? When a Christian repents what does he do? Turn away from sins and go to church, penitence, etc. When Christians think of repentance, they think of doing something in their religious community or church. The Jew thinks that it’s more to do with what someone does with the community and with the family, something that happens within the home. This is a restoration of their fellowship, not with God, but with their fellow man. By doing this they would be restored to God. Realize that you have to take the initial step first before you can take the second one. Repentance is not something that you are doing upwards towards God. Judaism- repentance brings you closer to your fellow man. Christianity- repentance is something that brings you closer to God. We’re going to see John’s citation over and over again that in Judaism faith is something that you do. Then he says, I baptize you with water, but he who comes after, whose shoes I’m not worthy to untie, he’s going to baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. You’re going to notice all the way through the text that we’re dealing with relationships between those who are a part of the family and not relationships of an individual within the family upward to God. There is going to be very little that has anything to do with anything that we’re supposed to do for God or to God. It’s basically instruction to those who are a part of the family of God, or the kingdom, about how kingdom people are to live. There isn’t any mention of how one is to deal with a pagan, or someone who isn’t a part of the family.
John said to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and we’re going to see this over and over again. In Judaism faith is something that you do.
All the way back into the tenth century commentators say that the breaker was John the Baptist and that the King that was to come was the son of David. It then says, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. But he that cometh after me he is mightier than I whose shoes I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” We read that and we think that he’s talking about the Holy Spirit and that there is going to be a Holy Spirit baptism and that the fire is figuratively talking about the cloven tongues of fire. That doesn’t have anything to do with it. Notice this, “whose fan is in his hand...he is going to thoroughly purge the floor and gather the wheat into the garner. He’s going to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” That sounds like judgment doesn’t it? Turn to Luke 12:49, 50. “I am come to send fire on the earth and what will I if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with and how am I troubled until it be accomplished?” Notice that this baptism that he has to be baptized with, this baptism of fire, is something that is troubling to him. What is the baptism of fire? It’s a baptism of judgment. In other words, people are going to be judged by what they do with Jesus and what they do with his word or his teachings and what they do with him. Some are going to be gathered together as wheat into the storehouse. Others are going to be burned up with an unquenchable fire. He says that pains me. I wish it was already over with. I wish we didn’t have to go through with it but that is the situation, nonetheless.