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The Testimony of John the Baptist
Thank goodness for John the Baptist! If not for him, how much more difficult would Jesus' work have been? Everyone but John struggled with the things that Jesus said. In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus made it clear that he knew the leaders of Israel did not believe his words (John 3:11). Clearly, John's followers were having a hard time dealing with the decline in attention, and at the same time, Jesus' disciples were certainly confused by his teaching. In fact, from John the Baptist's perspective, no one had accepted Jesus' testimony, that is, no one but him!
John the Baptist was the first one to stand up and declare his belief in Jesus. He recognized the truth in Jesus' words. Surprisingly, he does not declare that Jesus was truthful, but he does declare with certainty that God was truthful. He declares that he has heard Jesus speak, and that he knows that God's words are being spoken.
With the testimony of John the Baptist, the gospel writer John is not only shifting the attention of his readers to what Jesus came to say, but also declares the message that Jesus spoke was a message from God. John's position is that Jesus was not telling us about his Father, rather that his Father was speaking through his Son to tell people about himself. Remember the words of Paul: "... God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself." (2 Cor.5:19). Through Jesus, God was making himself known to the world. This was the essence of John the Baptist's testimony. He said: "The one whom God has sent speaks the words of God..." (John 3:34).
The willingness of Jesus to speak the words of his Father is what gave him his power - unlimited access to the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus chose to do everything under the direction of his Father, there was no limit to what he could accomplish. All of his energy was directed toward championing the cause of God. Regardless of the circumstances, Jesus wanted his Father to be seen as he really was, and due to his desire, Jesus relied on his Father to show him what to do, what to say, and how to say it (John 12:49). By the end of his time with the disciples, Jesus could say with confidence: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9).
Isn't it possible that God intends for everyone he sends to have a similar access to the Holy Spirit? Consider the following experience of the disciples. Just before his ascension, Jesus directed them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The second chapter of Acts describes what happened when that amazing event took place. When they were ready to be sent, the Holy Spirit came to them in power. Wouldn't it be something to see that kind of demonstration today? Have you ever asked yourself why it doesn't happen? Maybe the problem isn't with God's willingness to provide the power. Instead, could the problem be in finding candidates who are willing to meet the conditions? For any individual to be sent by God, that person must be willing to speak his words, and according to John the Baptist's testimony, that was what Jesus did. When the disciples were willing to do this, Jesus sent them. It would appear to be a logical assumption that the power of the Holy Spirit would not accompany those who were unwilling or unable to do this. Could this have a bearing on why so little of the Spirit's power is seen in the modern world?
It is true that various groups in today's religious community offer examples of what they claim is evidence of Holy Spirit power. Some of these claims are quite astonishing, but do they really look and sound like the descriptions that the Bible provides concerning the work of Jesus and that of the disciples he sent? Since Jesus had access to the Spirit without limit, he must have presented a total picture of what Spirit power could do. Not only did his life reveal his Father, it also shows us what we can expect from the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus made it clear there wasn't a side of God's character he didn't reveal. In the same way, we shouldn't expect a different experience with the power of the Holy Spirit than what was demonstrated by Jesus.
During Jesus' ministry there were those who strongly disagreed with John the Baptist's testimony that Jesus spoke God's words. They did this because their teachings about God didn't agree with what Jesus said about his Father. Ultimately, each listener had to determine whom they were going to believe. The conclusion is obvious, but is easily overlooked. Changing the actors doesn't change the play.
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