Sunday, June 04, 2006

Jesus, speaking of John the Baptist

February 13, 2006

"From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it."
~Jesus, speaking of John the Baptist (in Matthew 11:12)

Who was John the Baptist? John the Baptist (died, ca. AD 36) was a Jewish prophet described in Matthew's Gospel as a precursor to the Messiah. He was a cousin to Jesus of Nazareth, and launched the ministry of Jesus by calling him "the Lamb of God" and baptizing him in the Jordan River.

John lived in the mountainous desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, but drew many to his message and his baptism. He led a simple life -- barbaric even by first century standards -- wearing coarse clothing and subsisting on locusts and wild honey. He preached a message of repentance, which offended Jewish leaders.

Despite the great contrast between Jesus and John, both were criticized for opposite ways. "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man [Jesus] came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard'" (Matthew 11:18-19). John offended by his refusal to engage in social niceties, and Jesus offended by doing so.

Matthew's Gospel is a tract addressing Jews with the message that Jesus embodied the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies, and that Jesus was the only worthy sacrifice for sin, but that deep change would come only as people made the effort to grasp this message.


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