"You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth...." (John 5:33-34)

"You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved." (John 5:33-34)

Is Jesus referring to John the Baptist?

Jesus is referring to the teachings of John, who was his spiritual teacher. Jesus is indicating that he was teaching the same teachings as John.

Indeed, many sectarian theologians have been mystified by the reason Jesus approached John, and the reason Jesus became baptized by John.

When did John testify about Jesus? Likely many other times outside of this, but we can see in the text:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" (Matthew 3:13-14)
John said other things in honoring Jesus. Thus he provided direct testimony about Jesus.

Why was Jesus baptized by John?

What was the intended meaning of baptism before the sectarian organizations of the Christian churches converted it into a sect-joining ritual?
During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:2-3).
What does "a baptism of repentance" mean? The word "repentance" is translated from the Greek word μετάνοια. According to the Greek lexicon, μετάνοια means: "a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done."

In other words, the Greek source of the word "repentance" means to have a change of heart: A change of purpose and a change of mind. This means a change in one's life, basically.

What kind of change are we talking about here? Luke 3:2-3 states clearly that God empowered John (the word of God came to John) to teach others. In other words, John became a messenger for God.

Is baptism a form of purification?

The word "baptism" has been translated from the Greek word βάπτισμα. According to the Greek lexicon, βάπτισμα means "immersion, submersion".

If we combine the Greek phrase used; βάπτισμα μετάνοια εἰς ἄφεσις ἁμαρτία; we can understand that John was immersing those he taught into the word of God, which helped change peoples hearts. 

This means baptism symbolized the teacher helping to release others from the bondage of their selfishness, anxiety, greed and fear - putting them on a path of love for God.

What was John teaching?

John was teaching God's word, which was able to purify people and free them from the clutches of selfishness, anxiety, greed and fear. John's teachings were able to change people's hearts. John's teachings were able to make people change their hearts and change their path.

"a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."

The words "for the forgiveness of sins" comes from two Greek words: ἄφεσις and ἁμαρτία. According to the Greek lexicon:

ἄφεσις means to "release from bondage or imprisonment."

ἁμαρτία means to "to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong"

So if we pull this together, John was preaching "a baptism" that changed people's hearts, released them from bondage, and corrected their path.

John also taught something else, which Jesus also specifically passed on:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 3:1-2)
Jesus then proceeded to also teach this teaching:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17)
Then Jesus also taught his own students to pass on this same teaching:
"As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’" (Matthew 10:7)

What does 'near' mean?

Some have professed that Jesus, John and the Prophets before them were all referring to the end of the world. They propose that when everyone dies Jesus returns riding on horseback to pick up all the believers and kill all those who aren't. Some also claim members of their sect will then inherit the earth.

If that were true, what about all those who believed this and died decades and centuries ago? Why didn't it come for those Jesus was speaking to? Or for those John was speaking to? By now most of those dead bodies have decomposed. Their bodies are now dissolved into the dirt. There is no way they will inherit the earth.

Or will they all have been waiting around in some kind of purgatory state - or in their graves?

Such a theory is preposterous. Those bodies that died 2,000 years ago have long decomposed.

Rather, what John was referring to - as was Jesus and the Prophets before them - was love of God. Being "near" to God means caring for Him, wanting to please Him. Yes, they were speaking about love of God.

This is why Jesus' most important instruction mirrored those of Moses and the other Prophets:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5)
Yes, Jesus quoted this statement by Moses, adding: "This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:38)

This central message and teaching also has the ability to change a person's heart, release a person's bondage, and straighten a person's path.

How so? Consider what happens when a young man falls "in love" with a young woman. Suddenly, his life changes. He no longer considers himself only. He now is thinking of his beloved. He rearranges his life to please his beloved. Everything changes. Why? Love. He suddenly cares for someone else other than himself.

Love for God has an even deeper effect on a person. Should we fall in love with the Supreme Being our entire life and focus changes. Suddenly we are concerned about pleasing the Supreme Being. Suddenly we are wanting to live our lives in such a way that serves God's interests, rather than our own interests. This is the change of heart that John the Baptist gave to people who came to the desert to hear from him.

And this is also the change of heart that John gave to Jesus when Jesus submitted himself to John for "baptism." Jesus certainly was already a special person. He had chosen to love God and God acknowledged that. 

Jesus still submitted himself to John (as John had submitted to Zechariah) because he saw John as God's messenger. Jesus heard John's teachings and became a follower of John's.

Following Jesus hearing John's message and submitting to John, the Supreme Being also empowered Jesus to become His representative. This is why Jesus' teachings began after his baptism by John.

Is baptism symbolic?

The baptism ceremony of dunking into the water is a symbolic act that represents the submission to God's representative (as was anointing previously). It is not the submission in itself. The submission must occur within one's heart.

This is the method by which God's word is passed from teacher to student. The student sits at the feet of the teacher and hears his message with submission. Should he absorb and embrace those teachings, his (or her) life will change. As that happens, God may then empower the student to also become a teacher, to pass God's word on.

Why is this so important? Because love of God is passed from person to person. Love of God is about a relationship with God. One who has that relationship can introduce another to that relationship. It is a personal system, because we are each a person, and God is a Person.

We can see this system work in everyday life. When a friend introduces us to his friend, we can then become his friend's friend, through that introduction. Their relationship enables our new relationship with that person. This is because relationships are fundamental to our existence, and they all branch from our original relationship with the Original Person.

Jesus, like John, was teaching God's word, which also changed people's hearts, freed people from bondage and put them on the path of pleasing God (assuming they really heard Jesus' teachings). In other words, Jesus, like John, taught love of God. He was trying to introduce those around him to love and cherish God. This is why Jesus; like Moses (and John, and all the other prophets) taught:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)