After his baptism, Christ was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to face the temptations of Satan. Meanwhile, the counsel of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, the most powerful religious leaders in the country, sent more priests to question John the Baptist. None of them had authorized John to preach his message. They wanted to know: Did he come as a man sent by God, or was he a renegade? Was he a threat? Could he be the Messiah?
John immediately made it clear to them that he was not the Messiah they were waiting for. So they barraged him with questions. If he wasn’t the Christ, who was he? A prophet? Elijah? What should they tell the leaders that sent them?
John answered them in the strength of what he knew, “‘I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” as Isaiah the prophet said.’” These were the words that God had revealed to him and to his parents, and he would not claim to be more or less.
Finally some of the Pharisees asked him: If he wasn’t one of these exalted figures that the Old Testament spoke of, what right did he have to go around baptizing people?
“‘I baptize with water,’ he said, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’”
Wow. Once again, John spoke with utter humility about his relationship to Jesus.
The men who came to question John believed their positions gave them authority to demand an answer. But John was the one that God had honored with the message of the coming Messiah. The blindness of the leaders to God’s plan showed the hardness of their hearts to His will.
Even as the religious leaders rejected God’s unfolding plan, many others believed in His message. Many became John’s disciples. They spent their days camping out near the river just to learn from his teaching.
At that time, John was still baptizing in the Jordan near a town called Bethany. After the angels ministered to Christ in the wilderness, He returned to the camp. One day, as Jesus was walking by, John told some of his disciples, “‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” Wow. That is a breathtakingly huge statement. Think of all the sin and evil that have been brought into the world from the curse. Every lie, every murder and genocide, every selfish deed or cruel joke …every low down, dirty sin, the worst parts of every person that ever lived…was somehow going to be taken away by this One Man. It was either the most spectacular, magnificent truth this cursed world has ever heard, or it was an absurd lie, and John was a total nutcase!
Then John declared, “‘…the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.’” Wow. John believed so deeply in what he preached and in the meaning of what Christ was going to do that he thought it was worth his whole life to tell about it. The angelic appearance to his father in the Holy of holies, his mother’s miraculous pregnancy, the long years in the wilderness…all of it was about Jesus, the carpenter from Galilee. How did John know? How could he be sure that this cousin of his was the Messiah of the prophets of old?
Well, John admitted that if God had not shown him that Jesus was the One, he wouldn’t have known. But he had faith in what God said. God had told John that when the right Person came, he would see the Holy Spirit descend on Him. That is exactly what happened when he baptized Jesus. John was certain that God the Father had revealed the Messiah. He explained that he had been baptizing with water, but this Man would baptize with the Holy Spirit of God Himself! And so he began to boldly declared, “‘I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.’”
The next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, and again Jesus walked by. He said, “‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” The men knew that John spoke the Word of Truth, so the two disciples went and followed after Jesus. The Lord turned around and saw them coming from behind. “‘What do you want?’” He asked.
They said, “‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’” Now, the word “Rabbi” means teacher, but it does not mean just any teacher. It means my teacher. These disciples of John were asking Jesus to take them on as His own disciples.
“‘Come,’ he replied, “‘and you will see.’” At that point, it was about four in the afternoon. The men went with Jesus and spent the day with Him. One of the men was named Andrew. As soon as he heard what John said about Jesus, he went to find his brother, a man named Simon. Imagine how excited he must have been when he said, “‘We have found the Messiah!’” Then he took Simon straight to Jesus. When Jesus saw Simon, He said, “‘You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas (which is also Peter. It means “rock.”).
The next day Jesus planned to go back to Galilee. He went up to a man named Philip and said, “‘Follow me.’” Philip was from Bethsaida, the same town as Peter and Andrew. It was really a village that sat right on the edge of the water on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. Philip went to find his friend named Nathaniel so that he could come with them. He said, “‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”
Nathan said, “‘Nazareth! Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’” You see, there were many nice towns and fancy places in Israel to be from, and Nazareth was not one of them. It seemed funny and strange to Nathaniel that the Messiah could be from such a dumpy place. But Philip could not be distracted. “‘Come and see!’” he insisted.
As Nathaniel walked up to Jesus said, “‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’”
“‘How do you know me?’ Nathaniel asked.”
“Jesus answered, “‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’”
Nathaniel was stunned. He cried out, “‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’”
Jesus said back, “‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that…I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” Wow.
Can you imagine the excitement of these disciples as they talked with Jesus on their way to Galilee? John the Baptist said He was the Messiah, and now He had chosen them to walk with Him!