Jesus and John


“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you may life in his name,” Saint John concludes his gospel.
Of course, we would expect the gospels to be about Jesus. They tell the story of his life, deeds, words, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. Everyone else takes second place. Everyone else is part of the supporting cast. And it shows! None see eye-to-eye with Jesus all the time. Judas betrays Jesus, Peter denies Jesus, John and James are chided by Jesus, the disciples as a whole often have little faith and they desert him at his arrest. Mary and Joseph fare marginally better. A dream of an angel turns Joseph away from breaking off his engagement to the now pregnant Mary. Mary unjustly scolds Jesus in front of the Temple teachers. There is a distance between Jesus and all of them as he marches towards the cross, dragging an unwilling band behind him.
There is one who fares much differently in the gospels, one whose wrongs are not recorded, one who actually is pictured as a co-worker of Jesus. It is his story that is the start of one Gospel. All of Jesus’ disciples had first been disciples of this man. He is the one Jesus grandly praises and at several times uses as a support for his own ministry.
This is the story of the one whose life and work is so intertwined with Jesus that they could be mentioned in the same breath, and met by the authorities with the same fear.
Jesus and John

Jesus and John
The Start of a Beautiful Friendship
The Greatest Day of His Life
Shaken, but Not Forgetting
Down the Same Path
The Start of a Beautiful Friendship
The Gospel according to Saint John starts out lyrically. Redolent repetition, chiasmus, metaphors, parallelism. It is poetry minus the meter. But then we get to the most awkward and grammatically convoluted two sentences.
This one came for a testimony that he might testify concerning the light, that all might believe through him. This man was not the light, but that he might testify concerning the light. John 1.7-8
We know who the light is. It is Jesus. In him was life and that life was the light of men. I am the light of the world. Whoever believes in me will never walk in darkness. Why would Saint John come so dangerously close to infringing on the metaphor of Jesus being the light of the world in talking about John the Baptist?
Because Jesus did!
Read John 5.33-40
Jesus speaks these words in Jerusalem. Scan John 5.1-9. What has just happened?
He has just healed a man at a pool in Jerusalem.
From John 5.18, what was the complaint against Jesus and who was bringing it?
The Jews say Jesus is tooting his own horn, acting as his own witness in making himself equal to the Father and breaking the Sabbath.
Jesus responds that it is the Father working in him. The Son cannot do anything contrary to the Father’s will and the Father honors the Son by granting him power to give eternal life. These are some weighty claims. How is Jesus going to back them up?
What are the three witnesses to the validity of Jesus’ claims about himself?
1.      1. John the Baptist’ testimony
2.       2 Work God the Father has given me to do (miracles)
3.      3 The Father has testified about me (at baptism)
Why would Jesus call John a lamp?
He gave the true testimony about Jesus.
What was John’s light?
God the Father’s message and work.
What is Jesus’ light?
Jesus is his own light as true God.
This event made such an impression on Saint John that he remembered it in his prolog, even though it would mar his lyricism and somewhat confuse his light symbolism.
John the Baptist was an important person!
Before You Were Born I Knew You
Read Luke 1.5-25
The angel Gabriel says John will be “great in the sight of the Lord.” In what two ways will this show in John’s life?
He will be a Nazarene (no alcohol) and he will be filled with the Spirit.
Look closely at the footnote for Luke 1.15. It more adequately represents the Greek (in fact, a variant reading says, “already in his mother’s womb.”) What is the difference in the meaning of the footnote and the accepted translation?
The footnote indicates he would be in the womb and believing. The text seems to hint that he will be born and then believe.
What will John’s two tasks be?
Turn people’s hearts back to God
Make people ready to meet the Savior.
John will go “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” This means that he will be a second Elijah.
No sooner has the story of John the Baptist begun than the story of Jesus begins.
Read Luke 1.26-40
What is the “sixth month” Luke mentions?
Sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
How do we know Mary receives Gabriel’s message with faith, whereas Zechariah met it with unbelief?
She is not punished by an inability to speak.
The Lord never gives us a task to do without giving us the tools to do the job. Mary needs a strong faith to see her through. How does the Lord strengthen her faith by giving her more reasons to rely on his word?
He tells her something unbelievable—her relative, Elizabeth, is pregnant.
What is the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth?
How does Mary’s faith and deeds work together at the end of this account?
She gets up and goes to Elizabeth to see her and share with her what has happened to them both.
Compare and Contrast John and Jesus


Family’s moral standing
“Father’s” profession
Zechariah a Priest
Joseph a carpenter
Problems with pregnancy
Mary a virgin
Birth foretold by
Angel Gabriel
Angel Gabriel
News received with
Unbelief by Zechariah
Belief by Marry
Mothers’ pregnancy met with
Pregnant mother disappears because
Desire to see sign from the angel/Joseph’s desire to shield her from shame


Read Luke 1.39-45
Mary calls out Elizabeth’s name as she comes to the front door. What does John the Baptist (in utero) do?
Leaps in Elizabeth’s womb
How does Elizabeth interpret this?
He leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.
Why would John the Baptist be so filled with joy?
He is in the presence of his Savior (in Mary’s womb)
Should Elizabeth’s words be taken with a grain of salt because she is filled with pregnancy hormones? Explain.
No, it is Gospel truth, because she is speaking by the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us she was filled with the Holy Spirit.


Read Luke 1.56-66
Add up how far along had Elizabeth been when Mary came to visit and how long Mary stayed. When did Mary go back to Nazareth?
Elizabeth had been six month’s pregnant. Mary goes back after John’s birth and naming, so she is about three+ months pregnant.
How do we know so much about the events surrounding John the Baptist’s birth? (Read Luke 1.1-4)
Luke researched his subject and talked to eyewitnesses. Evidently Mary was still alive and she was one of his sources.
How do Elizabeth and Zechariah show their faith?
They name the child John, as the angel Gabriel had commanded them.
What tragic foreshadowing do you see in the comic scene of the naming of John?
God’s will is opposed by man’s ignorant opinion and traditions.
Read Luke 1.67-80
Zechariah sings the praise of God in describing the work of the Savior to come. Then he gets around to the role his son, John the Baptist, will play.
What will John’s title be?
What two tasks will he have?
Prepare the way for the Lord
Give his people knowledge through the forgiveness of sins.
Where will John live and how is this like Elijah?
In the wilderness, where Elijah spent most of his days


Compare and Contrast John and Jesus


Birth accompanied by a miracle
Barren woman gives birth
Virgin gives birth
Song of praise accompanies birth
Reaction of the people


I Keep Talking You Up (Even Though You Don’t Need It)
Read Matthew 3.1-6
What was John’s initial message?
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.
What was Jesus’ initial message? (Matthew 4.17)
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.
How would John’s dress make people think of Elijah (see 1 Kings 1.8)
He was dressed with a leather belt and wore a tunic of camel skin. Elijah dressed in a similar fashion.
What is John claiming to be if he is a voice for the Lord as predicted by the Old Testament?
He is claiming he is a prophet, in the line of Moses, Elijah and Isaiah
What would the crooked paths represent in people’s lives?
Sin (deceit, pride, despair)
Why would a baptism for the forgiveness of sins be essential for receiving the work and message of Jesus?
We need to have our sins taken away to enter into a relationship of faith with God.


Read Luke 3.7-14
John was so successful that people were coming to him for the wrong reasons. What was the problem with the “brood of vipers”?
They were not believers. They did not want to leave their lives of sin by repenting of it and giving up the evil pleasures they had gained.
Why did they think they did not have to repent and live a repentant life?
They were children of Abraham, God’s chosen people whom he would certainly accept no matter what
What does it mean to repent? Luther defined repentance as contrition for sin and faith in forgiveness. As part of that repentance is a desire to amend our wicked ways and not to cling to the sins (and their benefits) of the past. Where does Luther get this stuff?
What makes a tree good?
A goodness inside it.
How will a good tree show itself?
It will produce good fruit.
What will happen to the bad tree?
It will be cut down and burned.
What commands does John give the tax collectors and Roman soldiers coming to him?
Stop sinning and start helping people and leading a godly life motivated by your faith.
How does that line up with what Luther taught?
Repentance is giving up on a life of sin and leading a life of faith in God’s forgiveness of sins.
Where did Luther get this stuff?
From the Bible.
In what way might John call us a “brood of vipers”?
If we come to church for reasons other than receiving the forgiveness of sins with a hope of being empowered to leave our sins behind.


Read Luke 3.15-18
How in the world could people mistake John for the Messiah?
How does John view his relationship to the Messiah?
How does the Messiah show his greatness in the area of baptism?
Pentecostals claim that Christians will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (faith) and fire (charismatic gifts). That’s why they preach a second baptism, sometimes calling it latter rains. Look closely at Luke 3.17.
Which type of people were the wheat?
Which type of people were the chaff?
How would the people become wheat?
By believing in the Savior.
What treatment from the Lord would the chaff get and when?
They would be burned up on the Last Day.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16.16
Is Jesus saying the same thing as John? Explain.
Yes, but he is using figurative language—baptism is the Spirit, condemned is the flames.
Is John preaching a charismatic baptism of fire?
No, he is saying unbelievers will be burned in the fires of hell.
How can the Pentecostals claim this?
They are reading their own “Spirit” baptism into Jesus’ words.


Read John 1.19-28
When Saint John uses the terms “Jews” he does not mean Jews like we think of Jews, i.e. all Jewish people. John himself was Jewish! In John’s gospel “Jews” is a technical term for the Jewish ruling elite—like our old usage “the Soviets” to refer to the gang in the Kremlin in the Communist days. This ruling elite was divided into three groups. The following chart may simplify.


Temple worship
teachers of the law in people’s daily lives
political party backing claims of Herodian family to rule Israel
middle class
governmental ties
only accept books of Moses
accept all books of Old Testament
attuned to Rome
Simon (Luke 7.36-50)
Herod and followers
extinct after 70 AD
religious ancestors of modern Jews
extinct after 70 AD


The Jews to this day set an extra setting at their Passover meal for Elijah, because in their thinking, Elijah will come before the Messiah (the Christ) returns.
If John were Elijah, in the Sadducees thinking, what would inevitably follow?
The Christ would appear in the Temple.
Why did John’s answer, quoting the prophet Isaiah, make no sense to those sent by the Sadducees?
First of all, they didn’t believe in the prophetic writings—Isaiah was not their prophet. Secondly, their whole religion was based on the Temple ritual and sacrifice. That is where righteousness was to be worked out, not by hearing some proclamation in the desert.
The Pharisees had tagged along. In keeping with their attention to details, they were worried about John’s baptism—why was he doing it? Show that John does give them an answer.
John’s words show that he has been sent by God to prepare the way for the Christ who is so near that he is already in their midst, yet they do not know him.
For next week read Matthew 3.13-17, John 1.29-42


The Greatest Day of His Life
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mark 1.4
But that was only part of his job, to turn the hearts of the people back to their God. His other job was to point out the Savior of the world, to introduce Jesus to Israel.
He Came to Be Baptized by Me
Read Matthew 3.13-17
What had Jesus been doing up to this point in his life and why?
He had been living an ordinary life in Nazareth as “the carpenter’s son.” In Jewish culture you weren’t worth listening to as far as being a religious teacher, until you were 30. We have a scarily similar habit when it comes to WELS pastors.
What was the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth and what does this make Jesus and John?
We know Mary and Elizabeth were relatives. That would make Jesus and John x+1 relatives. (If Mary and Elizabeth were cousins, John and Jesus would be second cousins.)
How would John know Jesus already?
Undoubtedly over the past 30 years they have had some contact, especially given the social network relatives have. And he would certainly have learned about Jesus at an early age from Elizabeth in her retelling her son of the amazing events concerning his coming into the world.
Why did it make no sense for John to baptize Jesus?
John knew the Savior was sinless. He was baptizing for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus had no sins to be washed away.
Why did it make perfect sense for Jesus to be baptized by John?
Jesus came to be our replacement, to fulfill all God’s will for human beings. It was God’s desire that people be baptized by John, so Jesus was to be baptized by John.


We speak of Jesus’ active obedience and his passive obedience in his work of being our Savior. In his passive obedience, Jesus let himself suffer for our sins and be subjected to insult and injury. When we speak of Jesus’ active obedience we are thinking of the times Jesus acted to obey his heavenly Father’s will. Jesus regularly being in worship in the synagogue is an example of the latter, Jesus on the cross is an example for the former. Under which category does Jesus’ baptism fit and why?
Jesus’ baptism is part of his active obedience. He actively and deliberately did something that was praiseworthy and commanded by God.
As the Adult Information Class rolls on, the pastor discovers that one of his students has not been baptized. And the person doesn’t really feel a need for baptism! “Pastor, I’m a little too big to be all dressed up in a funny white suit and get in front of the congregation to be baptized. I mean, you are a big guy, and all, but I don’t think you could lift me up to the baptismal font.”
What would you answer this man, especially in light of Jesus’ baptism?
First of all, baptism is not kid stuff. The man is either showing his unbelief in everything the pastor has been teaching him or (and we pray this is the case) he is so hung up about being in front of people that he is throwing out straw men arguments as to why he shouldn’t be baptized.
Baptism is not the circumstances, customs and traditions surrounding it, but the washing of water and the Word in accordance with Jesus’ commands. He won’t have to get dressed up, he won’t be lifted up, it doesn’t even have to be a public ceremony.
But, if he thinks baptism is just for kids, he should be hit over the head. Jesus wasn’t too big for baptism, so no one else is, either.
Did John dunk Jesus, pour water on his head or just dribble water on his head? Can you get any hint from verse 16? What does that show us about baptism?
Matthew doesn’t tell us! It is so insignificant that he doesn’t even say! How water is applied is not the important thing. The important thing is that water is applied somehow, using the words Jesus has commanded.


God blesses our baptism with forgiveness of sins, faith, making us part of his family and having the Holy Spirit take up residence in our hearts. None of these blessings were needed by Jesus. But what did Jesus need and how did God the Father give that at his baptism?
Jesus’ needed approval from his heavenly Father in the hearing of the people, that they might see he was the Savior. The Father did this in smashing form, putting his stamp of approval on the entire life of Jesus up to this point.
How does this fit in with John’s job of introducing Israel to the Savior?
It fit in perfectly with John’s mission. John had come that people might believe Jesus was the Christ and many would, upon reflection, come to faith because of the weight of the testimony given at Jesus’ baptism, among many other witnesses.
Could any of this have happened without John?
Nope. That’s the marvel of our God—he accomplishes his will through us. He spreads his Word through us. He enters into a partnership with his people.
We use the baptism of Jesus as one of the clearest places in the Bible to teach the Holy Trinity. Let’s do so again.


Voice in the sky
God the Father
Man coming out of the water
Jesus, God the Son
Dove coming down
God the Holy Spirit


What does the voice in the sky tell us about the relationship between him and the man coming out of the water?
The voice from heaven is the Father, because the man coming out of the water is the Son.
Why would the Holy Spirit appear as a dove? How do we know it wasn’t just an ordinary, wild, timid dove?
First of all, no timid, flighty dove would ever come to rest on a person’s shoulder. This dove settled and stayed on Jesus like a trained parrot on a pirate’s shoulder! We don’t know why the Holy Spirit would come as a dove—but we do associate the dove with peace. The Holy Spirit gives us peace with God through faith in Jesus’ forgiveness of sins.


The Holy Spirit also was giving Jesus a gift, one that we do not see in this scene. Read Isaiah 42.1-4 for a hint at what that gift the Holy Spirit was giving Jesus. Also take a peek at Matthew 4.1-2 for another hint.
The Holy Spirit was given without measure to Jesus to fill him, according to his human nature, with the power, patience, determination and strength to be the Savior of the world. A human being will starve to death going 40 days without food. Powered by the Holy Spirit, Jesus didn’t as he was soon to go out into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Sometimes people search for analogies to explain teachings of the Bible. Jesus did. What is a parable except an extended analogy! But unlike Jesus, our analogies often limp. Explain why this analogy to the Holy Trinity is so gimpy we shouldn’t use it, especially in light of Jesus’ baptism.
The Triune God is sort of like an earthly father. Sometimes he puts on his daddy hat, sometimes he puts on his worker hat, sometimes he puts on his husband hat. He does three things, but there’s only one daddy.
But there is still only one daddy. When we look at the Triune God, especially at Jesus’ baptism, it isn’t Jesus throwing his voice from heaven. It isn’t God the Father coming down in the form of a dove. It isn’t the Holy Spirit coming out of the water. There are three distinct “persons” at work here. Jesus is not the Father, nor is he the Holy Spirit. That’s where this analogy breaks down and sort of teaches false doctrine, that there is only one God as we think of one and he takes several forms.


All religions are the same. There’s lots of names for God, but there’s only one God and we all have different names for him. While this may be true for some polytheistic religions, it cannot be true for Christianity. Explain how the very nature of our God separates us from monotheistic faiths (like Judaism and Islam) and polytheistic faiths (like Hinduism Shintoism).
Modern Judaism and Islam teach God is one like you and I are one. They are Unitarian faiths, in that there is only one God and he is only one.
Polytheistic faiths teach there are many gods. Sometimes these gods work together, sometimes they work at cross-purposes. The important thing is to worship the important ones and tap into the minor ones for their “specialties” when you need them.
The Christian faith is like neither. We have one God, but he is not one as a Moslem imagines Allah is. We have the Three-in-One God, the Triune God.
That we don’t have the same God can be seen by a Moslem’s reaction to the Trinity—it is ridiculous unbelief, by a Jew’s reaction to Jesus—converts from Christianity must renounce Jesus, by Hindu attacks on Christian houses of worship in India.
That’s My Jesus!
Read John 1.29-34
Jesus evidently hung around the Jordan River for a little while. How had John’s job of revealing Jesus to Israel as the Christ (Messiah) now subtly changed?
He wasn’t there to introduce Jesus to Israel any longer, but now to convince Israel that Jesus was really the Christ.
Why does John call Jesus the Lamb of God? (think of the Passover Lamb of Exodus 12)
Jesus was to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world. The Passover Lamb protected the family within the house by its blood on the doorposts. Jesus would shed his blood to save us.


What ideas would “Lamb of God” give you if we didn’t know Old Testament culture?
We would probably think of it as a cute and cuddly picture showing Jesus is innocent, that he wouldn’t hurt a fly, that he is absolutely accessible to everyone. All these things are true, but “Lamb of God” does not convey those ideas.
What did Jesus come primarily to do—be an example or be our substitute? The difference between liberal Christianity and biblical Christianity hinges on that answer.
Jesus came first and foremost to be our substitute. He led the life we were supposed to live. He died the death our sins had earned us.
Liberal Christianity does not like to talk in terms of “blood theology,” thinking it makes God into a bully holding out for a pound of flesh. Nor do they like to think we are so far gone in our sins that we need that kind of help. Ignorance and poor choices are the problems, so education is needed that we might be more like Jesus. They extol Jesus as the example.
Explain John’s riddle, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”
Jesus was born after John, but he is greater because he is true God, existing from all eternity.
How could John say he didn’t know Jesus, when he knew enough about him to try to talk him out of baptism?
John knew Jesus personally. That wasn’t good enough. He had to know Jesus the way God the Father certified that Jesus would be known, by heavens being opened up and the Holy Spirit resting upon him. We operate the same way. We know our church treasurer keeps the books honestly, but we want to know it for sure from the annual audit conducted on our books. Then it is certified. John needed certifiable knowledge to make the connection that Jesus is the Christ.
If John would not rely on his own interpretations and knowledge, what does this say about how we should approach the revealed Word of God?
We need to go no father than Scripture and we need to let Scripture interpret itself—don’t put words in God’s mouth.


I’d Give Him the Followers Off My Back
Read John 1.35-42
Who is one of John’s disciples he was speaking to here?
Andrew (the other one is Saint John, the writer of this Gospel—he never identifies himself by name)
Why does he have to repeat “Look, the Lamb of God.”
They hadn’t gotten the message the day before.
Why would it be natural for John’s disciples to be reluctant to “jump ship”?
They had ties of loyalty to John and had grown so much from the Word that he had taught them.
How good were the disciples mentioned here which Jesus received from John?
Some of the best. Peter would be the leader of the disciples. Andrew was instrumental in the feeding of the 5000. When we throw in John and his brother, James, we have the “inner circle” of disciples that Jesus relied heavily on.


A new pastor had come to town to start a mission church. There were already three other churches in town. One of the churches had more than a few members in the new “target area.” After the initial get-to-know-you-brother-we’re-all-in-the-Lord’s-harvest-field-and-I will-do-everything-I-can-to-help-you meeting, the missionary pastor asked if it would be OK if he visited that pastor’s members who lived in his target area. The pastor gave his Ok and promised to give him a list. After the mission pastor left he told his secretary, “Put together a list of people we have living in the 89xxx ZIP code area and give it to me.” She did so and, a few days later, when she was putting something on the pastor’s desk, she noticed that he had crossed out every regular attender. How did John show he was truly a friend of Jesus’ and of the kingdom work and how can that show itself when a new church is started in our town?
John encouraged everyone, even those who might have been John’s best disciples, to believe and follow Jesus. John realized they weren’t his disciples—they were followers of God and they should follow God. He put the kingdom work (the saving of souls and the furthering of faith) ahead of his personal prestige and imagined glory.
When a new church starts in town, the local pastors should especially encourage those who live in that mission’s target area to get to know the new pastor and attend his church when it starts, his Bible classes before it starts and help him evangelize the neighborhood. Seldom has a church been hurt for very long when it willingly “loses” members to a new mission. A sense of fellowship and partnership in the work develops as people see the work of Jesus doesn’t end at their church’s property line.
Defend Him, Speak Well of Him and Take His Words and Actions in the Kindest Possible Way
Read John 3.22-4.3
What do Jesus’ disciples start doing? Why were they doing this when John was still baptizing in the area?
They start baptizing people. John evidently had his followers baptizing, so Jesus’ followers help out with baptizing all the people that were coming. There were just that many people coming.
Who starts stirring up trouble?
A Jew or the Jews, a representative of the ruling elite
Why would they be interested in pitting John against Jesus and why wouldn’t they come to John and Jesus directly?
They don’t take on Jesus and John directly because they have already struck out with John and they can’t make out what his answers are to them—he stumps them. It is never the nature of a false teacher to initially attack the leader. He always goes after the sheep, especially those who are straying—this is why we are so concerned when our members are not being regularly fed the true Word in our churches—they are putting themselves at risk to fall for false teaching that could ruin their faith.
If the Jews can get Jesus and John to be at each other’s throats, they can easily dismiss them, the way so many unbelievers dismiss the truths of Christianity today by pointing to the disunity and strife from many denominations putting forth conflicting teachings.
The “religious” question morphs into a turf and personality battle in the minds of John’s disciples. What is their chief complaint against Jesus and why do they think this is so unfair?
Jesus is gaining more disciples than their beloved John. This is unfair because John has been at it longer, was the first to do it and, through his baptism of Jesus, “made him what he is.”
What four answers (all exquisite) does John give?
1.      (v.28) I have told you I am not the Christ—it’s not about me
2.      (vv. 29-30) Jesus is the bridegroom—I am his friend and helper
3.      vv. 31-32 Jesus is from heaven—I am from earth
4.      (v. 33) I have received God’s certification about Jesus
5.      (v. 34-36) Jesus has the Spirit without measure, offering eternal life


Compare John’s words (John 3.36) with Jesus’ words (John 3.18).


Whoever believes in him
Whoever believes in the Son
Is not condemned
Has eternal life
whoever does not believe in him
Whoever rejects the Son
stands condemned
Will not see life
already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son
For God’s wrath remains on him


Give some spiritual reasons why they are so similar.
They come from the same God, the Holy Spirit. John is speaking the Word of God here. Naturally God would say the same thing.
Might there be some human reasons why they are so similar?
They are talking about the same subject and people tend to use the same words when they are talking about the same subject, but a second reason is that John might be echoing the reply he had heard from his disciples that Jesus had given to Nicodemus.
What does Jesus do to make sure he does not hurt John and his ministry?
He abandons his ministry of baptizing around the Jordan and leaves for Galilee.
Read Luke 5.33-35
The Pharisees kept at trying to pit John against Jesus. Where do you think Jesus came up with this picture?
He may have gotten the image from John and then, reflecting upon it, uses it in a new way.
Read John 5.33-36
This is the second feast Jesus attended in Jerusalem (the first time he was in town he cleared the Temple and the Jews were caught off guard). The second time Jesus very publicly heals a man and they are ready for him. A lengthy defense of his ministry follows and Jesus speaks of John.
Why would the Jews know all about John?
They had send a delegation to investigate John and his teachings were known throughout the country.


What was John’s light?
His testimony about the coming Savior.
In what way did the Jews enjoy John’s light “for a time”? When do you guess they stopped liking John’s ministry?
They probably enjoyed John’s light while it was making people more religious. The baptized would be coming back to the Temple worship and reinvigorating it.
The welcome started wearing thin when John called them a brood of vipers and people wondered why they weren’t getting baptized.
Why would Jesus, in a threatened position, be quoting John to strengthen his own standing?
John was accredited by God and his testimony was true. Those are two good reasons. All the people considered John a prophet, to the same effect. That wasn’t bad, either. If Jesus was seen as standing with John, that was a good place to stand.
Close Friends. They see things alike, think alike, even talk alike. They back each other up. They go out of their way for each other. Give examples to show that Jesus and John were true friends. Now take a moment to think about a close friend of yours. What makes you close? Is it a common faith? What if your friend is not a Christian? Is there something missing? How can that be overcome? Discuss the role of close friends.
Jesus and John are true friends, speaking up for each other—John’s testimony about Jesus after the baptism and Jesus’ later praise of John—and avoiding hurting each other by their actions—Jesus giving up baptizing.
A common faith is very important. It forms how we see the world, molds our interests and leisure pursuits. It also tends not to lead us down paths to temptation.
Christians can certainly have close friends who are not Christian, but there will always be the division of Christ there. A lot of times, it seems like God puts these people in our lives so we can witness to them, not in a “Bible in your face” sort of way, but in quiet, extended conversations over long periods of time that we are friends. If they end up converting—that’s great! We will be even closer! If they never end up converting, they are still our friends.
For next week read Matthew 11.1-19, Mark 6.21-29
Shaken, but Not Forgetting
The crummy thing about friendships is that they never last, not in the way that we’d like. The beautiful thing about friendships is that they always last, no matter what happens. So it is with the friendship between John and Jesus. Shortly after Jesus and his disciples left the Jordan River (John 4.3), John gets in trouble with THE MAN, King Herod. Herod lived like a pig. If he wasn’t THE MAN and single-handedly financing the building of the Temple (granted—at a slow and steady pace, because no one remembers a benefactor after the building is done), the Sadducees would have excommunicated him long ago. Among Herod’s many sins was seducing his brother, Phillip’s, wife and marrying her (she became known as Herodias). Not surprisingly, John told THE MAN, straying sheep that he was, that it was sin for him to have his brother’s wife! And he kept on preaching that. Herodias, among others, was unhappy to have her skeletons taken out of the closet to be bleached in the streets. She hated John. Herod arrested John and put him in prison. THE MAN faced a dilemma. How could a benefactor, such as he, kill a man the people thought was a prophet. Besides, Herod, liked listening to John preach (even though he hardly ever understood what John was saying). Let that be a warning to the preacher whose congregation is continually praising his preaching abilities. John’s imprisonment dragged on, with his congregation of one.
Keeping in Touch
Read Matthew 11.2-6
John had one other hobby in prison, besides trying to reach the unreachable. What was it?
He kept up on the news about what Jesus was doing.
Who else had been visiting John? Why were they still there?
John still had his disciples visiting him. They were reluctant to abandon John now and follow Jesus (though that is exactly what John wanted them to do), because they felt that they should support John and they probably did help him at times in prison.


Could it be that John had forgotten who Jesus was that he sent this delegation of his disciples? What was the real reason for the delegation?
John knew who Jesus was and he was not going to forget. But John needed to have his die-hard disciples see for themselves that Jesus was really the Christ and they should follow him.
Jesus doesn’t answer their question—or does he? Explain.
Jesus does give them the only decisive answer they would receive. They would have rejected his testimony about himself, but they could not argue against the Scriptures which said the Savior, when he would come, would do miracles. The day they caught up with Jesus was a day filled with miracles. They should know from that that Jesus was the Christ.
That’s My Friend
You would think that Jesus would use this opportunity, with John’s delegation departing, to use John’s status and testimony to toot his own horn. But he doesn’t. Instead, he praises John.
Read Matthew 11.7-19
How was John definitely not an insecure person who was swayed by the winds of public opinion?
John kept up his preaching against the wicked establishment in the Temple and in the palace, even if it cost him prison time.
How was John definitely not royalty?
Born of a humble priest, he lived in abject poverty in the wilderness.
Was he a prophet like Jeremiah and Isaiah? Explain.
Yes! John was a prophet like the greatest in the Old Testament. He was like Jeremiah in standing up to opposition and suffering for it. He was like Isaiah in his wonderful words of prophecy pointing out who the Savior was.
Later in his ministry, the mother of Saint John and his brother, James, will approach Jesus and ask that one sits at his right and the other at his left hand when his kingdom would come. Jesus said these seats belong to those for whom they were appointed. Make a solid argument that John the Baptist deserves one of those seats.
Jesus says there is no one greater born of women. John never falters, never stumbles. He is always faithful to Jesus and is close to him.


Now Jesus reaches out to the crowd around him—how could they be even greater than John?
Through faith in him as their Savior, they would be greater in the kingdom of God than one who merely held the office of a prophet (and didn’t believe).
We shouldn’t be surprised when leading clergy are caught in scandal. There seems to be an unending litany of fallen Roman Catholic priests. Occasionally it is an ordinary preacher who kills his wife or is killed by an abused wife. Why is it that when an Evangelical, Ted Haggard (head of the National Evangelical Association and pastor at megachurch New Life, Colorado Springs), for example, falls into a drugs for homosexual trysts scandal, everyone is surprised? What made John great in Jesus’ eyes? What makes anyone great in Jesus’ eyes? What should we look for in our spiritual leaders?
Evangelicals have the same problem everybody else has by nature. We assume evil is only “out there,” instead of within our own hearts. It is understandable that Roman Catholic priests stoop so low, but our own?? Never! He did what??? The more self-righteous a group is, the bigger fall they are setting themselves up for.
John was great in Jesus’ eyes because of his faith. Without that, nothing else mattered. In fact, that’s what makes every believer great in Jesus’ eyes—faith.
When it comes to our spiritual leaders, we should look for “character issues” that faith moves them to show. Do they consistently turn to the Gospel to motivate us? Do they show care and concern for the individual? Do they go after the straying and do the hard work of confronting them with their sins? Do they keep at it in good times and in bad times, or are they always threatening to quit? We can’t look into the heart of a person to see if he is a believer or not, and a hypocrite can be in the ministry, but these are some of the things we would expect a faithful heart to produce in a spiritual leader.
Why would it be natural for Jesus to talk about force and violence when he was thinking about John the Baptist?
John’s preaching was certainly forceful and the effect of his ministry was forceful—people were being pulled away from the devil’s kingdom of hell. But it is easier to imagine that Jesus was thinking about the violence John had already suffered with his imprisonment and (it didn’t take a prophet) what greater violence was to come.
Who was the Elijah who was to come? What was his function and what does this say about Jesus?
John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come. He was to prepare the way for the Savior. This means that Jesus is the Savior.
How were John and Jesus opposites in their lifestyles?
John was an ascetic, neither eating nor drinking (not living a normal lifestyle). Jesus lived as an ordinary person, eating and drinking.
Why does this leave Jesus’ contemporaries without an excuse?
They rejected a “religious” man of God and they rejected an “ordinary” man of God. You couldn’t please them, because they weren’t going to believe any man of God.
I’ll Remember You
John had languished in prison, out of the public eye, his public ministry ended and his frequent visits by Herod providing a frustrating break from the boredom. Then the end comes.
Read Mark 6.21-28, Matthew 14.12-13
Who was the time opportune for?
Herodias, who had been plotting how to get rid of John.
How does Herodias play on Herod’s lust and pride?
She has Salome do an impromptu dance for Herod on his birthday in front of all his important government guests. Herod is smitten with lust for his beautiful step-daughter.
There are numerous plays, operas and movies about Salome, most notably by Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss. Understandably, the legend has grown to such a point that she is visualized almost strip teasing before her father. This may not be so far from the truth.
If Herod was so distressed at his daughter’s request, what could he have done?
He could have laughed off her request, made a joke about getting an education is the only way to “get ahead,” and then given her some lavishly expensive gift that would have impressed his guests.
What effect would John’s head on a platter have with Herod’s guests?
It had to have horrified them, as well as putting great fear in their hearts. If Herod could kill such an important person as John on a seeming trifle, they weren’t safe, either.


I was not able to find it, but there is an oil painting of Salome handing the platter with John’s head on it to her mother, who is eagerly awaiting behind a red curtain. The artist manages to paint a look of shame on Salome’s face. It was the first time she felt that emotion that day.
John’s death affects Jesus deeply. He goes to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to get away and regroup, but what happens next (scan ahead)?
Jesus’ withdrawal to regroup after John’s death sets the stage for the feeding of the 5000. That’s why Jesus was out there in the wilderness. Ironically, when Jesus personally needed some time for himself, the demands of the people came first.
Was John the last martyr of the Old Testament or the first martyr of the New Testament? Explain.
John was the first martyr of the New Testament, for he was the first to die who knew that the Christ, the Savior, they had been waiting for so long, was the person, Jesus of Nazareth.
In what ways can we respect the loss of a friend by death when dealing with the other friend?
Trite condolence won’t do it. Neither will easy answers—even if they are correct answers, the person will not be able to hear it. Give them time, let them know you are there for them and then be there for them.
Read Luke 11.1-4
What had John taught his disciples?
How to pray
What did Jesus’ disciples want him to do?
How to pray
What teaching do we have because of John’s prior teachings?
At least this version of the Lord’s Prayer, plus some terrific parables on how we should pray and never give up.
John’s active, public ministry lasted perhaps a year. Hardly something you would call a career. Did he have enough time to do his job—was his ministry successful?
John’s ministry, though short, was tremendously successful. He had made an impact on the people and he had made an impact on enemies. He had continued his preaching in the face of opposition and even death. He baptized Jesus and God blessed his ministry on that day by revealing Jesus as the Christ as only God could do it.
For next week read Matthew 17.1-13; 21.12-27
Down the Same Path
Jesus’ teachings take on a darker tone after John’s death. Jesus knows how his life is going to end—the Scriptures have foretold it. But John’s death brings it home all the more. Jesus will have three high points remaining before his death: the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus and Palm Sunday. John’s impact is felt surrounding each of those mountaintop experiences.
On the Mountaintop
Read Matthew 16.13-16
Who did people think Jesus was? Can you think of any reason they would link Jesus with these names?
1. John the Baptist—because of the similarities of their teachings
2. Elijah—the mentioned forerunner of the Christ. The ultimate rejection of Jesus was that he wasn’t the Christ, but the forerunner of the Christ
3. Jeremiah—one of the last prophets of the nation of Judah
Why would the comparison to John be very much to the point?
They were so closely allied and preached and taught in harmony with each other.
In what way did all these opinions fall short?
They did not regard Jesus as God. They only saw him as a great prophet.
Read Mark 6.14-16
Who especially was of the “Jesus is John raised from the dead” camp?
King Herod
But John never performed miracles—why would the miracle working Jesus be associated with John?
John disappears from the public eye just as Jesus emerges into public prominence.
Do you remember Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus? The rich man begs father Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn his five brothers to repent. Abraham rejects his request. “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not listen even if someone rises from the dead.” Let’s assume Herod did actually believe Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. How effective was that knowledge to spurring Herod on to repentance and good deeds?
Not good at all. Herod doesn’t repent and change his ways.


On Good Friday, we run into Herod again. Pilate, upon hearing Jesus is a Galilean, sends him to Herod. Herod is tickled pink and wants to see Jesus perform some miracles. He plies Jesus with many questions, but Jesus (who has been quite vocal in speaking and reaching out to both Jew and Gentile) says not a word. Some have chided Jesus for not trying to reach out to Herod. From all we’ve seen, I think we can come to a different conclusion. Talk about that and also talk about how we should treat those who consistently wrong our friends and those close to us.
This is John’s butcher. There is no way Jesus is going to talk to him. Besides, Herod is beyond help—he doesn’t listen to Moses and the Prophets (he pretended he was a good Jew), so he doesn’t listen, even though he believes Jesus is John come back from the dead.
Read Matthew 17.1-13
What are some similarities between the accounts of Jesus’ baptism and his transfiguration?
1. God the Father appears
2. God the Father claims Jesus is his Son
3. God the Father expresses approval of Jesus and his work
Peter, James and John had always been taught by their rabbis that before the Messiah would come, Elijah would return to earth. They ask Jesus about this. What is the surprising answer they get?
You are right. Elijah will return before the Savior appears and Elijah has appeared—he was John the Baptist.
How does the bitterness in Jesus’ heart show through when he talks about his friend?
They did everything they wanted to do to him (imprisonment, horrible death).
How do the disciples know Jesus is talking about John?
John’s death had touched them, too, for they had first been disciples of John. No man of God had been martyred in their lifetime—except John.
What connection does Jesus make between himself and John and why is this so jarring as they are coming down from the mount of Transfiguration?
As John met his untimely, violent death, Jesus will meet a similar violent, untimely death. This is so unsettling to the disciples because Jesus has just shown his heavenly glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Heavy On His Mind
Read John 10.40-42
Scan ahead to chapter 11 and 12. At what point in Jesus’ ministry are we now at?
The final months or weeks of Jesus’ life on earth.
What is special about this place where Jesus tarries in John 10.40-42 and what do you see in the text that indicates Jesus made a special point to go there?
It was where John had been baptizing in the early days. Jesus had to recross the Jordan River to get there. He wanted some time to regroup in the stomping grounds of the good old days.
People could not help but remember John. What about John did they especially remember?
He never did as many miracles as Jesus did, but he did say Jesus was the Christ and everything he ever said about Jesus was true.
If the raising of Lazarus immediately follows this account, what might be one reason Jesus would spend so much time here knowing that Lazarus was deathly ill?
The lure of being in the place where his good friend lived so much of his life and worked so powerfully was such a draw that he “over-extended” his stay.
He and I Are In This Together
We are now in Holy Week. Palm Sunday is over. Jesus has been not only teaching and performing miracles in the Temple area, he has also driven out all the merchandisers in the Temple. This last action causes the Sanhedrin to decide to kill him. When Jesus shows up at the Temple a third time for work, the religious authorities accost him.
Read Matthew 21.23-27
What was the question the Jews put to Jesus?
By whose authority do you overturn Temple policies and teach in the Temple?
Why was this an understandable (in an innocent way) question?
Somebody should have the authority to change the public way of worshipping God. We as individual members would not just stomp into church and throw out the organ. They just wanted to know he had the OK to do all this.
Why was this an understandable (in a malicious way) question?
They are challenging Jesus and accusing him of sinfully going too far in disturbing the Temple with his actions and teachings.
Jesus doesn’t answer their question—or does he? Who does Jesus link himself to?
John the Baptist
By whose authority had John performed his baptisms?
John did his work at the command and by the power of God.
Why couldn’t the Jews see that?
They didn’t believe in John’s work and were never baptized.
Why were they afraid to answer Jesus honestly?
The people considered John to be a prophet sent by God. If they said otherwise, they would lose the support (and offerings) of the people.
How had they gotten rid of their “John the Baptist problem”?
They didn’t have to get rid of John—Herod had done it for them (and they didn’t do much to plead for John’s release).
What is Jesus insinuating he knows about them by bringing up John at this point?
Jesus is telling them he knows that they are out to get him and will put him to death, too.
How successful was John’s ministry in:
Reaching all the people
Turning the hearts of many
Revealing the Savior
Strengthening the Savior               (please give examples)
John was tremendously successful. All the people knew about John, even Herod. John succeeded with many people, for there was a religious revival, of sorts, in Judah. At Jesus’ birth, Messianic expectations seemed to be on the back burner, but in John’s day, everybody was looking forward to the Savior appearing.
John’s baptizing Jesus revealed him as the Savior to any who could see and John kept repeating his testimony of that day to all who came to him, even pushing disciples out of the nest so they would follow Jesus.
Through his teachings and friendship with Jesus, John provided Jesus with strength, especially as Jesus steeled himself to face his death on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Thank you for your time and effort which you put into this study!