John the Baptist Appears

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." - Matthew 3:1-2

The New Testament - A Brief Overview

The Beginning of John's Ministry
Scriptures and Topics Covered:
John Appears Preaching in the Wilderness (Mat 3:1-2; Mk 1:1; Lk 3:1-2).
Prophecies About John the Baptist (Mat 3:3 Mk 1:2-3; Lk 3:4-6).
John's Appearance (Mat 3:4; Mk 1:6).
People Came From All Around (Mat 3:5; Mk 1:5).
John's Baptism of Repentance (Mat 3:6 Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3-14).
John and the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mat 3:7-10).
John's Response to the Priest's and Levites (Jn 1:19-28)
John's Message About The Holy Spirit (Mat 3:11-12; Mk 1:8).

"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." Luke 3:1-2

John Appears Preaching in the Wilderness

John the Baptist was born about 5 BC, and now about 26 A.D. about the age of 30 he appears in the wilderness of Judea. He was preaching to everyone that they should repent and turn from wickedness and prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah. His message was a cry for repentance, that the time was at hand for people to prepare for the coming of the King.

Prophecies About John the Baptist

The prophecies in the Old Testament were very familiar to John. The Scriptures foretold that the Messiah would be the Lord Himself, the glorious King, and he would come to lay down his life for his friends. The forerunner or messenger was actually a Herald who would run ahead and prepare everyone for the King's arrival. The main Prophecies about this messenger can be found in Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 3:1.

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. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see [it] together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it]. Isaiah 40:3-5

"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." Malachi 3:1

John's Appearance

John stood wearing a camel's hair garment with a leather girdle about his loins, similar to the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament. John had nothing whatsoever to do with the kingdom of this world and the worldly pleasures around him, his only focus was on the kingdom of heaven and the very King who was about to appear. He had nothing to do with wealth or eloquent soft clothing or elaborate meals. His food was the food of the poorest in the land, he ate locusts which were gathered in the desert, and wild honey which was scooped out of the hollow part of trees. He never cut his hair and never drank wine. Water was only drink. He was completely devoted to his task.

Camel's Hair

A Camel's coarse coat can grow hair up to 15 inches

People Came from All Around

The people came from all around to hear John's message, confess their sins and get baptized. The Bible says they came from Jerusalem, Judaea, and the region of the Jordan.

Map of Bethabara where John was baptizing

"These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." - John 1:28

Painting of the Jordan River

"Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." - Matthew 3:5-6

John's Baptism of Repentance

The baptism of John was different than the baptism of Jesus. People came to the Jordan River where John was preaching, and they were baptized with water as they confessed their sins, in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John's message was to repent and do good for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

Josephus the Roman Jewish first century historian makes mention about John's baptism of purification:

"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and was a very just punishment for what he did against John called the Baptist [the dipper]. For Herod had him killed, although he was a good man and had urged the Jews to exert themselves to virtue, both as to justice toward one another and reverence towards God, and having done so join together in washing. For immersion in water, it was clear to him, could not be used for the forgiveness of sins, but as a sanctification of the body, and only if the soul was already thoroughly purified by right actions. And when others massed about him, for they were very greatly moved by his words, Herod, who feared that such strong influence over the people might carry to a revolt -- for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise -- believed it much better to move now than later have it raise a rebellion and engage him in actions he would regret. And so John, out of Herod's suspiciousness, was sent in chains to Machaerus, the fort previously mentioned, and there put to death; but it was the opinion of the Jews that out of retribution for John God willed the destruction of the army so as to afflict Herod." - Josephus Antiquities 18.5.2 116-119

John's Treatment of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When John saw the religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism he denounced them without hesitation:

"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." - Matthew 3:7-10

John's Response to the Priests and Levites

"And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I [am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." - John 1:19-28

John's Message About the Holy Spirit

John had a very special calling as the messenger of the Messiah. He was given understanding by God about the Messiah, and he knew something that most people didn't understand, that the Holy Spirit would be given to all who believe, and their bodies would become the new Temple of God. John said:

"I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." - Mark 1:8

This is important because throughout history and up to this point the Holy Spirit would only come upon special people at certain times for special purposes, but the Holy Spirit would not live inside the believer until Jesus rose from the dead. The Holy Spirit is the "Shekinah" Presence of God that dwelt in the holy of holies in Old Testament times. The Holy Spirit could not live in a body of sin unless that sin was cleansed by the blood of Jesus. John was given this understanding by the Lord, and his message must have been very peculiar to his listeners.