Lesson 7: His Forerunner

Lesson 7: His Forerunner

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Paul wrote that Jesus appeared on the scene of history “in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4), that is, when the time was right. The life and work of Jesus happened on God’s perfect schedule (Acts 2:23). It was customary in those days for the arrival of kings and dignitaries to be announced by a herald, or crier. John the Baptist would be that voice for the arrival of Jesus as he officially began his ministry.


  1. Only Luke records the circumstances surrounding the birth of John (Luke 1:5-25, 57-80).
  2. He was born to righteous parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth (5-6). Zacharias was a priest (5). While performing his priestly duties in the temple, an angel appeared to him and told him that he would be a father (8-13).
  3. The promised son would be special, “great before the Lord” (15). He would prepare the people for the coming “the Lord their God” (16-17).
  4. As a sign of the surety of the promise, Zacharias was rendered voiceless until John’s birth (18-23). The promise was fulfilled, just as Gabriel said (57-66).
  5. Upon receiving his voice back, Zacharias prophesied of John’s work (67-80).


  1. Matthew, Mark, and Luke write of John’s mission (Matt. 3:1-5; Mark 1:1-3; Luke 3:1-6). In short, John’s mission was to prepare the way for the ministry of Jesus.
  2. While John was living in the Judean wilderness, “the word of God came to” him, instructing him to begin his teaching and baptizing ministry (Luke 3:2-3).
  3. All three synoptists tell us that John fulfilled prophecy, specifically Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 3:1.
  4. Another prophecy that John fulfilled was Malachi 4:5-6. Though John was not in a literal sense the second coming of Elijah, he did fulfill that prophecy (Luke 1:17-18; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; John 1:21).


  1. The primary emphasis of John’s teaching was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1-2).
  2. But John also taught his disciples other important lessons, including: how to pray (Luke 11:1); to have compassion for the needy (Luke 3:10); to refrain for abuses of authority (Luke 3:12-14); to be content (Luke 3:14); and to respect the sanctity of marriage (Matt. 14:4).
  3. His teaching always exalted and pointed people to Christ (Matt. 3:11; John 1:15, 26-36; 3:23-30). He was courageous, straightforward, and unafraid to step on the toes of his audience (Matt. 3:7-12; Mark 6:14-29).


  1. It was ordained of God (Luke 3:2-3; Matt. 21:25). Those who rejected John’s baptism rejected the ordinance of God (Luke 7:30).
  2. Repentance was a prerequisite (Mark 1:4; Matt. 3:8).
  3. Confession of sins accompanied it (Matt. 3:6).
  4. It resulted in the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; cf. Acts 2:38).
  5. Recipients of his baptism were encouraged to place their faith in Jesus, “who was to come after him” (Acts 19:4).


  1. The death of John is a sordid story that shines a bright light on some of the inner workings of the Herodian family (Matt. 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29).
  2. Herod Antipas and Herodias (Herod Philip’s wife) fell in love, divorced their mates, and married each other. Herod had imprisoned John at the insistence of Herodias (Mark 6:17) because John had repeatedly told Herod that it was “not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18).
  3. An opportunity presented itself to Herodias, and she would capitalize on it. Using her daughter as a pawn, she backed Herod into a corner and left him no choice but to kill John (Mark 6:21-29).