John the Baptist


     There are many people mentioned in the Bible, as to their birth, life, and death. Many of these individuals offer excellent character studies. John the Baptist is a case in point. It is sad that our society has degraded to the point that the social and moral misfits are often the role models for our young people. Many of these people personify drugs, drinking, fornication and adultery, and an amoral life in general. They are presented by Hollywood as the glamorous and famous. They are the real examples of success, we are told. However, in reality most of these people are failures, unhappy, and moral cowards. Let us take a look at a real man: John the Baptist.

     Prophesies regarding John the Baptist. About seven hundred years before the birth of John the Baptist, we read of his birth and mission.

     "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." Also, "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come saith the Lord of hosts" (Isa. 40: 3; Mal. 3: 1).

     These prophecies are identified as pertaining to John (Matt. 3: 3). Moreover, the life of John the Baptist clearly demonstrated the person and life mentioned in the prophecies. John was generally acknowledged as being the one to whom the prophets looked (Matt. 21: 23-26).

     The parents, birth, and early life of John the Baptist. John's father was Zacharias and his mother was Elisabeth (Lk. 1: 5). Zacharias was a priest and Elisabeth was of the decent of Aaron (ibid.). John's parents were themselves outstanding and godly individuals. About them it was said, "And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Lk. 1: 6). However, Zacharias and Elisabeth were childless (Lk. 1: 7). The conception of Elisabeth was the result of divine intervention (Lk. 1: 36, 37). John's birth was of such importance that the angel Gabriel announced John's birth:

     "11: And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12: And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13: But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14: And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15: For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 16: And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17: And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk. 1, see also vs. 19).

     Little is revealed about John's family life and physical development. In fact, all we know is what is stated in Luke 1: 80: "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel."

     John the Baptist's ministry. John's work was chiefly that of a forerunner for Jesus. Remember we read where Gabriel said of John, "And he (John, dm) shall go before him (Jesus, dm) in the spirit and power of Elias" (Lk. 1: 17, cp. Isa. 40: 3). John was very much like Elijah in his keen vision to denounce error, faith in Jehovah, and consuming zeal (First and Second Kings, cp. Matt. 11: 14). Elijah appears to have been about thirty when he made his first real appearance (Matt. 3: 1). John preached mainly in the wilderness of Southern Judaea and partly in the Jordan Valley (Matt. 3: 5). John's message was that of repentance (Matt. 3: 2). John emphasized that true repentance involves reformation of life and the presence of fruit (Lk. 3: 8, 11, 12, 13, 14). He preached "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Lk. 3: 3, Mk. 1: 4). John's baptism was based on true repentance and also prompted repentance in regards to Jesus. The expression, "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance" is from baptizo en udari eis meranoian (Matt. 3: 11). The original clearly shows John's baptism also looked forward or stimulated repentance (looked to Jesus, to read more about repentance, click on "A Study of Biblical Repentance"). John announced the eminent kingdom of Jesus (Matt. 3: 2). John stressed eternal damnation in his proclamation (Matt. 3: 12, 10).

     John's style was very plain, even coarse compared to others. His dress was austere, he wore "raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey" (Matt. 3: 4, not that uncommon attire for the deprived life of a desert dweller). John's preaching was also plain and cogent. John knew no fear, as evidenced in his preaching to Herod. John had preached to Herod regarding Herod's brother's wife, whom he now claimed. John said to Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife" (Mk. 6: 18, to read more about marriage, click on "The Truth about Marriage," "Scriptural Divorcement," and "The Truth about Remarriage"). Luke's account makes it plain that John did not simply mention this matter to King Herod, but he kept on mentioning it (Lk. 3: 19, "being reproved," elegchomenos, is nominative singular, masculine gender, participle, present tense, and passive voice, The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 131. Elegchomenos shows John did not stop pointing sin out to Herod. In other words, John could not be intimidated or bought off).

     John did not start the church but he pointed to its establishment by Jesus (see addendum). John was called Baptist because he baptized people. He was John the immerser. John himself was never in the Kingdom or church (Matt. 11: 11, cp. Matt. 16: 18, 19).

     A comparison of John the Baptist and Jesus. There are many similarities between John and Jesus. Both John and Jesus were conceived in miraculous circumstances (Lk. 1). Of course, Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and was born of a virgin (Matt. 1: 18 ff.). John and Jesus both received authority from heaven (Matt. 21: 23-27). Jesus showed John's authority when Jesus submitted to John's baptism. Since Jesus had no sin, Jesus was baptized "to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3: 13-17). Also, both Jesus and John enjoyed great influence (Matt. 3: 5; Mk. 6: 14). John, though, acknowledged Jesus' superiority as the Son of God and one who would draw all men unto him (Jn. 3: 25-36, 14-21).

     The death of John the Baptist. The death of John is the only major story in Mark's Gospel, which is not about Jesus. We read of John's death in Mark 6: 17-29:

     "17: For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. 18: For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. 19: Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: 20: For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 21: And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 22: And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23: And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 24: And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. 25: And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. 26: And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. 27: And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28: And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. 29: And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb."

     John died as he had lived, without compromise. As noticed at the outset of this material, John is a good role model. He was a man of great integrity and valor. Jesus said of John, "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…" (Matt. 11: 11). Jesus went on to say, though, that the least in the Kingdom is greater than John (Ibid.). Such a statement does not take away from John, but shows the wonderfulness of being a citizen of the Kingdom of God (Click on "The Kingdom of Heaven" to read more).

     Addendum: The Landmark Baptist Church claims that John the Baptist established the Baptist Church. However, John died before the church or kingdom was a reality (Mk. 6: 17-29, the church came into existence later on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2). John called Jesus the bridegroom or the one who had the bride. He said that he (John) was the "friend of the bridegroom (the bride is the church, Eph. 5: 22-33). Moreover, John said of himself and Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn. 3: 30). As noticed, John is called "John the Baptist" because he baptized people. The Baptist Church did not come into existence until about sixteen hundred years after John (To read more, click on "The Unbroken Links of the Church").