We are sharing a series of posts that will coincide through our Community Group study in the book of Mark. We created a free reading guide that outlines a plan for studying the book in its entirety. Find this free guide here, and join the conversation in the Community Group here.
Meeting John the Baptist
As the Well-Watered Women community began its five-week reading plan through the Gospel of Mark this week, I invited us to take a closer look at a prominent character: John the Baptist. In Part One of this post, I laid out our initial questions and introduced John. Now, let’s continue working through our questions and consider how to respond.
John the Baptist Points Us To Jesus
John’s preaching style would not be well received in today’s culture. Tell someone about their sin and you’ve instantly offended, perhaps even made an enemy. His message alone was one we would consider a turn-off. But John wasn’t interested in gaining more followers through popular thought and opinion. His life and ministry—everything he said and did—were meant to draw attention away from himself and toward Jesus.
Before he was even born, John was aware of the importance of Jesus (Luke 1:41). From the beginning of his ministry, he stated, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie” (Mark 1:7). John spoke and baptized and gave counsel to those who repented from their sin (Luke 3:10–14) in order that they might eventually follow Jesus.
One of the most fascinating parts of this story in Mark’s account is that Jesus went to John to be baptized. We might be confused by this, especially if we understand that Jesus was the Son of God. Why did Jesus need to be baptized? Was He confessing His own sin and repenting from it? These are appropriate questions to ask, and Mark doesn’t give us a clear answer. But this is a question we shouldn’t leave unanswered.
Let Scripture Teach Us About Scripture
Mark isn’t the only author in the Bible who taught about Jesus, so we can turn our attention to other parts of the Bible that address Jesus’ character. Paul, writing about Jesus in 2 Corinthians 5:21, said this: “For our sake He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.”
Peter also taught about Jesus’ righteousness by writing, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). Even the Old Testament prophet Isaiah explained in detail how Jesus would eventually suffer. Isaiah said: “And they made His [Jesus’] grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).
Jesus was sinless. He resisted temptation and walked in perfect obedience to God the Father (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus’ baptism was not a public confession of sin and repentance, but we do learn something about Jesus from Mark’s account of His baptism.
Jesus' Baptism Blessed Others
When Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened up and the Spirit came down upon Him. A voice said from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9–11). Jesus’ baptism provided several things for the people. It confirmed his identity as God. His baptism also enabled him to identify with people and marked the beginning of His public ministry. From this point on, John’s voice became less, and Jesus’ voice became greater. Now the people would begin to follow Jesus, the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
John the Baptist would fade into the background as Jesus began to teach and preach. The crowds would begin to press in, question, listen, believe, and respond to Jesus. Jesus the Messiah was on the scene.
John’s Response to Jesus Helps Us Respond to Jesus
Do you ever recognize your role in something as less important than someone else’s? How does it make you feel? I’ve been confronted with this reality multiple times just in the past year. Often, my initial response is to bristle. I want to prove that I’m worthy of recognition, or just as qualified and necessary to fulfill a particular role. If I’m honest, I often desire a place in the spotlight.
Not John. Look to Jesus, John said. Someone is coming after me who is much greater than I. I’m not worthy to even untie Jesus’ sandal strap. John pushed aside any claims others made that he was the Messiah. And when Jesus came on the scene to teach and preach, John literally pointed to Him so others would turn their eyes away from John and look to Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but the extent of John’s humility is convicting. Do we acknowledge our unworthiness in light of Jesus’ greatness? This kind of humility changes our response to God, and to others. When we see who we are in light of who Jesus is, we ought to be filled with humility and moved to worship the One who alone is worthy of all glory and praise.
Doubt and Belief
John the Baptist also responded to Jesus with belief. He believed Jesus was the Promised One, the Deliverer, who would rescue the people from their sin (John 1:29). But, John struggled in his faith. Later on in Mark, we discover that John the Baptist’s message of repentance did in fact offend someone—so much so that King Herod put John in prison. While he was in prison, John heard reports about Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching, and he needed reassurance. He sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask for clarification and confirmation that Jesus was indeed the Messiah (Luke 7:18–20).
I’m so grateful that Luke’s Gospel includes this story about John. When life feels hard, and circumstances don’t seem to provide the kind of deliverance I would expect Jesus to provide, my faith can waver. I wonder if perhaps John experienced a similar form of unbelief in the midst of his own difficulties. But John knew where to go with his doubts. He took them to Jesus, and Jesus offered the reassurance John needed (Luke 7:22–23). John was beheaded in prison, but he died knowing and believing Jesus was the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Joy Made Complete
Not only did John respond to Jesus in humility and belief, but he also responded with joy. When some of John’s disciples came to him and reported that Jesus was also baptizing people, and people were going to Jesus instead of John, John responded with these words: “‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28–30).
John’s joy was fulfilled because Jesus had come. How about you? Are you filled with rejoicing because Jesus has come? Do you know why Jesus came and the significance of His arrival for me, for you, and for all who believe in Jesus, the Christ?
Jesus came and fulfilled all the promises God made concerning Him in the Old Testament (2 Corinthians 1:20). Jesus lived and died and rose again that we might receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and a restored relationship with God. We have peace with God because of Jesus. We have a living hope because of Jesus. And we have abundant life because of Jesus. Just like John, who was pointing and looking toward Jesus’ arrival, we have the certain hope that one day Jesus is coming again.
Are we waiting with joy? Are we waiting with belief? And are we waiting with humility, pointing others to Jesus so they will know Him too?
John the Baptist raised a lot of questions for me, maybe for you too. I hope as I’ve shown you the answers to some of those questions you’ve been able to see how coming to our Bible study with childlike curiosity increases our faith and stirs our hearts. Just like John the Baptist, may we always look to Jesus, point to Jesus, and respond to Jesus in humility, faith, and joy.
Your friend, Lauren
Meet the author: Lauren Washer is a wife, mom of six, and a lifelong student of God’s Word. She’s actively involved in the women’s ministry of her local church through teaching the Bible and leading small groups. She learned how to study the Bible at Columbia International University, where she received a B.S. in Bible and Intercultural Studies. When she’s not playing LEGOs, changing diapers, or helping her older children navigate preteen emotions, she enjoys reading, cooking, and getting a full night of sleep. You can find more of her writing on Instagram or her website.