One of the most important figures in the New Testament is John the Baptist. He is featured in all four of the Gospels, and he prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. John offers us a powerful message of repentance and a compelling example of devotion to God.
John was born to Zechariah the priest and Elizabeth, a relative of Mary the mother of Jesus. Like Jesus, his birth was foretold by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:5-25). Not much else is known about John except he spent his early years in the wilderness around Judea, and there received his call from God (Luke 1:80; Luke 3:2).
John’s Mission and Ministry
John had a unique role as he prepared people for the coming of Jesus. John was a prophet in the style and power of Elijah from the Old Testament. He called people to repentance, just as Elijah had done for an earlier generation. The coming of John as a new Elijah was a sign that the Messiah was about to be revealed (Luke 1:17; Mark 9:11-13).
John was an unusual guy. He wore camel’s hair and a leather belt, and he ate locusts and honey (Mark 1:6). John also had a dynamic ministry. He baptized people for the repentance of their sins. John’s baptism symbolized that a person had repented. They no longer trusted in themselves, but trusted in God. He called people to live lives that measured up to this repentance. He taught radical generosity and honesty as godly virtues.
Luke 3:10-11 The crowds asked, “What should we do?” John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
Surely, many people thought that John was the Messiah. John, however, understood his role, and told people that he was not the Messiah, but the Messiah was coming soon. Jesus the Messiah did come, and John baptized him (Matthew 3:13-17).
John’s Death and Legacy
John was killed by King Herod because the prophet spoke out against Herod’s immoral marriage to Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Mark 6:17-19). This foreshadowed Jesus’ death at the hands of the government. Jesus claimed that John was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 11:11-14).
John understood his role well. As Jesus began his public ministry, the crowds left John and followed Jesus. John understood that this was the appropriate thing to happen and left these ultimate words of humility as he talked about Jesus:
John 3:30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Why do you think it was necessary for someone to prepare people for the coming of Jesus?
- How does a change in behavior reveal that we have experienced true repentance of sin?
- What does John teach you about humility?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.