TODAY’S READING: Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3
The synoptic gospels indicated that Jesus’ ministry did not begin until John the Baptist’s had ended. Luke recorded that John began preaching in the fifteenth year of Tiberius. Augustus had adopted Tiberius as his son and co-reigned with him for two years. This puts the possible date for John’s ministry around 26 AD, and it certainly means that John the Baptist burned hot and quick. He did not minister long, but he ministered passionately.
John’s message was missionary. He appeared announcing that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (meaning available and imminent) (Matt. 3:2). John prophetically made it very clear that the extent of availability was to all peoples, preaching according to Isaiah’s sentiment that forgiveness of sins was available to all men, that all flesh would see the salvation of God (Luke 3:6). In fact, John attacked the Pharisees (zealous laymen) and the Sadducees (professional ministers) alike for their false claim to have Abraham as their father. The whole point of Abraham was the promise that he would be the father of many nations and that his seed would bless all peoples. This sentiment and guiding passion was so foreign to the Jewish establishment that John had to shock them into awareness. In so many words John said: “You are so arrogant in your cloistered spirituality; you have missed the whole point. The Kingdom of God is for all peoples of the world, and you are doing nothing about it. Repent from this sin of omission and engage in reaching all peoples for the glory of Jehovah, for if you don’t, you will be cast out of His kingdom and He will raise up from stones if He must to be tools for missionary advance to all peoples according to His great will” (see Matt. 3:9).
John was a simple prophet and had two simple points. First, the Kingdom of God is available to all the peoples of earth and it’s sin not to be busy bringing all the nations to Jehovah. Second, this great responsibility cannot be carried out without the help of the Holy Spirit. Each of the synoptic gospels mentions this central tenant of John’s message. Matthew recorded John saying that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (3:11). Mark recorded John saying that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:8). Luke recorded John saying that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (3:16).
The passions of John’s short and fiery ministry are simple: The kingdom of Jesus is available to all; we best be busy bringing all the sons of Abraham (the nations) into it; we are going to need the baptism of the Spirit that Jesus alone gives in order to get the job done; it’s the same message of Jesus; god so loved the world and He has other sheep; go make disciples of all nations; you will receive power when the Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in all the difficult places where the gospel has not gone. Two cousins, two prophets, one God, one gospel. Both John and Jesus had shockingly short lives and ministries, but they burned with passion that all nations, by the power of the Spirit, be included in the kingdom. So must we. So shall it be.