One time, when he was teaching people in the Temple and preaching the Gospel, the chief priests and the scribes, along with the elders, confronted him. They said, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things. Who gave you this authority?” (Luke 20:1-2)
Why is Jesus discussing John the Baptist?
Why, when Jesus is asked about his authority, did he bring up John the Baptist? What did John's Baptism have to do with Jesus' authority?
The answer to this question will disturb the many sectarian teachers and their institutions who don't know Jesus but claim to follow him. Why?
Because most of the Judean people accepted John the Baptist as a Prophet - as did Jesus - and Jesus was John's student. This was the meaning of Jesus' being baptised by John. Today baptism is a ritualistic ceremony to many institutions, often seen as that person's joining a particular sect or church. Yet this wasn't the meaning of the baptism given by John - as indicated by Jesus in his statement above.
The fact that most people accepted John as a Prophet was evidenced by the chief priests' discussion among themselves after Jesus' statement:
They discussed this among themselves – “If we say, ‘From heaven’ he will say, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ everyone will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” (Luke 20:5-6)Yes, the baptism of John was from heaven: It was spiritual. John's baptism also meant the student was accepting John as his spiritual teacher, and the spiritual teacher was accepting the student. This is why the spiritual teacher - in the case, John - was doing the baptizing. Those who were receiving the baptism by John - including Jesus - were accepting John as their spiritual teacher. They were being initiated as John's students.
What is baptism?
Whatever means God's representative uses to initiate a student becomes a rite of passage. This represents the student's decision to give up the chase for happiness within the material world. And it symbolizes giving oneself into the service of the Supreme Being. The student is essentially accepting the spiritual teacher as God's representative. And the teacher is accepting the student.
Sectarian teachers don't like to hear about this. They don't want to admit that Jesus was John's student. Nor do they want to admit that Jesus' teachings reflected John's teachings.
Yes, Jesus was special, and John realized this. But he still baptized him and Jesus still accepted John's baptism.
And yes, they did have different teaching methods. Jesus traveled to different towns while John taught in the desert. So their teachings may have differed in terms of delivery and time and circumstance. But essentially, John's teachings reflected the teachings of the Prophets, and Jesus' teachings reflected John's teachings.
Jesus passed on John's teachings
How do we know that Jesus became John's student? We can know by the fact that Jesus carried on John's teachings. John's teachings were summarized in the following manner:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matt. 3:1-2)Then we find later that Jesus also taught this very same teaching:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matt. 4:17)But what is, "from that time on" referring to? We find the answer two verses back from this one:
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. (Matt. 4:12)Thus we find that Jesus began to teach what John was teaching after John was put in prison. He was continuing the teachings of his teacher.
Next we find that Jesus tells his own students to pass on this very same teaching:
"As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'" (Matt. 10:7)Jesus didn't just tell his twelve disciples to teach this message of John's either. He told many others to preach this on his behalf:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two....So we find that Jesus was passing on John's teachings, and asking his students to do the same thing that he was doing:
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'" (Luke 10:1-9)
Passing on the teachings of his beloved teacher.
This is the central aspect of the spiritual realm: Love.
Yes, Jesus loved and honored his teacher, John. We can see that in another statement by Jesus:
"Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist..." (Matt. 11:11)When the Supreme Being sends His representatives to teach us about Him, they come to the earth out of love. They are loving us. They are wanting us to return to our innate relationship with the Supreme Being. And each of His representatives loves and honors each other as well.
God's representative is also loving God and loving all of God's children. This is why they are willing to be persecuted for their teachings. This is why John would not retract his teachings - and was persecuted as a result. And this is also why Jesus would not retract his teachings to the chief priests or Roman governor either. Because of love. He loved us so much that he wanted us to understand just how important love for the Supreme Being is.
But what does, "The kingdom of God has come near to you" mean?
This is the NIV translation. The King James translation says, 'Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' And still other translations have it otherwise.
Many sectarian teachers who claim to follow Jesus say that John and Jesus were predicting the end of the world. Why then hasn't the world come to an end then? Certainly, the students of John and Jesus didn't experience the end of the world 2,000 years ago. And neither have we. So were John, Jesus and Jesus' students all lying to their students about the end of the world coming?
Certainly not. The problem is with the translation and interpretation of this statement.
The phrases, 'near to you' and 'at hand' are being translated from the Greek word, ἐγγίζω (eggizō). This word isn't speaking of the element of time - as often portrayed, as in the end of the world. This word means, according to the lexicon, "to bring near, to join one thing to another" and "to draw or come near to, to approach."
This indicates that they were speaking of proximity. Being nearby. So what is it that is nearby?
John and Jesus are teaching us that God is nearby. God is available to us. We can each reach out to God personally from within our hearts and reconnect with Him.
For this reason, the Gospels of Jesus translates this phrase differently:
“Change your heart, for the sanctuary of God is readily available.” (Matt. 3:2, Matt. 4:17, Matt. 10:7, Luke 10:9)Yes the Greek word, μετανοέω (metanoeō), can be translated to "repent." But it functionally means to have a change of heart. It means to change from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.
You see, each of us is intimately connected with the Supreme Being. We each have a unique loving service relationship with the Supreme Being.
We have forgotten this relationship
We became self-centered and have fallen to the material world and taken on a physical body. And now we mistakenly identify ourselves with this physical body. And the names and forms of this temporary physical world.
Scientifically, we can prove that we are not these physical bodies, We are each spirit-persons residing within a temporary physical body. When the physical body dies, each of us leaves the physical body behind.
And where we go depends upon our consciousness. Do we want to return to the spiritual realm?
If we do, then we can. But we should know that the environment of the spiritual realm is such that everyone is in love with the Supreme Being. Everyone wants to please Him. And everyone is involved in some kind of intimate relationship with the Supreme Being. The inhabitants of the spiritual realm don't even see the Supreme Being as God. They simply see Him as their Beloved - their Perfect Person.
This is our natural position - to have someone we love and adore who is the center of our lives. This is why we each go through our physical lives searching for that one soul mate who is perfect for us. Because we have forgotten our innate relationship with the Perfect Person.
This is what Jesus - and his teacher John - and all the Prophets - and all the students of Jesus that passed on his teachings - have been trying to tell us. They have come to rescue us. They have come to help us remember our innate loving relationship with the Supreme Being. This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)