As we enter into this season of Advent, we are reminded of a spirit of waiting. Some two thousand years ago, the Israelites (God’s people) had been waiting centuries for the coming of the Savior—God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Ever since God promised that this Savior would crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15) and would come through Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12), the Israelites had been waiting. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). Jesus, the Savior finally here, on earth as one of us, to connect with us, to die for us and rise again in order to redeem us.
As prophesied, God would send a messenger before Jesus to prepare the way (Isaiah 40:3, Mark 1:2–3). This messenger was John the Baptist. Upon Jesus’ long awaited arrival, talk swept across the land. Is this really the Son of God? Is this the promised One? Is He the Savior of the world? Imagine the hopeful but cautious buzz in the air. Is it God in the flesh? The Savior of the world whom God promised to our forefathers? The people came to John with great expectation, and he consistently pointed them to Jesus (Luke 3:15–16). Today, we will discuss two different encounters between John and Jesus.
A WOMB ENCOUNTER
John the Baptist’s first run-in with Jesus was a womb-to-womb encounter. After the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would bear the Son of God, Jesus (Luke 1:31–32), Mary went to visit Elizabeth. In Elizabeth’s barrenness, God had reached down and also blessed her with a son, John (vv. 7–17). As Mary and Elizabeth greeted one another, Elizabeth’s baby (John) leaped for joy in her womb. What a moment! The Holy Spirit fell upon Elizabeth and revealed to her that Mary’s baby was the Lord Jesus Christ, and the unborn baby celebrated.
John’s womb encounter with Jesus filled him with joy. What an exciting emotion! It’s one filled with great happiness and pleasure. It’s one we all long for. And, as Scripture reminds us, Jesus is the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12). When the angel of the Lord pronounced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, the heavenly being announced, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10, emphasis added). Joy because Jesus, the long awaited Savior, is here. Joy because Jesus reconciles us back to God. Joy because His salvation is for all people. Jesus is the fulfillment of our joy. John’s womb encounter with Jesus filled John with the very same joy. A joy that was not there before—the kind that lasts forever despite any hardships. And when John grew up, it moved him to prepare the way for Jesus.
JOHN BAPTIZES JESUS
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John had an incredible encounter with Jesus when the Lord came to John to be baptized. Try to imagine Jesus asking you to baptize Him. What would go through your head? Immediately, John told Jesus that he himself was the one who needed baptizing (Matthew 3:14). But Jesus persisted and John agreed. Wouldn’t we all feel this way? Isn’t there something about Jesus’ presence that is so powerful it brings us to our knees?
In Mark 1:7, before John baptized Jesus, he preached to the crowds: “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” John did not consider himself worthy enough to untie Jesus’ sandals. Within the culture of the time, this was quite the statement, as “even a Hebrew slave was not required to do this menial task for his master!”
John’s encounter with Jesus humbled him. Later in John’s ministry, people came to him questioning Christ’s authority, and He responded with: “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28–30). The presence of Jesus— His glory, righteousness, power, kindness, care, love, forgiveness— humbled John and caused him to believe in someone greater than himself.