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(Part 1 of a Series—Two Essential Men: John and Joseph)

Randy-WhiteAs we consider the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, we turn to Luke 1 in order to understand the roles that two important men—Joseph and John—played in the unfolding of the Christmas story.

These two prominent men were chosen, of necessity, to be used in God’s plan of sending His Son to earth.

They were not chosen at random. Rather, God could not have selected anyone other than John—the only one who could be the legitimate forerunner of the Messiah—and Joseph—the only one who could be the legitimate earthly father of our Lord.

How can we make such bold claims? The answer will become clear as we examine each of these men from Scripture.

John the Baptist—Luke 1:5-17

Zacharias, a priest “of the course of Abia” (v. 5), may actually have been qualified to be the high priest—being a direct descendant of Aaron.

His wife Elisabeth was also a descendant of Aaron—and was actually named after Aaron’s wife (cf. Ex. 6:23).

At this point in the history of Israel, the high priest was appointed by the Roman government. Annas and Caiaphas are shown to be examples of this oppressive practice in the gospel accounts.

Thus a Roman-appointed so-called “priest” was filling the role of high priest at this time. However, there was a rotation of legitimate priests who functioned in the Temple under the direction of this appointed high priest. He would have allowed such religious activity for political purposes in order to keep the peace among the people.

It is important to realize that Zacharias and Elisabeth lived under the dispensation of the law. Although they certainly were not sinless, verse six tells us that they had thoroughly carried out the provisions of the Mosaic Law in their daily lives.

This couple, however, was very grieved by the fact that they had no children—and they longed for a child. While that would be a natural response, it is possible that there was something even more going on here. Let us consider how this situation may have come to pass.

It is possible that Zacharias was the exact priest who would have been qualified to serve in the position of high priest had he been allowed to do so. My proposal is that Zacharias—knowing that he would, in fact, be the high priest apart from the restrictions imposed by Roman rule—feared that the legitimacy of the priesthood would end with him since he had no son to fill that role.

It is in this context that we see what happened “while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course” (v. 8). His God-given task “was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord” (v. 9), but this assignment was interrupted by an amazing appearance of “an angel of the Lord” (v. 11).

The angel immediately told Zacharias that his prayer for a child had been heard (v. 13). Zacharias received a promise that Elisabeth would soon present him with a son named John. The angel then described startling results that would transpire throughout the nation as a result of the birth of this son (vv. 14-16), as well as the extraordinary ministry that this child would have one day as the very forerunner of the Messiah (v. 17).

If my hypothesis is correct that Zacharias should have been the legitimate high priest, then his son John would likewise have followed his father as the next high priest. Since John died as a martyr with no children (cf. Matt. 14:1-12), however, he would have been the final legitimate Jewish high priest. Therefore, it would make sense that John would transfer that priesthood to someone else.

The whole point of this passage, of course, is that the age of the Messiah was about to come upon the nation of Israel. Ultimately, we can understand why John would take that which was rightfully his and transfer it to the Christ.

As we look carefully at the prophetic Scriptures, we find insight into the nature of this forerunner of Christ in the book of Malachi. Malachi 2:7 describes a priest as “the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” This sounds very similar to Malachi 3:1, which precisely defines the role that John would fill as he would “prepare the way” for Jesus.

In Luke 1, we see this wonderful couple—Zacharias and Elisabeth—preparing to have a unique child by miraculous means. That child would fulfill the exact role that Malachi had prophesied for him, and would even anoint the Messiah in priestly fashion by means of immersion in water (cf. Matt. 3:13-17).

But what was really going on there at Jesus’ baptism?

While I am not dogmatic on this, it is possible that John, as the last legitimate high priest, was actually ordaining Jesus, the new priest, when he performed His baptism early in the gospel records.

These are fascinating things to meditate upon during these days leading up to Christmas, and we will reflect on more of them in the next installment in this series.

Editor’s Note: This blog article is taken from the following sermon, which you can watch in its entirety here:

(Read Part 2)

Copyright © 2015 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.

Scripture taken from the King James Version.