Monday 10 December 2018

John the Baptist was needed so that Jesus could know-of and consciously choose his destiny

I have often written here about the fascinating yet enigmatic person of John the Baptist, who is presented as an extremely important figure (second only to Jesus) in the Fourth (and other) Gospels.

But the nature of John's importance, the deep reasons why he was crucially important; are, by my judgement, poorly explained in the sources I have encountered.

I have previously suggested several explanations of John's importance - but now I think I have finally reached to the bottom of the matter!...

The key is that Jesus was only potentially the Messiah until John recognised then baptised him.

So, Jesus was already a sinless Man, perfectly aligned with God's plan and purposes, 'destined' from before his incarnation to be the Messiah; but as such, Jesus could not recognise himself as the Messiah.

Jesus needed to be told that he was the Messiah - and he needed to be told by a person of authority, discernment and total honesty: that is by a true prophet.

John was the greatest religious figure of his day, universally respected and revered, probably the only acknowledged Hebrew prophet for hundreds of years. John was uniquely qualified to recognise Jesus as the Messiah, and to tell him and be believed.

Only then could Jesus actively choose to embrace his destiny; and he did so by requesting baptism from John. We could say that, at the moment of baptism, Jesus (as an adult, of supreme intelligence and scholarly knowledge) made a fully 'informed' decision now to become who he already-was potentially.

And at this moment, John saw the spirit descend upon Jesus and stay upon him: at the baptism Jesus became divine.

And John's work was completed.

John 1: [29] The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. [30] This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. [31] And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. [32] And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. [33] 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. [34] And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.


Chiu ChunLing said...

This is simply not true.

John was necessary for the same reason any other person is, because God loves him and wants him to go to Heaven. Yes, John testified prophetically of Christ, but that same opportunity was and remains available to all.

There were many before, and many since, and quite a few at the time, though John does stand out for exceptional devotion, piety, honesty, and sacrifice.

Jesus didn't need the witness of anyone other than the Father.

But many others did, and still do. It is a great mercy of God that it is arranged that they should have it, but ultimately it is necessary that they also should rely on God directly, or be lost.

As many will be.

But Jesus was never like them.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - So, you don't think the focus on JtB needs explaining? But it has always struck me as quite extraordinary! - the Fourth Gospel almost seems as if it is going to be About John, rather than Jesus, when it begins. Well, if it isn't even *a question* for you, then clearly any answer will seem superfluous.

Tobias said...

To see a painting that captures the baptism, and the miraculous death and resurrection of Christ by collapsing time in one vibrant image, visit the link below.

A great example of art doing its job beautifully well.

Chiu ChunLing said...

John is a heroic figure. He deserves a prominent place.

But saying that he had to be necessary to Christ in some sense other than each of us is, individually, as one whom Christ suffered and died to save, is to miss the entire point of not only John, but of all the Gospels and of the Gospel itself.

Christ is why the heroism of John the Baptist, or of anyone else, matters at all.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - You are working from a false dichotomy.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Tobias - John's baptism of Jesus is described in the Fourth Gospel in the passage I cite below the post.

"the central message is I have come to take on your sins" - Jesus doesn't say this in the Fourth Gospel. I don't think he even implies it. That 'mechanism' is not in the Fourth Gospel.

(In the Fourth Gospel) Quite often by sin, Jesus seems to mean death. More accurately, sin is a very complex and multifaceted concept - meaning a lot more than we modern people mean by it.

"This made him properly human - a son of man " - Yes, indeed. And there was apparently nothing unusual about his conception or birth. Although Jesus was chosen and volunteered to become Messiah in pre-mortal life, this was apparently neither recalled nor evident until John recognised and baptised him, and he became divine.