The Work of John the Baptist

08 May
John the Baptist - 1

from Google Images

Zechariah, John’s father, continued in his song of praise to God in Luke 1:76-79. Here he spoke of what God would do through both John and the Messiah. He calls his son a prophet of the Most High God (Luke 1:76), and said John would go before the Lord (the Messiah) to prepare the way of his coming by preaching knowledge of salvation—i.e. how one could be saved (Luke 1:76-77). It is important to note at this point that Zechariah claimed that this salvation would not necessarily be as was later thought by most Jews during Jesus’ ministry, namely, that the Messiah would deliver them from their Roman oppressor. Rather, Zechariah claimed the Messiah would save his people from their sins (Luke 1:77; cf. Matthew 1:21), and this would be the focus of John’s ministry in preparing his way (Luke 1:76)!

It is difficult to say how Zechariah meant the term Lord in Luke 1:76. Did he mean it as God – “The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3)? It is difficult not to assume so, especially in light of what Zechariah says later in Luke 1:78, where, speaking of the Messiah, he calls him “the Dayspring from on high” who had visited his people.

In the Septuagint this same Greek word anatole (G395), used in Luke 1:78 for Dayspring, is used at Jeremiah 23:5 and Zechariah 6:12 for the Hebrew word tsemach (H6780) translated BRANCH and refers to the Messiah and son of David (Jeremiah 23:5), and the one who would build his Temple (Zechariah 6:12). The Dayspring (anatole – G395) comes to give light to them who are in darkness and to show us the way of peace. In the Septuagint Malachi 4:2 speaks of the rising (anatole – G395) of the Sun of Righteousness (the Messiah) “with healing in his wings…” With this we can compare Isaiah 60:1 where the Septuagint says of Jerusalem “your light has come and the glory of the LORD has risen (anatello – G393) upon you.” However we presume Zechariah meant the term Lord in Luke 1:76, Dayspring in Luke 1:78 comes “from on high” to visit us. Zechariah, therefore, cannot understand him to be a mere man in claiming such a thing!

Clearly, Zechariah connects the ministry of his son, John, with that of Elijah (Luke 1:76-77; cf. Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6), which was also Gabriel’s revelation to him in Luke 1:17. It seems that John would prepare the way of the Lord by turning the hearts of the children back to the fathers (Malachi 4:6). Gabriel’s rendering of this in Luke 1:17 is that John was to turn the hearts of the disobedient (“children” in Malachi 4:6) to the wisdom of the just (“fathers” in Malachi 4:6)! Gabriel seems to be speaking of Jacob (Malachi 1:2) and Levi (Malachi 2:4) for the fathers or the wise and just, and he speaks of the current priesthood in particular and the nation in general as the children or the disobedient. Notice that the then current priesthood was corrupt according to Malachi. It was cursed by God in order to show that his covenant was with Levi, their just and wise father in the person and Moses (cf. Malachi 2:1-6).

Therefore, God promised to send Elijah the prophet by his grace in order to save his people from being cursed at the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6), for, if at least a remnant did not repent, the whole earth would have become as Sodom and Gomorrah (Romans 9:29). Although Luke doesn’t connect John with Elijah, when he speaks of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:30-36) as did the other Synoptics (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13), he does connect John with Elijah here in Zechariah’s song of praise. Thus, all the Synoptics recognize John as the fulfillment of the prophecies that point to Elijah’s coming in the time of the end of the age.

What seems significant is that John, the priest, appears to have renounced his association with the priesthood at Jerusalem, because he spent his years in the deserts maturing in his spirit before the Lord (Luke 1:80; cf. Isaiah 40:3). And, at the appropriate time he began preaching, not in the cities as might be expected, but in the deserts, seemingly standing outside the camp (city) and calling out “…who is on the Lord’s side?” (cf. Exodus 32:25-26).

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Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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