Yochanan the Immerser: The Last Priest
|Written by Dr. Randy White|
There are two men in Yeshua's life that were chosen by Elohim for a very specific purpose. Joseph was chosen to be the earthly father of our Lord. Yochanan the Immerser, a relative of Yeshua, was chosen as the forerunner of the Messiah. In a two-part series of articles, I want to determine why Elohim chose these two men to fill these two roles. Were they, as common consensus might portray, chosen simply because they were righteous men in the right place at the right time, or were they chosen because of a position they held, and thus, were the only men alive who could possibly fulfill the assigned roles?
Let’s begin with Yochanan the Immerser. Of course, you know and recognize this bigger than life figure, Yochanan the Immerser. Yet, I think we somehow have the perception that Yochanan was selected because his parents were righteous and he was bold. These two factors together would certainly fulfill the need of the moment for a forerunner of the Messiah who would proclaim that the Messiah has arrived. After all, the Tanakh had prophesied a prophet who would come to proclaim the way of Yehovah and make straight his paths. Therefore, in order to fulfill this prophecy, Elohim needed a messenger. I think our perception is that Elohim comes along and says, “Oh, goodness, look at the time! The fullness of time is almost here. I’ve got to get with it! I need to choose a messenger, a forerunner for the Messiah. Who in the world am I going to choose?” It’s as if we believe that Elohim then looked down from heaven and said, “Look! There’s a man and his wife, both righteous, and praying for a child. I’ll bring them together and they will have a son. He will be bold, he will be powerful, and he will be the perfect messenger. I can answer their prayer AND I can bring my messenger, thus killing two birds with one stone!” What a great plan!
I know that no one would word it quite as irreverently, but I think you might agree with me that we haven’t put much thought into why Yochanan the Immerser was selected. The story is found in Luke 1:5 – 17. Considering these words, I want to lay down a new perspective, that no one could have been chosen outside of Yochanan, and that he was chosen because of a position which he alone held. This means that the prophecy of the Tanakh did not create the need for Yochanan , but foretold the man who was Yochanan .
In Luke 1:5, we are told that, “in the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a Priest…” Although it may seem an insignificant fact, the priesthood of Zechariah is very important information. Yochanan was to be sent as the forerunner or messenger of Elohim to proclaim that the Messiah had arrived. If Elohim is looking for a messenger, someone to speak his word, to prepare the way, to announce what Elohim is doing, to be a “go-between” for the people of Elohim, who would he choose? If you simply follow the pattern given us in the Tanakh , that “go-between” would fulfill one of two offices: he would either be a “Priest,” or a “prophet.” I don’t know what the Jewish equivalent names are, but Elohim didn’t just pick any “Tom, Dick or Harry” to go out as his messengers. He always spoke through a Priest for a prophet. Many times the Priest was also a prophet, such as Zechariah, Ezekiel, or Jeremiah. These men were both Priests and prophets. In the Tanakh , if someone spoke on behalf of Elohim, he was always either a Priest or a prophet. So, when Yehovah promised that a forerunner of his Messiah would come, we must expect that he would be either a Priest, or a prophet, or both. In Luke 1:5, we learn that our assumption is correct.
The Priest, introduced in verse 5, is a man named Zacharias, and he is serving in the division of Abijah. If you’re reading the first chapter of Luke, you may be thinking, “Luke, you’re awfully detailed. Just give me the big picture!” But Luke is consistently saying, “I want to give you the details, and I believe the details matter.” So, Zechariah is of the division of Abijah. For this to be true, Zechariah was not only a Levite, but also a descendent of Aaron. This made Zechariah an Aaronic Priest. Luke also declares that Zechariah, “had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” So, not only is Yochanan’s dad a descendent of Aaron, but his mother is also in the Aaronic family. This makes Yochanan the Immerser full-blooded Aaronic, doesn’t it!
In Luke 1:6-8, we learn that Zechariah the Priest is carrying out his Priestly duty in the order of his division. By the time of Yeshua's birth, the High Priest had become a political appointment. In the days of Yochanan and Yeshua, Annas and Caiaphas served as High Priest. These men held the duty by political appointment, so there has to be a legitimate High Priest somewhere, doing something. But he’s not serving in his Elohim-given role because of the politically-appointed High Priest who stands in the way. Not only were there 24 divisions of the Priesthood, but the honor of going into the holy place was selected “by lot.” Zechariah was chosen by the invisible hand of Elohim on that particular day because, it seems, Elohim wanted a particular man to work in the Temple and do the work of the High Priest. When Elohim’s chosen man entered into the holy place to carry out his duty, Zacharias was troubled when an angel appeared to him, and fear gripped him. The Angel instructed Zechariah that his petition had been heard, that his wife would bear a son, and he was to name him Yochanan. And, just as promised, Zechariah the Priest and his wife Elizabeth were blessed by Elohim with a son, and they named him Yochanan.
Is Luke revealing to us that Elohim is rejecting the man that the Caesar had chosen as High Priest, and He, himself, is choosing Zechariah, a man without a child, fulfilling – even if for a day – his rightful role as High Priest? If so, this would mean we have come to the end of the line in the Aaronic Priesthood, unless Zechariah has a son. But Elohim selects this man, in his old age, to have a child, that is, to produce one last Priest. Luke 1:15 says, “He will be great in the sight of Yehovah. And he will drink no wine or liquor. And he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to Yehovah Elohim. It is he who will go as a forerunner before him.” Many understand these to be a Nazarite vow, but it is more likely the description of a Priest carrying out his Elohim-given duty under the Torah. It appears that Elohim has decided that what appeared to be the end of the line would not be the end of the line, after all. Elohim was going to give a son to Zechariah and Elizabeth, and he would be the last of the High Priests of the order of Aaron.
In Malachi 3:1 Elohim tells us that he will send a “messenger” to prepare the way of Yehovah. In the context of Malachi, the messenger is always a Priest. Elohim, through Malachi, is speaking to a group of Priests with whom he is sorely dissatisfied. Elohim promises to these messengers that he is going to send, “my messenger” who will be a “messenger of the covenant.” Is Elohim saying that since the Priests of the order of Aaron are not doing their work, he is going to send his own Priest? That is, a Priest after the order of Melchizedek? And, when Yochanan the Immerser arrives, what does he do? He is most known for immersing. And when Yeshua wanted to be immersed, Yochanan, at first, refused. He refused on the basis of his unworthiness, that he was immersing in an immersion of repentance, and Yeshua had nothing of which he needed to repent. Yeshua, however, said “for righteousness, let it be done.”(Mat3:15) What righteousness is he talking about?
When Aaron was ordained to be the Priest, the ordination service included the “washing” of Aaron, and his sons. The particular Hebrew word for wash that is used in the ordination of the Priest is not a word for rinse, or for sprinkling, or for pouring, but it’s a word that means to get all the way into the water. In Judaism, the Mikva served as the baptistery. A Jew would go into the Mikva and be completely submerged into the water. When the Torah says that the Priest was to be washed when he was ordained, it is likely referring to a Mikva experience; that is, an immersion by complete immersion. And when Yeshua was ready to begin his ministry, he said, “Permit it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fill all righteousness.”(Mat 3:15) I believe that Yochanan, the last of the High Priest, according to the order of Aaron, is immersing Yeshua, the High Priest according to the order of Melchisadek! In other words, Yochanan is transferring authority to the new order of the Priesthood; the old order of Aaron is passing away, and now is transferred to Yeshua, who is our Priest according to the Priestly order of Melchizedek.
If this is true, then who besides Yochanan could have been chosen for this task? Yochanan had to be chosen, because he was the end of the line for the Aaronic Priesthood legitimately passing authority to the new Priesthood, forever held in Messiah Yeshua !
(Some terms and names have been changed by Grafted-In Minstry, to fit a more Hebraic mindset)
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