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.
- Only Luke records the circumstances surrounding the birth of John (Luke 1:5-25, 57-80).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- Upon receiving his voice back, Zacharias prophesied of John’s work (67-80).
- 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.
- 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).
- All three synoptists tell us that John fulfilled prophecy, specifically Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 3:1.
- 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).
- The primary emphasis of John’s teaching was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1-2).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- Repentance was a prerequisite (Mark 1:4; Matt. 3:8).
- Confession of sins accompanied it (Matt. 3:6).
- It resulted in the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; cf. Acts 2:38).
- Recipients of his baptism were encouraged to place their faith in Jesus, “who was to come after him” (Acts 19:4).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).