Reading through the Bible together

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

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All four Gospels devote specific attention to a specific person in addition to Jesus. In fact, Mark begins his Gospel not with the birth of Jesus, but with the account of one of the most misunderstood persons in the New Testament. He had a profound influence on both Jesus and Christianity. His name was John the Baptist.

The whole story of Jesus and Christianity begins from the point when John baptizes Jesus. Josephus, 1st century Jewish historian, describes John the Baptist as a significant prophetic figure who acquired a large and enthusiastic following. In fact, he became so influential and had so many followers that he posed a serious threat to the political leaders of the time.

Jesus himself says in Matthew 11:11, "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist."  But, among Christians there is a tendency to undervalue John as no more than a messenger of the Messiah.

What is so significant about John the Baptist that so many people became his followers? The answer to this question lays in the message of John the Baptist, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

This message was directed to those who already thought they belonged to a nation that would be saved. So, why did the Jews come to be baptized? The concept of baptizing Jews was absolutely radical.  In their minds, the gentiles were the ones who needed to be baptized, not the Jews.

But for many, baptism was a symbolic act of washing away their impurities. So, John's ministry sets an example for all Christians. After all, Jesus Himself was baptized, not because He needed to but as an example for us. Baptism is more than a symbolic ritual; it is a public confession of faith and commitment to Christ and His church. It signifies a real change of life.

Oleg Kostyuk
Host of Cross Connection
Hope Channel