Why does John the Baptist try to prevent Jesus from being baptized?

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B.L.Smith

Puritan Board Freshman
Prior to Jesus being baptized, John was confused about why Jesus would want to be baptized. Why? Many commentators say it's because John's baptism is a baptism of repentance (Mark 1:4) but this would have to mean that John the Baptist would then know that Jesus is the sinless Son of God and the Messiah Right? But how? I mean, isn't the whole reason why John is baptizing with water is to reveal the Messiah (John 1:31). So why prevent Jesus? I mean, if John the Baptist didn't know he was the Messiah then why prevent him?
 

B.L.Smith

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you brother! I believe the scriptures are right in what they say, and it is I that fail to understand. Just looking for some guidance. I've read the event in all four Gospels. There must be some significance to this in the questions that I've raised. Here's what John 1:29-34 says: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world this is the one I told you about after me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he exists before me I DIDN'T KNOW HIM but I came baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel in John testified I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and he rested on him I DIDN'T KNOW HIM but he who sent me to baptize with water told me the one you see the spirit descending and resting on he is the one who baptizes with the holy Spirit I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God." So again, why does John the Baptist not want to baptize Jesus if he DOES NOT KNOW HIM? Matthew 3:13 "but John tried to stop him saying I need to be baptized by you and yet you come to me?" In case this question is raised to me someday- I would like to better understand it and answer their question with clarity.
 

CovenantWord

Puritan Board Freshman
I suggest that it is not consonant with John's comportment toward Jesus to hold that he was reluctant to baptize Him, in the sense that it was somehow amiss for him to do so. Still less can we plausibly claim that John sought to correct a perceived error in Jesus' request. Instead, John presented himself as a servant of Heaven, with a particular commission; and he recognized in Jesus the glorious, personal, immediate fulfillment of that commission. That is, he saw Jesus as a greater Servant of Heaven than himself. His initial response to Jesus' request for baptism publicly announced his recognition thereof and, in effect, requested authoritative direction from Jesus on the matter. This he received, immediately acted upon, and later testified to the power of. Now, it is true that he was slow to understand the merciful, gracious, nonpolitical nature of Jesus' earthly ministry (Matt. 10:2-6); but, even in his puzzled inquiry, John never deviated from his attitude toward Jesus as the superior Servant, better qualified to reveal and to foster the Kingdom. At the moment of Jesus' baptism, John taught his audience that it would have been presumptuous for him to launch the ministry of that revelation by means emanating from his own previously granted authority.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
As I read the passage, bringing as much of the knowledge the facts of the baptism I already have with me...

--John sees Jesus on the day after he baptized him, and makes the statements we read in vv29-34, possibly inclusive of vv35-36 (read to the end below).
--He proclaims him the Lamb and Son of God.
--He rehearses some of the matter which even before the previous day he was teaching his (John's) disciples.
--"I didn't know him," refers to the fact that John did not have prior knowledge as to who Messiah (or Christ) was before he was revealed.
--It also indicates that John did not know the full context in which the revelation would occur. John did not know he would be baptizing the person who was Messiah, and in such context (broadly conceived) would come the revelation.
--What John knew was: the Spirit would descend to rest on One who would be performing a mightier baptism than he (John) was typologically performing.
--The spiritual quality of Messiah John (rightly) assumed would constitute the former the preferable baptizer of the latter.

--It appears from Mt.13:14 that John recognizes Jesus is the Christ before baptizing him.
--It appears (at first reading) from Jn.1:33 that John recognizes Jesus is the Christ in process/after baptizing him. This seems in conflict with Mt.13:14.
--The facts are: John, while he was baptizing the masses, among them he baptized a certain man; and having done, this visible sign of the dove then singled him out and revealed him after the sign had been done/applied.
--The alighting of the dove is a moment of public revelation; it is not simply a sign John receives alone with no general observation.
--John does not say that by the sign he came to recognize the identity of Messiah.
--John does not say the advance revelation he received taught him the method by which he should identify Messiah hitherto unknown to him.
--Rather, the dove alighting was the sign by which he should begin to point Jesus out publicly as being the Messiah hitherto unknown to the public.

--Clearly, John at one time had not expected that any he should baptize in preparation for Messiah's arrival should also BE Messiah.
--Messiah, John expected, would receive those baptized by John, and Messiah would baptize them all (including John) with them Holy Spirit.
--However, we should recall that John was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb; and in the end, John is taken from this world before the general baptism of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). John stands at the threshold of the NT, is an OT believer, and has the typological possession of the Holy Spirit in great (fullness of) power; furthermore, as one who recognizes (the first person so to?) Jesus the Christ, John is the rough equivalent of a Spirit-filled NT believer.
--John's comment about needing to be baptized by Messiah could refer to the Holy Spirit's baptism as from Messiah; or that John simply saw that he was the one who ought to be receiving the sign of baptism in any exchange between the two; perhaps Jesus could even use another servant to perform the watery duty.

--As to how John recognized Jesus, even before he baptized him: it seems most likely that the Spirit within John identified Jesus privately, i.e. within his own spirit. How soon prior to Jesus standing by for baptism is unimportant, though probably it was not too soon; otherwise, John's statement about his prior ignorance would hardly be true.
--The statement about John's prior ignorance is set in the context of the present ignorance of the crowd, Jn.1:26, which in the inception of the baptizing ministry John shared. There was a moment when John was fully as uninformed (lacked revelation) as they, which ignorance he is later set to remove--he being the instrument of revelation (along with the dove-sign, which some of them surely saw). John started his ministry in the same position as all the other OT prophets, i.e. not having met the exact person he was anticipating. If John was ever in contact with his cousin Jesus of Nazareth, we don't know; and plainly he did not know him as the Christ.
--V29 clearly shows John no longer unknowing but knowing (the NEXT day, a later date) who Jesus is, as he announces him to be the Lamb of God (& Son, v34). vv30-31 then have him describe what he was earlier preaching about this One even prior to his own private revelation. And, we must conclude, also following the moment of Jesus' baptism by John, also on a PREVIOUS day, accompanied by the sign. His private revelation could have been as late as immediately before the baptism, which was probably as recent as the day prior (my own view).
--In v32 John bears witness to the sign. The statement of v33, "I did not know him," cannot refer to the moment of the baptism itself (per Mt.3:14); but to the earlier time of the inception of his ministry, v.26, when the lack of revelation was general.
--What he testifies in vv33-34 is that he had the testimony about the public sign and its meaning before that sign was given in history. He does not say that the sign itself taught him who Jesus was in the moment.
--Vv35-36 seems to me to refer to the same day after the baptism (it could be a following next day); and that is when John speaks so as to have his own disciples transfer their allegiance to the "Lamb of God." Obviously, the baptism of Jesus is on some day previous to this one.
 

B.L.Smith

Puritan Board Freshman
So, John the Baptist was baptizing to see who the Messiah would be Right? Yet, he didn't want to baptize Jesus Why? Short answer please I mean no disrespect. Thank you so much for everything everyone has wrote I've read it all and I'm sure I'll probably read it all again. Thank you all so much sorry that I'm so difficult.
 

B.L.Smith

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't need to understand everything. scripture says it so I believe it. The Trinity for example comes to mind. I believe it because the scriptures reveals it. But this just seems like something I should be able to have a short and quick answer for-say to a child if one was to ask me asked me.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
So, John the Baptist was baptizing to see who the Messiah would be Right? Yet, he didn't want to baptize Jesus Why? Short answer please I mean no disrespect. Thank you so much for everything everyone has wrote I've read it all and I'm sure I'll probably read it all again. Thank you all so much sorry that I'm so difficult.
Brother, a short answer to what you're focused on here was offered by Grant in the first response to the thread. He seems to have taken that down, because then you clarified in your second post that you really wanted to know why John said, "I didn't know him."

So, I answered how (I think) John ought to be understood when he said, "I didn't know him." Now, you seem back to re-asking the first Q, my reply seeming a bit long to wade through (sorry).

The reason why John didn't feel like it was proper for him to baptize Messiah was (to quote myself above) "The spiritual quality of Messiah John (rightly) assumed would constitute the former (Messiah) the preferable baptizer of the latter (John).

If you were under the impression John was baptizing in order to discover Messiah, then: No, John was not baptizing "to see who the Messiah would be." That's nowhere in any of the texts of the Gospels. He did not start baptizing in order to see for himself and reveal to others that Person on whom the dove would alight as he was baptized.

The text does not say Jn.1:31-33, that John's expectation was that while he baptized the Christ with water, the sign would appear. WHEN the dove-sign would appear (the sign of Holy Spirit descending shown by dove alighting) was not promised to happen as John baptized HIM. Only that it would take place as John baptized, the subjects being the crowds who came.
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
The shortest answer I think would be:

John felt unworthy.

That short answer should speak volumes to us as believers. It also helps us wrestle with our own warranted feelings of unworthiness.

P.S. I deleted my first response because Bruce handled it better. All of the responses thus far have been very short answers considering the question in the OP.
 
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B.L.Smith

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you Brothers I'm going to go into further study on the matter. The short answer is great, thank you. The longer answers are great- thank you. I'll go now into further study, Thank you Brothers- thank you. Just so you know Brothers I come from a oneness Pentecostal background just in my childhood, and I still have family that is there. I'm trying to help them to see the gospel for what it really is, in particular, that regeneration is not water baptism! In short, I've done a lot of study but right now I am reading a book called: Waters of Creation, A biblical theological study of baptism by Douglas Van dorn he's a reformed Baptist AS AM I, and I recently read his book The angel of the Lord which I highly recommend and I'm sure I'll probably be recommending this book as well thanks again Brothers I love you, your brother in Christ, Brandan.
 

JennyGeddes

Puritan Board Freshman
As I read the passage, bringing as much of the knowledge the facts of the baptism I already have with me...

--John sees Jesus on the day after he baptized him, and makes the statements we read in vv29-34, possibly inclusive of vv35-36 (read to the end below).
--He proclaims him the Lamb and Son of God.
--He rehearses some of the matter which even before the previous day he was teaching his (John's) disciples.
--"I didn't know him," refers to the fact that John did not have prior knowledge as to who Messiah (or Christ) was before he was revealed.
--It also indicates that John did not know the context in which the revelation would occur. John did not know he would be baptizing the person who was Messiah, and in such context (broadly conceived) would come the revelation.
--What John knew was: the Spirit would descend to rest on One who would be performing a mightier baptism than he (John) was typologically performing.
--The spiritual quality of Messiah John (rightly) assumed would constitute the former the preferable baptizer of the latter.

--It appears from Mt.13:14 that John recognizes Jesus is the Christ before baptizing him.
--It appears (at first reading) from Jn.1:33 that John recognizes Jesus is the Christ in process/after baptizing him. This seems in conflict with Mt.13:14.
--The facts are: John, while he was baptizing the masses, among them he baptized a certain man; and having done, this visible sign of the dove then singled him out and revealed him after the sign had been done/applied.
--The alighting of the dove is a moment of public revelation; it is not simply a sign John receives alone with no general observation.
--John does not say that by the sign he came to recognize the identity of Messiah.
--John does not say the advance revelation he received taught him the method by which he should identify Messiah hitherto unknown to him.
--Rather, the dove alighting was the sign by which he should begin to point Jesus out publicly as being the Messiah hitherto unknown to the public.

--Clearly, John had not expected that any he should baptize in preparation for Messiah's arrival should also BE Messiah.
--Messiah, John expected, would receive those baptized by John, and Messiah would baptize them all (including John) with them Holy Spirit.
--However, we should recall that John was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb; and in the end, John is taken from this world before the general baptism of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). John stands at the threshold of the NT, is an OT believer, and has the typological possession of the Holy Spirit in great (fullness of) power; furthermore, as one who recognizes (the first person so to?) Jesus the Christ, John is the rough equivalent of a Spirit-filled NT believer.
--John's comment about needing to be baptized by Messiah could refer to the Holy Spirit's baptism as from Messiah; or that John simply saw that he was the one who ought to be receiving the sign of baptism in any exchange between the two; perhaps Jesus could even use another servant to perform the watery duty.

--As to how John recognized Jesus, even before he baptized him: it seems most likely that the Spirit within John identified Jesus privately, i.e. within his own spirit. How soon prior to Jesus standing by for baptism is unimportant, though probably it was not too soon; otherwise, John's statement about his prior ignorance would hardly be true.
--The statement about John's prior ignorance is set in the context of the present ignorance of the crowd, Jn.1:26, which in the inception of the baptizing ministry John shared. There was a moment when John was fully as uninformed (lacked revelation) as they, which ignorance he is later set to remove--he being the instrument of revelation (along with the dove-sign, which some of them surely saw). John started his ministry in the same position as all the other OT prophets, i.e. not having met the exact person he was anticipating. If John was ever in contact with his cousin Jesus of Nazareth, we don't know; and plainly he did not know him as the Christ.
--V29 clearly shows John no longer unknowing but knowing (the NEXT day, a later date) who Jesus is, as he announces him to be the Lamb of God (& Son, v34). vv30-31 then have him describe what he was earlier preaching about this One even prior to his own private revelation. And, we must conclude, also following the moment of Jesus' baptism by John, also on a PREVIOUS day, accompanied by the sign. His private revelation could have been as late as immediately before the baptism, which was probably as recent as the day prior (my own view).
--In v32 John bears witness to the sign. The statement of v33, "I did not know him," cannot refer to the moment of the baptism itself (per Mt.3:14); but to the earlier time of the inception of his ministry, v.26, when the lack of revelation was general.
--What he testifies in vv33-34 is that he had the testimony about the public sign and its meaning before that sign was given in history. He does not say that the sign itself taught him who Jesus was in the moment.
--Vv35-36 seems to me to refer to the same day after the baptism (it could be a following next day); and that is when John speaks so as to have his own disciples transfer their allegiance to the "Lamb of God." Obviously, the baptism of Jesus is on some day previous to this one.
Thank you for this explanation. It helped clear up some things for me as well.
 
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