Yes, John the Baptist bore witness, and he did the job that God intended for him to do at that time. But later on, doubts came to him, and he finally succumbed to the many rumors circulating about Jesus. One such rumor called Jesus fatherless, an illegitimate child. John the Baptist certainly heard that rumor, and he wondered how such a person could be the Son of God. Even though he had witnessed to Jesus, John later became suspicious and betrayed him. If John the Baptist had truly united with Jesus Christ, he could have moved his people to accept Jesus as the Messiah, for the power and influence of John was very great in those days.
I am telling you many unusual things, and you may ask by what authority I am speaking. It is the authority of the Bible, and with the authority of revelation. Let us read the Bible together, and see word by word how John the Baptist acted.
‘Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”‘ (Matt. 11:2-3)
This was long after he had testified to Jesus as the Son of God. How could he even ask, “Are you he who is to come as the Son of God?” after the testimony of the Spirit to him? Jesus was truly sorrowful. He felt anger. Jesus refused to answer John the Baptist with a straight yes or no. He replied instead,
‘Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.’
Let me paraphrase what Jesus meant: “John, I am sorry that you took offense at me. At one time you recognized me, but now you doubt me. I am sorry your faith has proved to be so weak.”
After this incident, Jesus spoke to the crowds concerning John. He put a rhetorical question to them:
‘What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “Behold I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.”‘ (Matt. 11:7-10)
What Jesus was saying here was this: “John, you went out to the wilderness to see the person more than a prophet–the Messiah, the Son of God. You have seen everything but missed the vital point, the core of your mission. You indeed failed to recognize me and failed to live up to God’s expectation. It is God who expects of you ‘to make ready for the Lord a people prepared’ You have failed.”
‘Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matt. 11:11)
Conventional Christian interpretations have never fully explained the meaning of this controversial verse.
The missions of prophets through the ages were to prepare for or testify to the Messiah. Prophets always testified from a distance of time. John the Baptist was the greatest among prophets because only he was the prophet contemporary with the Messiah, the prophet who could bear witness, in person, to the living Christ. But John failed to recognize the Messiah. Even the least of the prophets then living in the spiritual world knew Jesus was the Son of God. That is why John, who was given the greatest mission, and failed, became less than the least.
Jesus said, ‘From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.’ (Matt. 11:12)
John the Baptist was the chosen instrument of God, destined to be the chief disciple of Jesus. He failed in his responsibility, and Simon Peter, by the strength and force of his faith, earned that central position for himself on his own merit. Other men stronger and more violent in faith than John the Baptist fought relentlessly with Jesus for the realization of God’s kingdom on earth. The devout men who righteously followed John the Baptist could not become the 12 apostles and 70 disciples of Christ, as they were to have been. If John the Baptist had become the chief disciple of Jesus, those two together would have united all of Israel. But the truth is that John the Baptist did not follow the Son of God.
One day John’s followers came to him and asked,
‘Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him’ (John 3:26)
They carried concern in their question: “Look at all the people going to Jesus. What about you?” John the Baptist replied,
‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ (John 3:30)
Usually Christians interpret this passage as proof of John’s humble personality. This is an incorrect understanding of the meaning of his words. If Jesus and John had been united, their destiny would be to rise or fall together. Then Jesus could not increase his reputation while John’s own prestige diminished! The lessening of his own role was what John feared.
John once stated the Messiah was the one ‘. . . whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. . .’ (Matt. 3:11)
Yet he failed to follow Jesus even after he knew that Jesus was the Son of God. John the Baptist was a man without excuse. He should have followed.
(from the book: God’s Will and the World by Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon)