PARTNERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XXXVI

God, the Spirit, partnered with the Virgin Mary to bring Jesus into the world! God also partnered with Zechariah and Elizabeth to bring John the Baptist (Elijah) into the world to prepare the way for Christ.

The Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree that John the Baptist was chosen to identify Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Christ. John the Baptist did arrive by special birth; and in the Spirit of Elijah, he prepared the people for the long-expected Leader, who was to be a combination of Moses and David in “One” person. Redemption is made possible by man’s willingness to partner with the Savior. Jesus cannot save anyone against their own will, neither can man save himself without the willingness of Christ to take on the forces that hinder man’s redemption.

Now while he (Zechariah) as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar on incense. And Zechariah  

Was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:8-17).

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6).

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, or see the great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They have rightly said all that they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them shall that I command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

Now therefore thus you (prophet Nathan) shall you say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be a prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your son after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men; but I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.’ In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David (II Samuel 7:8-17).

As they (messengers of the Baptist) went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. ‘Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear’” (Matthew 11:7-15).

WHAT KIND OF A MAN WAS JOHN THE BAPTIST?

According to Luke, John the Baptist was similar in spirit and in power to Elijah. Both men faced the lowest spiritual and Yahweh loyalist times in the Jewish history. Elijah faced Ahab king of Israel, who was married to Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidonia, a Baal loyalist and she brought in four hundred Baal prophets. The king and his queen forced Israel to bow to Baal and only seven thousand remained faithful to Yahweh, in secret. Elijah dared to face and destroyed the four hundred Baal prophets. And Elijah fled from Jezebel to a widow, whose son he awakened from dying, then fled to Mount Horeb, handed over his prophetic mantle to Elisha. And then Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (I Kings 16-II Kings 2). Elijah would reappear with Moses in Jesus’ heavenly form (Matthew 17:1-13). John the Baptist would face Herod, the Edomite king of Judah, over adultery with his brother’s wife and lose his head and life. Mark left the most detailed account.

King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. For John Had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet of his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, and I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests. he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When the disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb (Mark 6:14-29).

JOHN THE BAPTIST WAS A FEARLESS PREACHER OF YAHWEH

All four Gospels mention the importance of John the Baptist’s role in introducing and in preparing the way for Jesus, the Christ. Mark was brief and to the point, John stressed the identity and purpose of Jesus’ coming, Luke and Matthew reveal more of the person and style of the Baptist:

John bore witness to him (Jesus), and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.’ And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

And this is the testimony of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” They said to him then, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing (John 1:15-28).

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high-priesthood of Annas and

Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth, all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

He said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees; every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the multitude asked him, “What then shall we do?” ANd he answered them, “He who has two coats let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise. Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison (Luke 3:1-20).

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Now John wore a garment of camel hair and a leather girdle around his paths waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to fee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees; every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:1-17).

PREPARATION FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST BEGAN LONG BEFORE JOHN THE BAPTIST

Preparation for the Savior, to enter the physical world, began when God invited Abraham to partner and produce an heir through whom the world would be blessed and saved (Genesis 15:1-6). To prepare the way, Abraham’s seed did provide the prophets and the leaders, who did keep that hope alive until the Savior, and the Son of God did assume human form (Matthew 11:13; 23:34). The Holy Spirit/the Spirit of God was at work in all of God’s servants and witnesses, especially in those who upheld the Law of Moses (Luke 16:29-31). Abraham met Jesus when he went to heaven (John 8:56, 58), and the Apostle Paul linked Christ with the seed of Abraham (Romans 4:16-25). In the transfiguration of Jesus, the Holy Spirit gave Peter, James, and John a glimpse of Jesus exodus from the world (Luke 9:28-36).

“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day, he saw it and was glad.” The Jews then said to him, “You are not fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple (John 8:56-59)

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants — not only on the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope, he believed against the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, “So shall your descendants be.” he did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s Womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “reckoned to him as righteousness.” But the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for our also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:16-25).

Now about eight days after these says (that Jesus was the Christ) he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on a mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure (exodus), which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep but kept awake, and the saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen (Luke 9:28-36).