Friday, April 4, 2014
One Who is Greater
Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. And they asked him, saying, "Why do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
John answered them, saying, "I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose."
These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Those who were sent to look for this Man John was preaching about were religious men of the day. Men of some importance and intelligence within the religious circles, Pharisees. A Pharisee by definition then was a member of a Jewish sect, one who strictly observed the written laws. These men were well versed. They would have known of and looked for the coming Messiah because they knew of the Prophet Elijah's words. They came here to find out if John was that prophet. John claimed he was neither Elijah, nor the Messiah, nor a prophet.
So why was he preaching as he was? His words of repentance and baptism might not have made sense. A new concept. If he was neither the prophet or this Man, how could he do these things? They were accustomed to their religious rites and John's performance was outside that understanding. Remember, they were Pharisees, men who followed strict laws. They were looking for a messiah to save them from Roman rule, not change their whole religious thinking. A physical rescue, not a spiritual one.
Same is the message for today. No religion can save. It's not about religion or man made rites or works for salvation. Like John, Jesus came to call us into an act of repentance and baptism. Submission to God, not to a religion. We must first realize our sins then make a choice to receive Christ/God in order to have ourselves redeemed through relationship alone with Him, not by any works for our salvation...but through repentance, then regeneration through the act of cleansing, like Jesus was about to do Himself.
These men questioned John about this baptism. They would have some understanding of cleansing because the priests washed their hands and cleansed themselves before they offered sacrifices for the people in the temple. John said he baptized only with water. And he told them of Someone already among them who they did not yet know...and Someone some of them would ultimately reject because His beliefs were out in "left field" according to their beliefs.
John spoke of One who is greater than all of us, One who has the power over any man or any works to bring life or death to each of us depending upon a certain choice we have to make. He was speaking of Jesus. He was speaking about One who should be preferred over all others and while we are not worthy of what He has to offer, He is also willing to give freely, if we choose to receive Him, the gift.
There are many claims today that our good works will get us to heaven, because a person is better compared to others in the world, that they have a better chance. It's not about religion. It all comes down to relationship with Jesus. None of us are ever good enough on our own. We are only good through Christ's sacrifice. His sacrifice did away with all the works or rites performed in His day. Today all He wants is for us to believe, repent, receive and obey. No outward act of sacrifice but an ongoing inward act of repentance, no vain repetitive prayers, just giving of ourselves to Christ alone.
Jesus' appearance would make all these sacrifices null and void...and it was why He was so rejected and killed. But He became one final sacrifice...for all mankind. Our act of baptism comes, not as an infant, but as one who is able to understand the act of repenting and receiving Christ.
Remember, John came as prophesied as one calling in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." Jesus is the Way. John was doing as he had been led by the Spirit to do. To lead us to that One who is preferred over all others, including religions. We are to be born of God, not man. Religion is man made.
1John 5:19-20 - We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.