John the Baptist preached a message of new life in Christ exemplified by compassion, fairness in public service, and fairness in commercial interactions. The new life begins with repentance from the old way of living characterized by predatory human interactions and relationships. The old way focused on serving self and exploiting others for self-enrichment, not minding any cost to them. His message raised awareness for a lifetime commitment to Living in the Image of God and the promise of Christ ministry, for which he was the Forerunner.
Our program on Living in the Image of God continues this year (2022) with studies focused on understanding Christ teaching on Living in the Image of God based on the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In today’s session, we discuss the message of John the Baptist.
The bible provides a brief account of John the Baptist work as the Forerunner for Christ, describing his message of repentance for forgiveness of sins as he baptized people that came to him in the country around the river Jordan. He urged them to prepare for the Messiah by repenting from their current life of predatory human interactions and relationships and committing to a new life in Christ. He described the new life using examples from their community.
His message reflects the essence of his role as the Forerunner for Christ by drawing attention to Living in the Image of God. Christ would subsequently explain the new life in detail through formal teaching, parables, and real-life illustrations during his ministry. Therefore, our study of Living in the Image of God from the gospel begins with a discussion of John the Baptist message.
A man born blind received sight from Jesus and was motivated by appreciation to tell his story. Initially, he knew only the facts of his healing but did not understand what they meant regarding Jesus. He understood better as he discussed his experience more with others. In several interactions with the Pharisees, they pressured him to change his account to discredit or deny the healing but he was determined to protect the facts. He repeated the story more boldly and with greater clarity each time. The story led him incrementally to discover his mission of explaining to others that Jesus is the Messiah.
This bible study concludes our discussion of the testimony of a man born blind that received sight through an encounter with Jesus. As we discuss previously under Testimony of Man Born Blind—Part 1 Motivated by Appreciation, his appreciation for receiving sight motivated him to tell his story. He told his neighbors and other relations, sharing with them a factual account of his healing, but he did not yet know Jesus that healed him.
His neighbors took him to the Pharisees and he repeated his story to them several times. The Pharisees tried to persuade him to change his account to discredit or deny the healing. However, he insisted on the facts. Furthermore, he told the story more boldly each time and with greater clarity regarding Jesus (John 9:13–34).
First, the Pharisees tried to use the fact that the healing occurred on a Sabbath but couldn’t agree among themselves. Second, they questioned his parents, expecting to establish the man was not the blind person they knew. However, his parents confirmed it was him but did not try to explain how he gained sight. Third, the Pharisees tried unsuccessfully to persuade the man that Jesus was a sinner. Finally, they questioned him again and used his answer as a pretext to expel him from synagogue.
He met Jesus again thereafter, understood him more clearly, and became better prepared to continue with his mission of explaining to others that Jesus is the Messiah. Thus, within a period of no more than a few days, the man progressed from being an insignificant member of society to standing toe-to-toe against the Teachers of the Law, proclaiming to them and others that Jesus is the Messiah. All because of his appreciation for receiving sight and motivation to tell others about his experience.
Marital Commitment Founded on Love
Mary and Joseph relied on love to deal with human challenges they faced as part of their call to become parents of the Messiah. Mary was concerned about potential effects of the pregnancy on her relationship with Joseph. She surrendered her concerns to God. Joseph, on his part, was aware of Mary’s extraneous pregnancy but determined to protect her from public disgrace in the event of terminating the engagement in obedience to Jewish law. However, God sent him an angel to explain Mary’s pregnancy. Their love for each other prepared their heart to receive and execute their unique call and may well have been the reason they were chosen.
This study focuses on Mary and Joseph as a couple, using events from their life to seek better understanding of God’s purpose for husband-wife interactions and relationships. They were engaged to be married when God called them to host the Messiah as his human parents. They prevailed over the human challenges of their call because of strong marital commitment founded on love and relying on the faith of God to overcome difficulties.
The call came to Mary first. Angel Gabriel appeared to her in the town of Nazareth and informed her in a live human conversation that she will conceive of the Messiah through the power of the Holy Spirit. Her request for clarification reveals she was concerned about potential effects on her human relationships, especially with her fiancé Joseph. In her loyalty to human commitments, she asked for human understanding. However, after the angel explained the conception will be through the power of God, whereby “nothing will be impossible” [Luke 1:37], she obeyed and submitted her concerns wholeheartedly to God.
Joseph received his call as he considered his options for responding to his fiancée’s inexplicable pregnancy. He was loyal to a Jewish law that required him to terminate the engagement. However, he was concerned about her and wanted to protect her from public disgrace. Then an angel of God informed him in a dream that “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 1:20]. Furthermore, the angel informed Joseph he will be the human father of the Son of God that was conceived in Mary. The dream was sufficient for Joseph. He took Mary home to be his wife.
Through the concern she raised with the angel, Mary showed her love for Joseph and commitment to their engagement. Joseph, on his part, showed his love by seeking to protect Mary even if he had to obey the Jewish law. Both surrendered their concerns to God in complete obedience as soon as they recognized the call. Their love for each other determined their choices in a difficult challenge. Their faith of God gave them peace that their concerns will be resolved right. We discuss the events of their call to reach a conclusion that they were chosen because of their love for each other.