This weekend, our Sunday school class was going through Luke 3:1-21, which addresses the ministry of John the Baptist, or John the Immerser, who preached a ministry of repentance and action.
A question came up about why John, specifically. Why did the Messiah need an Elijah? Was it just to fulfill prophecy that there would be a precursor for the King?
Well, I don’t know if there’s an absolute answer, but I can certainly see analogs.
Messengers are used by God to reflect His glory in a way that we can understand and tolerate.
God is beyond us. (His ways are not our ways, Isaiah 55:8) If He were to show us Himself, we would not survive; see Exodus 33 for a simplistic example of this.
So God uses analogs, stories, parables, giving us examples that we can understand that reflect aspects of His Will for us. We understand the story of Jonah; we also understand the fall of Nineveh. These are analogs for Christ’s death for us, and the mercy of God upon sinners, and the punishment of continued sin.
The messengers prepare the way, and prepare our hearts for what is to come. “Be ready,” they say.
Further, they’re used as actors in God’s Will.
When you look at Samuel, you see God’s prophet – used to anoint two kings of Israel, Saul and David.
Nathan was used to tell David of his sin.
Elijah was used to proclaim Ahab’s return and his doom.
Jonah was used to rescue Nineveh from the precipice into which the city eventually leaped.
A king cannot anoint himself; he is a warlord in that case. A prophet is used to say “God has given us this man as our proper and blessed king.” Without that anointing by a true man of God, this king is a king in name only.
So why was John important to the life and ministry of Jesus?
He was the one who cried to make hearts ready for the coming of the King.
He was the one who proclaimed Jesus as Messiah.
His was the position of Elijah: going before the King, proclaiming and blessing Him.
John was a witness, one who testifies for Christ.
So are we to be: we are to proclaim the King, making hearts ready for Him. We cannot do the work the King does; we do not rule. Yet we, too, are called to be heralds, those who proclaim the coming of Christ.
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