“Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.’ Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
John the Baptist Was Prepared by God to Pass Our Sins to Jesus
To save us from the sins of the world, God had prepared John the Baptist and Jesus. The mystery of their birth is revealed in today’s Scripture passage.
In order to save you and me from the sins of the world, God the Father had prepared John the Baptist to be born from the house of Zacharias, one of the descendents of Aaron the High Priest. Today’s Scripture passage says that Elizabeth, Zacharias’ wife, hid herself for five months when she conceived. As the wife of Zacharias, Elizabeth praised the righteousness of the Lord for preparing John the Baptist, saying, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on Me, to take away my reproach among people.” Since Elizabeth was an old woman, she was somewhat embarrassed of being pregnant, but she was nonetheless very grateful that God had given her a child. So she thanked God for doing this work on her, saying that her reproach among people was taken away in the days when the Lord looked on her.
When God promised Zacharias, Elizabeth’s husband, through an angel that He would give him a son and fulfill this promise, Zacharias did not believe it at first, but eventually he could not help but believe. He would have thanked God even more had he realized earlier the significance of the birth and ministry of the John the Baptist. But until John the Baptist was actually born, he did not know the importance of this birth. Once the baby John was born, however, Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied that this child given by God was born in this world with the spirit of Elijah and that as a servant of God, he would turn the people of Israel to God.
In the Old Testament, Samson was a Nazarite especially set aside by God. Although he was born through his parents of the flesh, his birth had been specially prepared by God to deliver the people of Israel from their enemies’ oppression. When God works, we see that He makes us pray and then works to answer our prayer. Samson’s parents had also prayed to God asking Him for a son, and answering their prayers, God had allowed them to give birth to Samson. But before Samson was born, God had also told his parents of several prohibitions. First, neither Samson’s hair nor his eyebrows were ever to be shaved. Second, he was not to drink wine or liquor. Like this, Samson was a Nazarite especially set aside by God.
John the Baptist was also such a man in God’s sight. It’s written in Luke 1:15-17: “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord.”
John the Baptist was to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers. Like the High Priest, John the Baptist fulfilled the role of a mediator to turn God’s heart to the people and the people’s hearts to God. Such was the duty of the High Priest. The High Priest was a mediator between God and man. It was the High Priest’s ministry to turn God’s heart to His people, and the people’s hearts to God, by offering the sacrifice of atonement for the sins that the people committed out of their weaknesses. He played the role of a mediator for both God and the people. By fulfilling this mediating role, the High Priest brought reconciliation between God and man.
Like this, John the Baptist was the man who was to turn the fathers’ hearts to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. This means that John the Baptist fulfilled the duty of the High Priest before God and man. He was born to fulfill this ministry and carry out this work. God named him John, and He said to Zacharias, “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:14). In fact, many people are exceedingly rejoiced over John the Baptist’s birth on this earth. That’s because John the Baptist is the very man who passed the sins of this world to the Lord by baptizing Him. That’s why God said that people would be rejoiced at his birth.
Jesus Said That John the Baptist Was the Greatest of Those Born of Women
Jesus said 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 he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” However, many Christians still do not consider John the Baptist as a great man before God, even though Jesus Himself said in the Bible that John the Baptist was the greatest of those born of women. Today’s Christians do not realize what a great man John the Baptist is because they do not understand the Word of God properly. Our assessment of John the Baptist must be based on how Jesus described John in God’s sight. Referring to John the Baptist, Jesus actually said, “He is Elijah who is to come.” The role of John the Baptist was so important that Jesus said, “If you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him ear!”
This is demonstrated clearly in Matthew 11:11-14. “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.”
Do you agree with what Jesus said? Or do you still have doubts? As a Christian professing to believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, what do you think is more important: What Jesus actually said in the Bible, or what the preachers in your own denomination are saying? Whom would you choose? I am sure that you would choose Jesus Christ. If this is true, then your faith must be one that appreciates and believes in what Jesus said about John the Baptist.
In this passage, from Matthew 11:11-14, Jesus explained a few things about John the Baptist. First, He said that among those born of women, there had not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist. My fellow believers, it is based on this very Word of God that I’ve called John the Baptist as the representative of mankind in many of my books. John the Baptist is the greatest of those born of women.
I am sure that you know that all of us were born of women. Only Adam and Eve, the first human beings, were made by God personally and came into being without borrowing a woman’s body; everyone else was born on this earth through a woman’s body. So we should pay attention to the passage where Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). Moses, the Prophet Elijah, and King David were all born from the body of a woman. Isn’t this true? Their mothers, too, were born into this world through a woman’s body. People often say that the greatest prophet of the Old Testament is Moses. But Moses, too, was born of a woman. So in this light, John the Baptist is greater than Moses.
You need to pay particular attention to what Jesus said personally here: “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” What Jesus is testifying about John the Baptist is the truth. This passage was spoken to fulfill the Word of the Old Testament. When Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You” (Matthew 11:10), He was quoting the Old Testament’s prophesy in Malachi 3:1. Malachi 3:1 states, “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight.”
Here God had said, “Behold, I send My messenger,” and this Word of promise was referring to John the Baptist of whom Jesus was speaking. God the Father had promised to send John the Baptist to this earth before Jesus Christ, and He fulfilled this promise by indeed sending John the Baptist. In other words, by sending John the Baptist earlier than Jesus Christ for our salvation, God the Father prepared the way of salvation. Jesus was quoting this very passage in the Old Testament when He said in Matthew 11:10, “It is written: Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” You shouldn’t gloss over the fact that Jesus was speaking of none other than John the Baptist.
The whole passage in Matthew 11:11-14 is the truth that Jesus spoke about John the Baptist. It’s not my own claim, nor is it what some theologians are saying. It is what Jesus Himself said about John the Baptist and his ministry. When our Lord said in Malachi in the Old Testament that He would send Elijah, He meant that He would send God’s servant who would lead the people of Israel to God and guide all the people of the world to Him—that is, John the Baptist.
What was John the Baptist to do when he was sent to us? He was to pass all the sins of mankind to Jesus by baptizing Him, and bear witness of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. In other words, he was to make this Truth of salvation known to you and me. God’s messenger means a servant of God. John the Baptist’s ministry on this earth was pointing out the sins of those who were disobeying the will of God, and the very important work of passing all the sins of the human race to the body of Jesus Christ through the baptism he gave to Jesus. John the Baptist had shouted to people, “Repent, you brood of vipers!” He fulfilled the work of passing the sins of the world to Jesus Christ—that is, he gave the baptism that fulfilled all the righteousness of God (Matthew 3:15). He also nurtured disciples and sent them to Jesus to become His disciples. Later on, he rebuked King Herod for his transgressions, and for this he was imprisoned and beheaded in martyrdom. This was his life.
Was the Ministry of John the Baptist That Great?
Yes. Jesus put a great deal of emphasis on the ministry of John the Baptist because his ministry was God’s will that was indispensable for the passing of our sins today. That is why Jesus personally commended John the Baptist’s ministry. To save us from the sins of the world, God the Father laid down the groundwork that was absolutely necessary beforehand, and He made this preparation by sending John the Baptist to this earth as Zacharias’ son. So when we turn to the Four Gospels in the Bible, they all write about the ministry of John the Baptist first before writing about the ministry of Jesus Christ. In other words, John the Baptist’s ministry is recorded first before the ministry of Jesus. Jesus’ ministry appears later. So when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we must do so with the realization that John the Baptist was the greatest man, the representative of mankind, and the one who passed all our sins to Jesus through the baptism he gave to Jesus. In other words, John the Baptist is the representative of mankind who passed its sins to Jesus once and for all by baptizing Him. That is why Jesus said that Heaven had suffered violence until now because His ministry of salvation couldn’t have been completed if it had not been for the baptism He received from John the Baptist.
How Then Does Heaven Suffer Violence through the Ministries of John and Jesus?
This does not mean that John the Baptist is another Savior. Rather, it means that because John the Baptist passed the sins of the world to Jesus by baptizing Him, he obeyed the will of God the Father so that whoever believes in the righteousness of Jesus Christ would be washed from sin and enter Heaven. In other words, it means that by baptizing Jesus, John the Baptist passed all the sins of mankind to Him once and for all. We call this John as John the Baptist because he is the one who baptized Jesus Christ. Didn’t Jesus also call him John the Baptist in Matthew 11:12? This is because John the Baptist had passed all the sins of mankind to Jesus through baptism.
To find out about the ministry of John the Baptist, you should turn to Matthew 3:13-17. This passage records what happened when Jesus sought to be baptized by John. It’s written, “‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”
John the Baptist did this as his ministry. As John the Baptist baptized Jesus, all our sins were passed onto Jesus once and for all. After thus accepting the sins of this world through the baptism He received from John, Jesus then carried these sins to the Cross, shed His blood and died on it, rose from the dead again in three days, and has thereby become our Savior. Jesus shouldered our sins through His baptism and became the propitiation for our sins. Jesus the Son of God bore your sins and mine by being baptized by John the Baptist, died on the Cross in our place, and rose from the dead again. In other words, Jesus the Son of God shouldered our sins by being baptized and became the propitiation for our sins, and to those of us who believe in this, He has become our Savior.
Who bears witness of this Truth then? It’s none other than John the Baptist, and this is his ministry and our ministry today. So John the Baptist’s role is extremely important, as it is written, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Therefore, those who invade Heaven by faith in this Truth make Heaven theirs. It is true that Jesus accepted all the sins of mankind once and for all when He was baptized by John the Baptist. All the sins of the world were passed onto Jesus once and for all when John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Those who believe in this Truth now will be washed from their sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and enter Heaven. The Bible says that the violent take Heaven by force. To express this differently, those who enter Heaven do so by audacious faith. The phrase “take it by force” here is used to imply that those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit face no resistance in making Heaven theirs. This does not refer to a physical force, but it refers to taking Heaven by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. So this faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit ultimately means the fail-safe faith that enables you to make Heaven yours.
My fellow believers, we have neither any righteousness nor any good deeds. We have nothing but only insufficiencies, and we can’t help but commit sin every day until we die. Yet despite this, Jesus the Son of God came to this earth, took upon our sins once and for all by being baptized by John the Baptist, was crucified for our sins and shed His precious blood in our place, and rose from the dead again. Therefore, those who now realize and believe in this Truth have no sin; instead, they have become God’s people forever, and at the same time, they also have eternal life. The Lord has saved us once and for all by being baptized by John the Baptist, shedding His blood and dying on the Cross in our place, and rising from the dead again. As such, those who believe that Jesus has become their Savior by bearing their sins through the baptism He received from John the Baptist, dying on the Cross, and rising from the dead again, and those who actually take this Truth by faith, are saved from sin to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
All the Prophesies of the Old Testament Were Until John the Baptist
Third, Jesus said, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:13). My fellow believers, the Pentateuch, the Books of the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets, and the other Books of the Old Testament all spoke about the sacrificial system of the Tabernacle through the Law of God, teaching that salvation is attained through this sacrificial system of the Tabernacle. Ultimately, they prophesied that Jesus would come to this earth as the Lamb of God, and just as the sacrificial animals of the Old Testament had accepted the Israelites’ sins through the laying on of their hands, He would also accept our sins and sacrifice Himself, thus saving us from all sins.
As such, that John the Baptist baptized Jesus means the end of the age of the Old Testament, and that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist means the opening of the age of the New Testament, implying that Jesus became the Savior of mankind through this baptism received from John, His death on the Cross, and His resurrection. In other words, Jesus fulfilled the remission of sins for those who believe in the righteousness of God. In the Old Testament, salvation was attained by keeping the commandments, the Law, and the sacrificial system. But in the age of the New Testament, the gates of Heaven were opened to the believers as the sins of the world were passed onto Jesus Christ at the very moment John the Baptist baptized Him, because all those sins were paid off when Christ shed His blood on the Cross. Just as the sacrificial animals in the age of the Old Testament had accepted sin through the laying on of hands, now in this age of the New Testament, we are able to be saved by believing in the written Word that Jesus accepted all the sins of mankind once and for all by being baptized by John the Baptist, that He died for our sins in our place, that He rose from the dead again, and that He has thereby saved us. As God has enabled you and me, who are living in the age of the New Testament, to also know this Truth through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, He has made it possible for the believers to be saved from all sins once and for all.
That is why the Lord said, “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:13). My fellow believers, the last prophet of the Old Testament, the one who fulfilled the role of the last High Priest, is none other than John the Baptist. As John the Baptist baptized Jesus as the representative of mankind, he passed all sins to Him once and for all. That is how John fulfilled all his calling. He bore witness of Jesus the next day after his baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River, saying, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This means that Jesus had come to this earth to save man from the sins of the world, and that He had saved us by coming to this earth as our propitiation and taking upon our sins. John the Baptist left this world after completely fulfilling his role of transferring all the sins of the world to Jesus and faithfully testifying that Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.
Many Christians refer to John the Baptist as the pioneer of asceticism because they lay emphasis just on his life-style when they read the Bible saying, “John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). But, such a perspective is too myopic, akin to throwing away the actual gift and keeping just the box. You must have the correct knowledge of the role of John the Baptist. The reason why John the Baptist was born on this earth, and why God had prepared Him to be born on this earth, was to pass all the sins of mankind to Jesus, all your sins and mine.
“Elijah to Come” Prophesied in the Old Testament Was John the Baptist
Fourth, it is written, “If you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14). In other words, Elijah to come is none other than John the Baptist. Who is this Elijah to come that Jesus spoke of? It is John the Baptist in the New Testament. We should always learn the Word of God and know it. Isn’t it because people don’t know the Bible that they don’t know who Elijah really is, and when they think of him, they just think of Elijah in the Old Testament?
Let’s turn to Malachi 4:5-6 here:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
God the Father said here that He would send the Prophet Elijah to this earth before the advent of the end of this world, before judging it. However, Elijah the prophet had already died in the Old Testament. To whom does it then refer? It refers to the servant of God whom God had said that He would send: “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me” (Malachi 3:1). Elijah was different from ordinary prophets. Most prophets disappeared after making a few proclamations, but the Old Testament records that in God’s sight, Elijah was a brave servant of the Lord who took on 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah all by himself and defeated them single-handedly. The people of Israel at that time were all worshiping idols, but by showing them that Jehovah was the only true God, Elijah had led these foolish people back to God again. Put differently, Elijah was a mighty servant of God.
In Malachi chapter 3, God had promised that He would send this Elijah, a mighty servant of God, to this earth again, and God fulfilled this promise by sending John the Baptist. John the Baptist carried out the work of passing all the sins of mankind to Jesus Christ by baptizing Him in the Jordan River. John then bore witness of the ministry of Jesus Christ, testifying, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Put differently, John was testifying: “Look! He is the Lamb of God who shouldered the sins of the world by being baptized by me, and He is now going to the Cross to shed His blood. Jesus Christ is God the Father’s propitiation for our sins. He is the sacrificial offering prepared to save you and me from the sins of the world.”
Therefore, because of this testimony of John the Baptist, it was made possible for not only the people of Israel but also you and me to believe in Jesus Christ and serve Him as the Savior. On account of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus and passing our sins to Him, and through his testimony bearing witness of Jesus who gave Himself up as our own sacrificial offering, we were able to realize and believe that Jesus Christ is indeed our Savior.
My fellow believers, without the ministry of John the Baptist, how else would you and I have been able to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior? Could we have been saved perfectly just by believing in the crucified Jesus Christ? No, no matter how much we believed, we were still tormented because we kept sinning every day. However, because John the Baptist passed all the sins of mankind to Jesus Christ once and for all by baptizing Him, by realizing this Truth, we were able to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior without any difficulty. Isn’t this true? Of course it is! When Jesus came to this earth, He did not take upon the sins of the world all by Himself. He needed a servant of God who would pass all the sins of mankind to His head. This servant was none other than John the Baptist.
The Ministry of John the Baptist Is Indispensable to All of Us
It’s written, “And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6). This passage illustrates just how important the mediating role of John the Baptist was. It’s because John the Baptist passed all sins to Jesus Christ that God could demonstrate His love in action.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This great love of God and all His righteousness were fulfilled by the ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist. In thus fulfilling all His righteousness by being baptized by John the Baptist and shedding His blood, the Lord proved that He loved us. God the Father did this through His Son Jesus Christ. By making Jesus Christ His Son be baptized by John the Baptist and accept your sins and mine once and for all, by letting Him be crucified, and by resurrecting Him from the dead, God proved His love for you and me who now believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
As such, the notion that everyone can be saved just by believing in Jesus blindly without even understanding the Word of God is an empty claim stemming from the ignorance of the Word, and it is nothing more than complete nonsense. The reason why God the Father sent Jesus Christ to this earth was to deliver you and me from the sins of the world and save us. Like this, to save you and me from the sins of the world, God the Father had prepared John the Baptist, and this was to wash away our sins and save us from death as well. In other words, God the Father had prepared His Son Jesus Christ as our propitiation, and He had also prepared John the Baptist. John the Baptist was to pass all the sins of mankind to Jesus Christ. If Jesus had to accept everyone’s sins by being baptized on a daily basis, He would have turned bald. But He didn’t do this, and instead, He accepted all the sins of the world once and for all by the means of His baptism.
To save us sinners from the sins of the world all at once, God the Father had prepared Jesus and John the Baptist. Who then gave birth to this John the Baptist in the flesh? It is Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron and the wife of Zacharias. It’s this woman who gave birth to John the Baptist
There is God’s profound will hidden in this. In the age of the Old Testament, the duties of the High Priest could not be carried out by just anyone. Only the descendants of Aaron could fulfill its duties. The Bible states that both Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were the descendants of Aaron (Luke 1:5). This is extremely important to the ministries of both John the Baptist and Jesus.
Nowadays, anyone who attends and graduates from a seminary is made an evangelist and a pastor. But pastors must minister with the knowledge of the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. We must all realize and believe that in order to save us from all the sins of the world, God the Father had prepared John the Baptist first, and then Jesus Christ, and thereby fulfilled all His love.
Hallelujah! May God bless you all!