In the previous article of Sharing the Word, the account was given of John the Baptist’s imprisonment for having exposed Herod’s adulterous lifestyle. This prophet of God was a “voice” whose mission was to warn the nation Israel of their sin and call the people to return to the true God. He, as with previous prophets, preached repentance, that is, a change of thinking. There was a greater meaning to the sacrifices and observance of the Mosaic Law than just simply going through the motions.
Every animal sacrifice spoke of the Lamb of God who would enter the human race for the purpose of providing salvation and a relationship with God. John had identified the Savior on more than one occasion … “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'
Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." 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” (John 1:29-30, 32-36 NIV)!
Sin could not be atoned by means of animal sacrifices or by keeping the Law, for man by nature was a sinner alienated from God. The Law exposed man’s inability to attain righteousness through self-effort. The Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Rome … “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom 3:19-22a NIV).
That was the good news preached by the apostle, but it would eventually cost him his life. As with Paul, John the Baptist would find himself in prison, soon to be executed. Both of these men would face death for the sake of Jesus Christ. Their greatness in the Plan of God was evident; one to announce the coming of Savior and the other one to expound on His Person and saving Work. However, these men were not immune to the weaknesses of the flesh.
In prison, John the Baptist was experiencing discouragement and doubt. As he reflected on his ministry amidst the adversity he now faced, he needed to be reassured that Jesus Christ was indeed the Lamb of God. “When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else” (Matt 11:2-3 NIV)?
The answer came from the Living Word Himself … “Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Matt 11:4-6 NIV). Jesus quoted from the message of Isaiah concerning the Messiah who would go to the Cross and pay the sin debt of mankind, so that by simply having faith in that accomplished Work, any and all would have eternal life.