Scriptures

John The Baptiser

Introduction

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

John 1:9-18 / Mark 1:1-9 / Luke 3:1-20

John the Baptist was a fascinating man, he ate locusts and honey in the desert. Crowds came to him, but he constantly told them that he was nothing, but the coming Messiah was everything. In the end, his life was cut short because he criticised a king for sinning. But John was given such high recognition by Jesus Himself in Matthew 11:11

‘Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.’

John’s miraculous birth

The story of the birth of the one who came to be known as John the Baptist gives signs of the greatness to come. John’s parents were an older couple named Zacharias and Elizabeth. They were both descended from the priestly family of Aaron,

Luke 1:5 ‘In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.’

The Bible says,

‘they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.’ Luke 1:7

Then came the day when Zacharias, while burning incense at the temple, saw an angel,

‘Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.’ Luke 1:11

Zacharias was startled by the appearance of the angel but perhaps he was even more surprised by what the angel told him. Elizabeth would bear a child in her old age!

They would name him John, and he would be set apart for a special purpose,

Luke 1:13-15 ‘But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.’

The angel Gabriel told him,

‘He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Luke 1:16-17

Zacharias was shocked! He asked,

‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.’ Luke 1:18

Because Zacharias had doubted the angel’s words, Gabriel gave him a sign, he wouldn’t be able to talk until the birth of his son. Of course, the angel proved to be correct, and after nine months the priest and his wife had a son,

Luke 1:57 ‘When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.’

There’s much more to this story, including the fact that Elizabeth and Mary the mother of Jesus were related and that in the womb John leaped for joy in recognition of Jesus,

Luke 1:41 ‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.’

The birth of Jesus came about six months after John’s birth. God had performed a miracle and brought John into the world for a special purpose!

The work of John the Baptist

God had set John apart for a special mission, he was to preach about repentance and to baptise people in water. He was also to preach about the Kingdom of God and prepare a people for the Messiah’s coming. That is exactly what John did, instead of serving at the temple as a priest, he dressed in a camel’s hair garment and a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild honey,

Matthew 3:4 ‘John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.’

Interestingly, locusts are very nutritious and are 60% protein compared to 20% protein content of chicken and beef.

This shows us he led a secluded and even rough life, perhaps because of a vow he had taken. We do know his father said he would not drink wine, which would indicate maybe he would take the Nazarite vow.

Luke 1:15 ‘He is never to take wine or other fermented drink’.

Matthew 11:18 ‘For John came neither eating nor drinking’.

While it isn’t necessary to live like that for everyone, there are a few characters in the Bible such as Elijah that live similarly. It’s almost like a lifelong fast, ridding themselves of temptations of more luxurious living and practicing self-control and discipline to focus on the Lord and the ministry given to them.

Are we spiritually prepared to spread the good news?

How can we get prepared?

Luke 10:2 ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’

He told the crowds that came to see him that they needed to repent and that the Kingdom of God was at hand,

Matthew 3:1-2 ‘In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

He preached the same message as Jesus Christ the Messiah,

Mark 1:14-15 ‘After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’ and prepared the way for Him’.

Matthew 3:3 ‘This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’

John the Baptist knew that he had been called by God to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah.

‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ Matthew 3:3 / Isaiah 40:3

When the religious leaders of his time came to see him, John showed courage, he rebuked them for ignoring God’s message of repentance. They believed that they didn’t need to repent since they were directly descended from Abraham. But he told them,

‘And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.’ Matthew 3:9

Do we understand our calling and the message we’re to take to people?

Matthew 28:19-20 ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’

John pointed the people to Christ regularly

John 1:6-8 ‘There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.’

John 1:19-27 ‘Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, ‘Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’ ‘I baptize with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

John 1:29-37 ‘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 meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’ Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’ The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.’ When the time came for Christ to start His ministry, John pointed his disciples to Christ and encouraged them to follow Him.’

John 1:35-37 ‘The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.’

When we share the message with people, are we pointing them to the church or to Jesus?

John 12:32 ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’

John baptised His Lord and Saviour

When Jesus was ready to start His public ministry, He came to John to provide an example for all mankind by being baptised. After John had baptised Jesus, he was privileged to see the Holy Spirit descend on Him. This confirmed to John that this was indeed the Son of God.

John 1:32-34 ‘Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’

The arrest and execution of John the Baptist

John the Baptist didn’t pull any punches, he called sin, sin. He even criticised King Herod for marrying his brother’s wife and was thrown in jail,

Matthew 14:3 ‘Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.’

Mark 6:17 ‘For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married.’

What was wrong with their marriage?

The story of Herod and Herodias is quite scandalous. Philip and Herod were brothers who were also both uncles to Herodias. Apparently, Philip married Herodias and they had a child together, Salome. Herod also had a wife during this time.

At some point Herod and Herodias decided to divorce their spouses in order to ‘marry’ each other. The way we speak to people differs from each person to the next and some people need to be told plainly that they are sinning and in need of a Saviour. Are we prepared to call sin, sin?

After spending some time in his prison cell, John sent some of his disciples to Christ. He wanted to receive confirmation about the work and mission of Christ,

Matthew 11:2-6 ‘When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

Notice Jesus didn’t answer ‘yes I am,’ but pointed to the miraculous things which He had been doing been happening.

John believed that Jesus was the Lamb of God and the Son of God,

John 1:29 ‘The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’

John 1:34 ‘I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’

He also believed He was the Christ, the coming Messiah who will conqueror and rule. But perhaps he was expecting Christ to start conquering then instead of letting him remain in jail, that was not to be, however.

While John was in prison, Herod threw a party, his wife’s daughter danced and pleased him so much that he promised her whatever her heart desired.

‘Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.’ Matthew 14:8

Herod was sorry, but because of his oaths he felt trapped into ordering John to be killed.

Are we prepared to pay the consequences of taking the Gospel to others?

1 Peter 2:21 ‘To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.’

What can we learn from John about evangelism?

John’s life story and his message point us to Jesus Christ, show God’s miraculous power and teach the importance of repentance from sin and baptism. John the Baptist’s story also shows us an amazing example of humility. Throughout his life and ministry, John always directed people to Jesus Christ. When talking about Christ, he said,

‘But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry’. Matthew 3:11

The job of carrying sandals was the job of the lowliest slave, yet John didn’t deem himself worthy of even this lowest of jobs in serving Christ.

Are we willing to serve people in areas where no-one else wants to?

John 13:1-17 ‘It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so, he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’

To John, everything was about the Messiah whom he had been commissioned to prepare for. John saw his own needs and status in life as unimportant. He wasn’t jealous about the crowds going to see Jesus, instead, he humbly said,

‘He must become greater; I must become less.’ John 3:30

The work of John the Baptist also reminds us that God has a detailed plan that He is carrying out. Though we, like John the Baptist, may not understand everything about that plan or our assigned part in it, we can know that God has a plan for us. Herod might have killed John the Baptist physically, but spiritually John lives on in heaven.

Do we see ourselves as part of God’s plan to save the world?

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ‘All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.’

Religious pedigree means nothing

He recognised that just because a person was a Hebrew, it didn’t mean they had a relationship to God. We should be aware that many people proclaim to be Christians simply because they attend some ‘church’ but they actually may not have a relationship with God. This may be even true of someone who was raised in the church.

Philippians 3:4-7 ‘If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.’

Share a clear message

One thing that always stands out to me when I read about John is his simple, clear, and truthful message. His words were powerful, he struck right to the heart of the matter. He wasn’t afraid of offending people, he wasn’t worried about their reaction, and the religious leaders did hate him. He called the Pharisees and Sadducees a

‘brood of vipers’. Luke 3:7

What do you think about this? Were these words offensive? Should he have spoken more kindly? In fact, John realised that being politically correct wouldn’t help anybody.

Luke 3:10-15 ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’ ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to,’ he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, ‘And what should we do?’ He replied, ‘Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.’ The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.’

John recognised that repentance would show up in every day actions, he gave practical tips to each group specifically targeted to their areas of weakness. Without the fruit of a changed life, it would be evident that a person doesn’t have a close relationship to God. He wasn’t preaching that these things could save a person, but that they were necessary for true repentance to take place.

How would you respond to someone who bases their salvation on good deeds?

Isaiah 64:6 ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.’

Humility when sharing the message

John 3:27-30 ‘To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.’

Matthew 3:11 ‘I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’

Matthew 3:14-15 ‘But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then John consented.’

John recognised he was unfit to even tie Jesus’ sandal, he recognised that he was unworthy to baptise Jesus. Both are true, he was unworthy, worthier than we are, but still unworthy. Although he had many crowds and people following him, he recognised his role wasn’t to attract people to himself, but to push people to Jesus.

How might most leaders respond if their followers start following somebody else? Most leaders, like the Pharisees, would have gotten jealous and been angry. They might have tried to think of ways to get the crowds back like offering free food or playing music or something, not John.

What was his attitude towards this role?

He not only accepted it, he embraced it joyfully! What a great example!

He used the illustration of a groom and his ‘best man’. Who gets the attention at a wedding? The best man? What is the best man’s role? The best man’s role is to help behind the scenes to do whatever he can to help out. He isn’t in the spotlight, the groom is.

Are we putting the spotlight on Jesus when we share the good news or on ourselves or someone else?

Acts 4:12 ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’

Sharing the truth with courage

John boldly stood up to Herod about Herod’s immoral relationship, evidently rebuking, warning Herod about this, multiple times. It was extremely dangerous to take such a bold public stand against such a powerful man who had the authority to arrest and kill you, the result was John’s arrest and subsequent murder.

This account shows us again his great example of courage, he spoke forth the truth even when it was dangerous. He didn’t sugar coat it, or hide it, he said what needed to be said, he stood on what was right and didn’t compromise.

Do we have the courage to be bold and speak the truth without compromising it?

Acts 20:27 ‘For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.’

Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-22 all record the baptism of Jesus. Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13 all record the temptation of Christ.

John the Baptist denies being the Christ in John 1:19-28. John 1:2034 speaks about Jesus being the Lamb of God.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

1 Peter 3:15

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