Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Jesus said, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). Take that in for a second; Jesus said that of all the people on earth, John (the Baptist) was the greatest. Obviously Jesus (and by extension, God) held John the Baptist (aka: JtB) in high regard. This means that he serves as a great role model of faith. While working on a harmonization of the Gospels the Holy Spirit showed me the heart of JtB’s ministry as well as what we should take away from his faith.
First of all, despite being blessed by the Holy Spirit and having his ministry very blessed, John only really focused his thoughts on one thing: the coming Messiah. The Bible records, “Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ’” (John 1:19-20). Well, if not the Christ, who was he? History tells us,
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’” (John 1:22-23).
All JtB saw himself as was the doorman of the coming Savior; a position that David states is one of great joy:
Better is one day in your courts
Than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of the wicked (Psalms 84:10).
It doesn’t seem like a role that is very prideful though; basically John was just waiting for Jesus to show up, and that’s it. He was holding the door open for someone better than him. But JtB knew that he was nothing in front of God made flesh (that is, Jesus). But, let’s let John’s words speak for him, “’I baptized with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one who you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie’” (John 1:26-27). John said that he wasn’t even worthy to tie Jesus’ shoes. JtB realized that we are nothing before God, because even if we can become something great, our greatness is nothing in comparison to what the Lord can do. The Bible puts it this way,
How then can a man be righteous before God?
How can one born of woman be pure?
If even the moon is not bright
And the stars are not pure in his eyes,
How much less man, who is but a maggot-
A son of man, who is only a worm! (Job 25:4-6)
Yeah, how do you compare to the sun? You’re pretty small, right? Now expand that out across the entirety of the universe. God is bigger than all of that, it is all small in his eyes, so you and me, my friend, are very tiny in the Lord’s eyes, and our accomplishments mean squat when held up to the true Light. John understood his place in the universe and directed his ministry towards something more important.
Since John the Baptist’s ministry was completely focused on Jesus, when Jesus actually came a logical side effect followed. We read, “They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan- the one you testified about- well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him’” (John 3:26). John was losing his ministry to Jesus. In fact, at least one of Jesus’ apostles was formerly a disciple of John who had abandoned him to follow the Lord. History tells us,
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus (John 1:35-37).
And then a couple of verses later, we find out who one of the disciples was, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus” (John 1:40). So not only was John losing his ministry, he was losing members (who became core members of Jesus’ apostleship) too. But John took all of this in stride,
To this point John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:27-30).
And just like that, John watched as the ministry that he had built up for years disappeared from under him. But he makes an important reference above; JtB talked about the relationship between a married couple. Paul also makes this reference in the Bible when talking about our relationship with Christ. He writes,
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mothers and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery- but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Now, if we are to accept these terms (of marriage being likened to our relationship with Jesus), then we must also understand what comes with it, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24). The church must be in complete submission to Christ. If you find yourself representing Jesus through a ministry, do not think this is a way to elevate yourself; for the joy of those who preach the Word is in Christ being exalted (everything else is just a bonus). Truly when speaking for Christ, you must become less and he must become more.
Therefore, we must always remember our place. John the Baptist explains, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31). JtB never stopped making it clear that, as humans, we can’t even come close to touching God; for the Lord is above all. Even the wisest man to live acknowledged this when he wrote, “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7). Nothing in life that you do can compare. So as you toil away, never forget that the Lord is above it all, and worship him in his majesty and grace. The Lord puts it like this:
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
From ancient times, what is still to come.
I say; My purpose will stand,
And I will do all that I please (Isaiah 46:9-10).
And the Lord explains to Job and his friends,
Have you ever given orders to the morning,
Or shown the dawn its place,
That it might take the earth by the edges
And shake the wicked out of it?
The earth takes shape like clay under a seal
Its features stand out like those of a garment (Job 38:12-14).
Think on that a moment. Everything you see and the ridiculous variety of beauty and wonder of nature and the extreme vastness of the universe with all of its nooks and crannies were all ordained by the Lord. Even before giving my life to Christ, I had to bow to some sort of heavenly figure after seeing the world outside my window. And it’s all from God, every last atom organized into what we see and what some consider a (mathematically impossible) creation of chance. No, what we see outside and in our world, that’s the creator’s hand. James reminds us, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:16-17). It all comes from God, fresh and new every day. Compare that with what you did or will do today. No, we must stand in awe of the Lord, and not forget our place in this universe.
Jesus is our Lord and Savior, he is God (part of the trinity); therefore we must worship him with all of our gusto. For it is written, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Through his death on a cross and resurrection, Christ has set you free from sin and eternal damnation and given you life everlasting in heaven. I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade last night, and it’s so silly that they’re searching for eternal life from a cup; where the actual healing and immortality come through belief in the man in whom that cup is associated, Jesus Christ. It is through Christ that you can live forever (in heaven after your body expires), that’s the secret of immortality that man has searched for all this time- and such a divine solution to the death problem it is! Through his sinless death, Christ took upon him the world’s sin and all of the repercussions of sin. Peter writes,
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:24-25).
God, the overseer of your soul, came in the flesh and died so that you could be shepherded back into his light and experience eternal life. And salvation is so easy since Christ did all the work. Paul explains of salvation,
…That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
That’s it! Just acknowledge that Jesus is Lord of your life (as he is anyway) and believe in him in your heart and you will find salvation through him and everlasting life thereof. John the Baptist himself believed this and taught, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). But as you embrace your savior, follow JtB’s example and lean into the Lord fully; for it is written,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Worry not about the things of this world; Jesus himself taught, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). And Paul wraps up the heart of the matter by reminding us why we do what we do and exposes JtB’s heart to us all: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Amen.