a John the Baptist, son of Zacharias the priest and his wife Elisabeth, and the forerunner of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:5-25, 57-66; Matt. 3:1-12). b A disciple of Jesus Christ, brother of James and son of Zebedee (Matt. 4:21). c John Mark (Acts 12:12). John is a contraction of Johanan and Jehohanan.
Meta. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. He signifies a high intellectual perception of Truth, but one not yet quickened of Spirit. John represents that attitude of mind in which we are zealous for the rule of Spirit. This attitude is not spiritual, but a perception of spiritual possibilities and an activity in making conditions in which Spirit may rule. This John-the-Baptist perception of Truth leads us to strive with evil as a reality, not having discerned the truth about its transitory character.
John the Baptist may also be said to be that innate principle in us all which ever seeks to do right. Its origin cannot be located--it comes out of the wilderness. It is crude--it is like a voice in the wilderness crying for the right way. The whole human family is naturally true and honest, and this rugged reformer is a child of nature. Culture does not make people honest nor bring out their natural virtues. The inner soul consciousness that draws its nourishment from nature's storehouse opens the way for the advent of Spirit.
That which the baptism of John signifies is brought about by a process metaphysically known as "denial." This baptism symbolizes the getting rid of the limited thoughts that encumber and darken the understanding. It is found that to say mentally, "I deny the belief in the reality of matter and material conditions," causes that aggregation of thoughts to scatter. This is a mental letting go that has to be applied to all departments of the mind. In Christian conversion the sinner lets go of his sins and there is a moral cleansing. The metaphysician finds it necessary to cleanse his mind from all moral iniquity, but he also finds that he must go further than this. The mind governs every part of the man, and a thorough reform requires that the baptism of John shall include a complete transformation of thought pertaining to things mental, moral, and physical.
Jesus said of John the Baptist, "He that is but little in the kingdom of God is greater than he" (Luke 7:28); and John said of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). This means that the least of the spiritual thoughts in man is greater than the mightiest reasoning of the intellect, and that the intellectual concept of things must give way to the understanding that comes through the Holy Spirit.
The intellect is to prepare the way for the spiritual consciousness, the Christ. The alert intellect that has been working toward the fulfillment of a divine ideal recognizes the development of spiritual consciousness and acknowledges its very first appearance, as John the Baptist recognized Jesus Christ.
When the quickening by Spirit takes place in consciousness to the extent that the Christ is realized and felt and known, one depends on the inspiration of Spirit rather than on the reasonings of the intellectual man. Thus we are admonished, in Proverbs 3:5, 6:"Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart,And lean not upon thine own understanding:In all thy ways acknowledge him,And he will direct thy paths."
John the Baptist, the intellectual man, beholds the evils of civilization, condemns them, and advocates the punishment of the evildoers. This remedy leads to resistance and failure, as evidenced in the execution of John by Herod, the sinner. Man has to pass through the intellectual state of consciousness (which is the natural man), and his attempts at reform are evidences of the innate good within him, but his comprehension is narrowed to personal ends. The world today is in the throes of John-the-Baptist methods of reform. They all must fail because they lack a comprehension of the universal brotherhood of man and the great law laid down by Jesus Christ, which in essence is, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them."
John the Baptist in prison represents the intellect hemmed in, imprisoned, because of its magnifying sin and evil and condemning them. Some persons see the evil in the world as a power so formidable that it paralyzes all their efforts, and they accomplish nothing in the service of Truth.
The death of John the Baptist, as described in Matthew 14:1-12, refers to the passing away of that first enthusiasm for character reform which possesses the disciple at the earthly stage of his experience. This John-the-Baptist phase is not the permanent state of consciousness, but is to be followed by one that is permanent. "He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire" (Matt. 3:11).
When the first enthusiasm wanes after spiritual enlightenment has occurred there is a certain barrenness of thought and action in mind, and we feel as if we should like to retire to a place where a complete rest and absence of effort could be had. When Jesus heard of the death of John "he withdrew . . . to a desert place apart." We cannot get away from our thoughts, however: the people followed Jesus into the desert place (Matt. 14:13).
Matthew 11:18, 19 may be explained as follows: The conscious mind is very chary of accepting the whole Truth. It comes "neither eating nor drinking." It does not eat the body (substance) of Christ, nor drink His blood (life). The result is that the adverse ego remains in the body, "He hath a demon." The Son of man comes and unites His life and substance with the appetites and passions of the subconsciousness, and He seems for a time to be of their kind. But "wisdom is justified by her works." The descent of the Spirit into one's body may stir up the Devil in one for a season, but his reign will be short if one is guided by the Spirit of truth, who will lead into all Truth. "Except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matt. 24:22).
The apostle John represents the spiritual faculty of love. He is known as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and love is the dominant theme of all his teachings and writings. In the outpicturing of Jesus' development, John signifies the faculty of love in its masculine or positive degree of action, while the various Marys of the New Testament characterize the different subjective activities of love.