Parallel Lives As the forerunner of Jesus, there are common elements in their overlapping ministries. Indeed some of their words are virtually interchangeable. Because of this, John's teaching is frequently mistaken for that of Jesus. For example, it was John who said to his disciples, "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none" (Lk. 3:11 KJV). John's attitude to the outcasts of society was beautifully reflective of Christ's. And so John's call to repentance was heeded by many of those whom the Pharisees contemptuously discounted as irredeemable. For if the appearing of the Morning Star is a joy to behold, so the common people found John's gospel to be a refreshing relief from the soul-crushing "holier than thou" (Isa. 65:5) sermons of the scribes. Because old-fashioned jealousy is a homicidal passion, John's enemies never rested until he had joined the glorious host of God's martyred prophets (Acts 7:52). At the same time, because the common people thronged around John the Baptist, the Pharisees were terrified to condemn him. This forced them to feign allegiance when they came to be baptized by him in the Jordan. John, son of Zachariah a priest, was not deceived, but demanded fruits worthy of repentance without which he would not baptize any of the Jewish clergy. In revenge, these hypocrites denounced John as a demon-possessed false prophet (Mt. 11:18). Also as evil Jezebel had sought to take the life of Elijah, so adulterous Herodius did not rest until she had John's head on a plate.
The greater sadness of all this is that as John was slandered, persecuted and martyred, so his ministry foreshadowed the nation’s rejection of the Messiah who was also slandered, persecuted and murdered by them. However, they could not kill the evidence that He rose from the dead and was seen by many. Though John prefigured the Messiah, yet his likeness to Him was by no means a sign of co-equality. When God declared from heaven that “this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17), it was clear that a greater than John was here. John himself confessed that “He that cometh from heaven is above all” (Jn. 3:31). This humble forerunner also said he was not fit to carry his Lord’s sandals (Mt. 3:11).
This means that while John enjoyed an early prominence, as a Morning Star, he faded away graciously before the brilliance of the rising Sun of Righteousness. However, as the Morning Star and the Sun are seen together for a time, so John and Jesus appeared together at the Jordan.
All this granted, there remains the truth of John’s Elijah-like character and ministry. God, through Malachi, promised, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5). And so as we go from Malachi to Matthew we find that the prophet was speaking of John the Baptist. For “if you will receive it, this is Elijah, which was to come” (Mt. 11:14). For this same reason the angel Gabriel declared that John the Baptist be endued with the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk. 1:17). For as Elijah sought to restore Israel to the worship of God, so John would endeavor to bring the people back to their God.
The Mystery Of Martyrdom
While the Scriptures heap praise upon John, during his imprisonment he wondered at his degrading treatment. Why did Jesus, the One he baptized at the Jordan, not grant deliverance to the captive, as promised by Isaiah (Lk. 4:18)? This suggests that the prisoner of Herod did not yet understand that Jesus Himself must undergo imprisonment, shameful suffering and death (Isa. 53). For if John prefigured the public acclaim of the Messiah, then he likewise prefigured His later rejection and malicious murder. Indeed, none of John’s promises about the Messiah so much as hint at His being put to death outside Jerusalem. In contrast, all of John’s prophecies envision nothing more nor less than the Messiah’s invincible victory and triumph.
Though “John did no miracle” his preaching and manner of life were so compelling that he made many disciples. Naturally, there was speculation about his being the Christ. John was categorical in his confession that he was nothing more than the herald of the coming King. However, those who heard him speak of the Messiah said this: “John did no miracle, yet all things that John spake of this Man were true” (Jn. 10:41). And so the Spirit’s prophesying through John was an unmistakeable endorsement from heaven. Also, the conversion of wretched sinners was the miracle of forgiveness done by God. Indeed, Christ ascribed the conversion of tax collectors and harlots as a sign from God in its own right (Mt. 21:32).
The Friend Of The Bridegroom
The Morning Star is one of the few astral bodies which may be seen before and after the Sun has risen. In keeping with this natural parable, John and Jesus were seen together at the Jordan. For “the friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice: ‘This My joy therefore is fulfilled'” (Jn. 3:29). However, even more intimately there are rare occasions when Venus passes across the face of the sun. This event, known as the Transit of Venus,* was visible on June 7/8, 2004 depending on one’s location. The same Morning Star is destined to achieve a second transit on June 5/6, 2012. This is special! In all the days of the 20th century Venus did no such thing.
This remarkable 21st century precedent would teach us two truths. During the transit the Morning Star was seen as a black dot against the face of the sun. Therefore, insofar as Christ is the measure of all things, then the inferiority of the greatest born of women, John (Mt. 11:11), is seen against the blinding beauty of the Only Begotten of the Father. Secondly, the conjunction of the Daystar and the Morning Star portends the future closeness of John to Christ in the eternal glory. For if John suffered for Him then he must also reign with Him (Jn. 12:26; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21). In this sense, John is typical of all those who will be seen in glory with Christ in the day of His rewards. For this reason the Master has promised, “If any man serve Me … where I am, there shall also My servant be; if any man serve Me, him will My Father honor” (Jn. 12:26).
* Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. Before 2004, the last pair of transits were in December 1874 and December 1882. The first of a pair of transits of Venus in the 21st century were on 7/8 June 2004 and the next will be on 5/6 June 2012. After 2012, the next transits will be in December 2117 and 2125.
By Tom Summerhill
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org