Friday, January 14, 2011

John the Baptist: Sanhedrin Inquiry

As John grew up, he grew strong in the Spirit. At some point John moved out into the desert and sort of dropped out of sight.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, John reappeared, now a grown man, rugged, dressed in a camel’s hair and leather, eating only wild honey and locusts, and preaching what we’d call hell, fire and brimstone sermons. His big message was that everyone was a sinner, even good Jews were sinners, and they needed to repent and get ready for the Messiah Who was coming very soon.

As an outward sign of their repentance John was baptizing people in the River Jordan – baptizing everybody Greeks, Roman soldiers and even Jews alike. That Jews were willing to do this is downright amazing, because no prophet or religious leader had ever done this. Before only people trying to become Jews went through baptism. But John was saying nobody was right with God, not even Jews.

This made him a very controversial figure and people came by the thousands, out to the desert to hear him preach and to get baptized because a great spiritual hunger during that time; they wanted to know God. It was also politically a very turbulent time, and the whole known world was expecting a Messiah. Not just the Jews. Everyone expected a great leader to emerge, who would be bigger than life, maybe supernatural

So the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious leaders, sent a delegation to investigate John and his unorthodox baptism activity. These men were priests, who came from the extended family of the high priest, and other representatives from the tribe of Levi, who were also temple workers, and were Bible experts.

1) Who do you think you are? John was very forthright about not being the Messiah. Messiah means “the anointed one,” the king from David’s line who would be the everlasting king of Israel.

2) Are you Elijah? They knew that Elijah had not died, (2 Kings 2:11), and they believed Elijah was going to come back one day and announce, at the end of the Ages, that the anointed one, the Messiah, was coming.

John was very like Elijah, he dressed like him, he appeared suddenly, he was rustic like Elijah, having a similar lifestyle and preaching style, and he was full of the Holy Spirit; powerful. But he said no because it was not, literally, Elijah.

When the angel told Zechariah, John’s father, that he and his wife, an elderly and childless couple, were going to have this miracle baby, the angel said that John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah and prepare the way of the Lord.

Later, Jesus also said that John had come in the spirit of Elijah to announce the suffering Messiah – instead of the conquering Messiah King. One day Elijah will come and announce Jesus’ second coming as conquering King, but this was not that time.

3) Are you the Prophet? There was some confusion about Moses’ prophecy, whether he meant the Messiah, or some other great prophet, so the delegation was covering all their bases. John’s answer was very simple: “no.” The delegation was on the wrong track by pursuing John as anything special.

4) So who are you then? They wanted John to make a stand, religiously and politically. What did he stand for? Was he for or against The Sanhedrin and its interests? What authority did he think he had to run this big religious operation, as they saw it, in competition with the official religious authorities? They saw him as a threat to their establishment.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation


  1. You say you'd love to hear what I am thinking about too. So here it is and check it out
    for any sinner. Love (God) never fails! None will perish.

  2. Thanks for posting, Val. I went to your site and read through what you have there. Reading through your work, it struck me that you have done a lot of study on this topic, and have respect for carefully documenting your thoughts with scripture. I wish more Christians would be so careful and thoughtful with what they believe.

    Thank you for stopping by here, I appreciate your readership. Grace and peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ.


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