JOHN THE BAPTIST would not make a great church planter. He dressed weird. Held his meetings in the middle of nowhere. Doesn’t appear to have taken a class on how to welcome visitors: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7).
Somehow, though, his very contrariness seemed to draw people to him. Maybe the crowds were attracted by his flagrant disregard for anything but doing what God had told him to: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”(Luke 3:4).
Yet while he spoke plainly—even bluntly—most of the time, John could also be slightly coy: his words after baptizing Jesus in the Jordan include a fascinating, computer-style “Easter egg” extra tucked away.
For not only did he scandalize people by declaring Jesus to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), he appears to have slipped in a nod to another paradigm-shifting revelation—the Trinity.
The concept of three persons in the Godhead is not to be found explicitly in Scripture; the closest we get is in Matthew 28:19, when Jesus tells the apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” But for Christians, it’s a core doctrine woven through the fabric of God’s Word like a subtle thread.
Such an idea would have deeply offended the Jews, however, who avowed that “the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). Maybe that’s why John didn’t come and just spell it out, figuring that one big revelation at a time was enough. But he left a connect-the-dots trail for the curious to follow, when he declared (John 1:32-34):
I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.
Thus we have John’s three-pronged reference:
He spoke of the Father. He doesn’t use the actual word, but he refers to “he who sent me”—described for Israel in Deuteronomy 32:6 as “your father, who created you, who made you and established you.” And he later references the “Son of God,” of course, which necessitates a connecting relationship.
He spoke of the Spirit. John saw the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and remain on Jesus. Some may have remembered how God spoke of “My Spirit” (Gen. 6:3)—part of Him, not separate—or when He told Moses He would take “some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on [seventy of the elders]” (Num. 11:24).
He spoke of the Son. When John declared that Jesus was “the Son of God,” he might have been pointing people to the Messianic reference in Psalm 2:7, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’”
John did not define their relationship, but he described an inter-relatedness between the three—the One who sent the Spirit, the One on whom the Spirit descended, and the One who in turn would baptize others with the same Spirit.
Through all this, was John dropping a hint? Jesus at least suggested that the plain-spoken prophet might be saying more than people first heard. Speaking of John in Matthew 11:15, He urged, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Photo by NoSoma on Foter.com/CC BY