How did the Baptist know Christ’s mission?

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By BibleAsk Team


John the Baptist is a pivotal figure in the New Testament, recognized for his role in preparing the way for Jesus Christ. The knowledge John the Baptist had about Christ’s mission can be understood through various scriptural references of the Bible.

Divine Revelation and Prophecy

John the Baptist’s understanding of Christ’s mission is deeply rooted in divine revelation and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. The angel Gabriel announced John’s birth to his father, Zacharias, while prophesying John’s role in God’s plan. In Luke 1:13-17 (NKJV), the angel says:

“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'”

This passage highlights that John was set apart from birth, filled with the Holy Spirit, and destined to prepare the way for the Lord. The reference to Elijah indicates that John would carry out a prophetic ministry similar to that of Elijah, heralding the arrival of the Messiah.

Personal Experience and Recognition

John’s personal recognition of Jesus as the Christ is evident in his baptismal ministry. The Gospel of John records a significant event where John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. In John 1:29-34 (NKJV), it states:

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.” I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.’ And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.'”

John’s declaration is based on a divine sign he witnessed—the Spirit descending upon Jesus. This revelation confirmed Jesus’ identity and mission as the Messiah. John acknowledges that although he did not initially know Jesus in His messianic role, the one who sent him to baptize (God) had given him a specific sign to identify the Christ.

Scriptural Fulfillment

John the Baptist’s mission and message also align with Old Testament prophecies, reinforcing his understanding of Christ’s mission. Isaiah 40:3 (NKJV) prophesies about a voice crying in the wilderness:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'”

This prophecy is directly applied to John in the New Testament. In Matthew 3:1-3 (NKJV), it is written:

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.”'”

John’s role as the forerunner to Christ was to prepare the people for the coming Messiah, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. His call to repentance and baptism was a preparatory act for the greater work that Jesus would accomplish through His death and resurrection.

Testimony and Witness

John’s testimony about Jesus further reveals his knowledge of Christ’s mission. John 3:25-30 (NKJV) recounts a conversation between John and his disciples about Jesus’ growing ministry:

“Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!’ John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ,” but, “I have been sent before Him.” He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.'”

John’s response demonstrates his clear understanding of his role relative to Jesus. He acknowledges that Jesus is the bridegroom (a metaphor for the Messiah), and he is merely the friend of the bridegroom, preparing the way. John’s mission was to point people to Jesus, recognizing that Jesus’ ministry would surpass his own.

Inspired Insight

John the Baptist’s insight into Christ’s mission was also inspired by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:41-45 (NKJV) describes the meeting between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John:

“And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.'”

Even before his birth, John, filled with the Holy Spirit, responded to the presence of Jesus. This prenatal recognition underscores the divine nature of his mission and the deep spiritual awareness that accompanied him throughout his life.

Later on, God gave John the Baptist a knowledge of the basic nature of Christ’s mission for he was to be the herald of the coming of Messiah. John’s mind was illuminated by the Holy Spirit and he understood the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53. He knew that the Messiah would be “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, NKJV).

Conclusion

John the Baptist’s knowledge of Christ’s mission was multifaceted, combining divine revelation, scriptural prophecy, personal experience, and inspired insight. From his miraculous birth and the angelic announcements to his baptismal ministry and recognition of Jesus as the Lamb of God, John’s life was a testament to his unique role in God’s plan. He fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi, heralding the arrival of the Messiah and preparing the hearts of the people for Jesus’ redemptive work. Through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, John accurately understood and proclaimed the mission of Christ, paving the way for the salvation that Jesus would bring to the world.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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