The Review and Herald

84/1902

March 4, 1873

John's Mission and Death

EGW

Disciples were being daily added to Christ, and people flocked from cities and villages to hear him. Many came to him for baptism; but Christ baptized none. His disciples performed this ordinance. And while Christ's disciples were baptizing large numbers, there arose a question among the Jews and the disciples of John, whether the act of baptism purified the sinner from the guilt of sin. The disciples of John answered that John baptized only unto repentance, but Christ's disciples unto a new life. John's disciples were jealous of the popularity of Christ, and said to John, referring to Christ, “He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing except it be given him from Heaven.” RH March 4, 1873, par. 1

In this answer, John virtually says, Why should you be jealous on my account? “Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled.” RH March 4, 1873, par. 2

John, so far from being jealous of the prosperity of Christ's mission, rejoices as he witnesses the success of the work he came to do. He assures his disciples that his special mission was to direct the attention of the people to Christ. “He must increase; but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all. He that is of the earth is earthy, and speaketh of the earth. He that cometh from Heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.” RH March 4, 1873, par. 3

John assured his disciples that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world. As his work was closing, he taught his disciples to look to Jesus, and follow him as the great teacher. John's life, with the exception of the joy he experienced in witnessing the success of his mission, was without pleasure. It was one of sorrow and self-denial. He who heralded the first advent of Christ, was not permitted personally to hear him, nor to witness the power manifested by him. John's voice was seldom heard, except in the wilderness. His life was lonely. Multitudes had flocked to the wilderness to hear the words of the wonderful prophet. He had laid the ax at the root of the tree. He had reproved sin, fearless of the consequences, and prepared the way for the ministry of Christ. RH March 4, 1873, par. 4

Herod was affected as he listened to the pointed testimony of John, and, with deep interest, he inquired what he must do to become his disciple. He was convicted by the plain truths uttered by John. His conscience condemned him, for a woman of vile passions had gained his affections and controlled his mind. This unprincipled woman was ambitious for power and authority, and thought if she became the wife of Herod, her object would be gained. As Herod listened to the practical truths proclaimed by John, reproving the transgression of the law of God, and setting forth the future punishment which the guilty must suffer, he trembled, and greatly desired to break the chain of lust which held him. He opened his mind to John, who brought Herod to the law of God, face to face, and told him it would be impossible for him to have part in the kingdom of the Messiah unless he should break away from the unlawful connections with his brother's wife, and, with his whole heart, obey the commandments of God. RH March 4, 1873, par. 5

Herod was inclined to act upon the advice of John, and stated to Herodias that he could not marry her in defiance of the law of God. But this determined woman would not be thwarted in her designs. Intense hatred was awakened in her heart toward John. Herod was weak in principle, vacillating in mind, and Herodias had no great difficulty in re-establishing herself in his favor, and holding her influence over him. Herod yielded to the pleasures of sin, rather than submit to the restrictions of the law of God. RH March 4, 1873, par. 6

When Herodias had gained influence over Herod, she determined to be revenged upon the prophet for his daring to reprove their course of crime. And she influenced him to imprison John. But Herod intended to release him. While confined in prison, John heard, through his disciples, of the mighty works of Jesus. He could not personally listen to his gracious words; but the disciples informed him, and comforted him with a relation of what they had seen and heard. RH March 4, 1873, par. 7

John having spent his life in the open air, in active, persevering labor, enduring privations, hardship, and toil, he had never before experienced the trials of confined living. He therefore became desponding, and even doubts troubled him whether Christ was indeed the Messiah. His disciples had brought to him accounts of the wonderful things they had witnessed in the ministry of Christ. But he concluded that if Christ was indeed the Messiah, he would publicly proclaim himself as the Saviour of the world. RH March 4, 1873, par. 8

John had indistinct ideas of the kingdom Christ came to establish, as also had the disciples of Christ. They thought Christ would establish a temporal kingdom, and reign upon the throne of David in Jerusalem. He became impatient because Christ did not immediately make himself known, assume kingly authority, and subdue the Romans. He hoped that if Christ established his kingdom, he would be brought out of prison. He decided that if Jesus was really the Son of God, and could do all things, he would exercise his power and set him at liberty. RH March 4, 1873, par. 9

John sent his disciples to inquire of Christ, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” The disciples sought the presence of Christ; but they could not communicate with him immediately, because of the crowd who were bearing the sick to Jesus. The afflicted, blind, and lame, were passing through the throng. The disciples of John saw the miracles of Christ, and that at his word the lifeless clay became animate, and the glow of health took the place of the pallor of death. Jesus said to the disciples of John, “Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” RH March 4, 1873, par. 10

In these words, John is gently reproved for his impatience. The cautious reproof returned to John was not lost upon him. He then better understood the character of Christ's mission. And with submission and faith, he yielded himself into the hands of God, to live, or to die, as should best advance his glory. RH March 4, 1873, par. 11

After the disciples of John had departed, Jesus addressed the multitude concerning John, “What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” Jesus knew that a reed trembling in the wind was the very opposite of John's character. John could not be moved by flattery, nor be deceived by prevailing errors. Neither could he be turned aside from the work he came to do, by rewards, or worldly honors. He would preserve his integrity at the expense of his life. Steadfast as a rock stood the prophet of God, faithful to rebuke sin and crime in all their forms, in kings and nobles, as readily as in the unhonored and unknown. He swerved not from duty. Loyal to his God, in noble dignity of moral character, he stood firm as a rock, faithful to principle. RH March 4, 1873, par. 12

“But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” RH March 4, 1873, par. 13

The people whom Christ addressed well knew that the apparel worn by John was the opposite of that worn in royal palaces. Christ virtually inquires, What motive induced you to flock to the wilderness to hear the preaching of John? The wilderness is not the place to find those who live delicately, and who clothe themselves in rich, soft apparel. Christ would have them observe the contrast between the clothing of John and that of the Jewish priests. The prophet wore a plain, rough garment, possessing no beauty, but answering the purpose for which clothing was first designed. In marked contrast to the clothing of John, was the gorgeous apparel of the Jewish priests. The burden of the priests and elders was outward display, thinking that they would be reverenced in accordance with their external appearance. They were more anxious for the admiration of men, than for spotless purity of character and holiness of life, that they might meet the approval of God. RH March 4, 1873, par. 14

Christ admonished his disciples, and also the multitude, to follow that which was good in the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees, but not to imitate their wrong example, and not be deceived by their ambitious pretension. RH March 4, 1873, par. 15

He says, “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen of men; they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” RH March 4, 1873, par. 16

John saw that the Jews who made high pretensions to piety, were exalting and glorifying themselves. Portions of the law were printed and bound upon their foreheads, and about their wrists. God had commanded the children of Israel to have a ribbon of blue in the border of their garments, upon which was embroidered words of the law, which expressed in short the ten commandments, to remind them of their duty to love God supremely, and to love their neighbor as themselves. The farther they departed from their primitive purity, and simplicity in their words and example, and the more their works were directly contrary to the law of God, the more particular were they to make broad their phylacteries, and add to the words that God had specified that they should have in the ribbon of blue. In their outward appearance, they were expressing exalted devotion and sanctity, while their works were in the widest contrast. RH March 4, 1873, par. 17

The spirit of reform was stirring the soul of John. The spirit of wisdom and the power of God were upon him. Inspiration from Heaven and holy zeal led him to denounce the Jewish priests, and pronounce the curse of God upon them. They made high pretensions to godliness by their gorgeous apparel, while they were strangers to mercy and the love of God. And while the Pharisees were very exact in their dress to inspire awe and command respect of men, they were abhorred of God. They did not conform their heart and life to the will and word of God. They deceived themselves with the vain supposition that eternal blessings were theirs by virtue of the promises made to Abraham, the father of the faithful. They were not clothed with humility. They bore no resemblance to the faith and piety of Abraham. They had not earned by integrity and purity of life, moral worth, which would ally them to Abraham as his children, to share with him the promises. RH March 4, 1873, par. 18

(To be continued.)