I have long struggled to appreciate John’s role in Salvation History. Sure, Jesus affirms John by calling him the greatest person ever physically born (Luke 7:28). Nevertheless, his inclusion at the beginning of each Gospel has always seemed like a distraction to me. This year, more than ever before, I am beginning to love John and the role that he plays in the Gospel. In case your encounter with John is anything like mine, here are a few insights that God has given me through my study that might help you to love him more:
- John’s greatness is directly related to his proximity to Jesus. His ministry is interlinked with the ministry of the Messiah and this makes him great. Likewise, the closer we get to Jesus the greater we are in God’s economy.
- John embodies the Old Covenant. If we want to understand the mission and nature of the Old Covenant, all we need do is look to the ministry of John (Luke 3:1–22). Even John’s execution by decapitation is highly symbolic of the end of the Old Covenant (Luke 9:9).
- John loves Jesus and longs for the New Covenant. John is not jealous for himself or the covenant he champions. In stead, he says, “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Synonymous with John’s decrease is the fading away of the Old Covenant and the establishment of the New.
- John resists Israel’s desire to make him King. From the moment of John’s birth, people wondered if he might be their long-awaited Messiah (Luke 1:66, 3:15). And yet, John continually rejected this surge of popular support by virtually abdicating this honour to Jesus (Luke 3:16–17). What kind of a man points to another when the masses are ready to exalt him and make him King? Only a man filled with the Holy Spirit, whose flesh is supernaturally submissive to the will of God.
- John’s name literally means “God is gracious.” What a beautiful name for the last and greatest prophet of the Old Covenant. At the turning point between the two covenants God makes a point of emphasizing His grace. Jesus’ name literally means, “The LORD saves.” Thus, with in naming John and Jesus, God is saying to us, “God is gracious, the LORD saves.”
John is fast becoming one of my favourite pieces of the Christmas story. I pray that same joy for you this year.