By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Boise, ID. December 2, 2000)

    A couple of you have requested a lesson on John the Baptist. So, I thought I would go over some things about him. He is a very important figure in the Old Testament. What !?
    I said the Old Testament. The law and the prophets were until John. Mt.11:13-14. So John is the last Old Testament prophet to be sent, and therefore in several respects he is the greatest, because he heralds the coming of the Messiah, the holy one of God.

1. His mission was foretold.

       1 "Comfort, yes, comfort my people!"
        Says your God.
     2  "Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
        That her warfare is ended,
        That her iniquity is pardoned;
        For she has received from Jehovah's hand
        Double for all her sins."

     3  The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
        "Prepare the way of Jehovah;
        Make straight in the desert

        A highway for our God.
     4  Every valley shall be exalted
        And every mountain and hill brought low;
        The crooked places shall be made straight
        And the rough places smooth;
     5  The glory of Jehovah shall be revealed,
        And all flesh shall see it together;
        For the mouth of Jehovah has spoken."

     6  The voice said, "Cry out!"
        And he
said, "What shall I cry?"

        "All flesh is grass,
        And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
     7  The grass withers, the flower fades,
        Because the breath of Jehovah blows upon it;
        Surely the people are grass.
     8  The grass withers, the flower fades,
        But the word of our God stands forever."

     9  O Zion,
        You who bring good tidings,
        Get up into the high mountain;
        O Jerusalem,
        You who bring good tidings,
        Lift up your voice with strength,
        Lift it up, be not afraid;
        Say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!"

   10  Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand,
        And his arm shall rule for him;
        Behold, his reward is with him,
        And his work before him.
   11  He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
        He will gather the lambs with his arm,
        And carry them in his bosom,
        And gently lead those who are with young.

    The picture is of a great person coming, so they would smooth out the roads on the route he would be taking when he arrived. Boise did this very thing when President George Bush Sr. came to Idaho. We filled in all the potholes on his limousine route.
    But here it was a preparation of the people in repentance in view of God's approach. Preparing the way...

        1 "Behold, I send my messenger,
        And he will prepare the way before me.
        And Jehovah, whom you seek,
        Will suddenly come to his temple,
        Even the messenger of the covenant,
        In whom you delight.
        Behold, he is coming,"
        Says Jehovah of hosts.

     2  "But who can endure the day of his coming?
        And who can stand when he appears?
        For he is like a refiner's fire
        And like launderers' soap.
     3  he will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
        he will purify the sons of Levi,
        And purge them as gold and silver,
        That they may offer to Jehovah
        An offering in righteousness.

     4  "Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
        Will be pleasant to Jehovah,
        As in the days of old,
        As in former years.
     5  And I will come near you for judgment;
        I will be a swift witness
        Against sorcerers,
        Against adulterers,
        Against perjurers,
        Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans,
        And against those who turn away an alien--
        Because they do not fear me,"
        Says Jehovah of hosts.

       5  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
        Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Jehovah.
     6  And he will turn
        The hearts of the fathers to the children,
        And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
        Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."

Preparing the hearts of the people. Elijah's is the spirit and power that he would have.

  He will also go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “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.”

So, in prophesy he is simply called Elijah.

Mt.17:9-12  (after the transfiguration)
9  Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the son of Man is risen from the dead.”
10  And his disciples asked him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
11  Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.
12  But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.”

2. His birth was promised.
    It was announced, like the birth of his cousin Jesus, by Gabriel the herald angel of God.

Lk.1:5-26; 57-79
  There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6  And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8  So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
9  according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10  And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
11  Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, 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 to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15  For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17  He will also go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “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.”
18  And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
19  And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
20  But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
21  And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple.
22  But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23  So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.
24  Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,
25  “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
26  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
  Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.
58  When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
59  So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias.
60  His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”
61  But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”
62  So they made signs to his father – what he would have him called.
63  And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled.
64  Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.
65  Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea.
66  And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67  Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

   68   “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
       For he has visited and redeemed his people,
   69   And has raised up a horn of salvation
       for us in the house of his servant David,
   70   As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets,
       Who have been since the world began,
   71   That we should be saved from our
       enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
   72   To perform the mercy promised to our
       fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
   73   The oath which he swore to our father Abraham:
   74   To grant us that we, being delivered
       from the hand of our enemies, might
       serve him without fear,
   75   In holiness and righteousness before
       him all the days of our life.
   76   “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
       For you will go before the face of the
       Lord to prepare his ways,
   77   To give knowledge of salvation to his
       people by the remission of their sins,
   78   Through the tender mercy of our God,
       With which a [light] rising from on high will visit us;
   79   To give light to those who sit in
       darkness and the shadow of death,
       To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

So, there was a promise, a miracle for confirmation, a fulfillment and a prophesy of what this child would do.

3. His early life.
His early life consisted in being raised in the wilderness, far from the corruption of city life. When he was shown to Israel he would have the aura of an O.T. prophet - objective, unaffected, uncompromising and totally devoted to God.
    Gabriel said he would be an ascetic - no wine or booze.

The picture - Mt.3:4 (he would even look like Elijah)

4  Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

4. Suddenly appeared.
He suddenly appeared to Israel preaching repentance for the kingdom was near.
    3 Things briefly...

A. His Identity
- He was not the Christ.

  Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21  And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

- He could say he was not Elijah, because he wasn't. He had the same spirit and power, but he was not that same person.
- He was not "that prophet" - the prophet that Moses promised would come. (Deut.18:15)
- Who are you then?

  Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
23  He said: “I am a “voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the LORD,”’
as the prophet Isaiah said.”

So he quotes Isaiah - true to his real identity - true to the mission God called him to accomplish.

B. His mission
- To call Israel to repentance and prepare them to receive the Messiah.

1  Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,
2  while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the Son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
3  And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching an immersion of repentance for the remission of sins,
4  as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying:

        “The voice of one crying in the
        wilderness:  “Prepare the way of the LORD;
        make his paths straight.
     5   Every valley shall be filled and every
        mountain and hill brought low;
        the crooked places shall be made
        straight and the rough ways smooth;
     6   and all flesh shall see the salvation of

7  Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be immersed by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come?
8  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
9  And even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10  So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”
11  He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”
12  Then tax collectors also came to be immersed, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
13  And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”
14  Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?”  So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”
15  Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not,
16  John answered, saying to all, “I indeed immerse you with water; but one mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will immerse you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
17  His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor, and gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18  And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.

- To be a witness of the Messiah. To point him out.

  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7  This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all through him might believe.
8  He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.
9  That was the true light which lightens every man coming into the world.

- Then his actual testimony. (This is the day after the immersion of Jesus.)

  The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
30  This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.’
31  I did not know him; but that he should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came immersing with water.”
32  And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he remained upon him.
33  I did not know him, but he who sent me to immerse with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, this is he who immerses with the Holy Spirit.’
34  And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
35  Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.
36  And looking at Jesus as he walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

C. His immersion. (baptism)

  And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching an immersion of repentance for the remission of sins,

- It was for the remission of sins.
- It was for Jews to prepare for the Messiah.
- It was not immersion into Christ's death, for he had not yet died.
- So it was a temporary remission looking forward to Christ - just as everything in the O.T. was temporary, like the sacrifices.
- People had to be immersed again into Christ where they would receive the blessings of the New Covenant, complete remission of all sins, sin's power broken, spiritual life and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 19:1-7
1  And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples
2   he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
3  And he said to them, “Into what then were you immersed?” So they said, “Into John’s immersion.”
4  Then Paul said, “John indeed immersed with an immersion of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
5  When they heard this, they were immersed in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with languages and prophesied.
7  Now the men were about twelve in all.

5. A temporary mission.
John's was a temporary mission and he knew it.

  After these things Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea, and there he remained with them and immersed.
23  Now John also was immersing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were immersed.
24  For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25  Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.
26  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified – behold  he is immersing, and all are coming to him!”
27  John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.
28  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ,’ but, “I have been sent before him.’
29  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.
30  He must increase, but I must decrease.
31  He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.
32  And what he has seen and heard, that he testifies; and no one receives his testimony.
33  He who has received his testimony has set his seal that God is true.
34  For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.
35  The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.
36  He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

6. His imprisonment.
John in the spirit of Elijah was very bold. (Elijah was the one that called fire down from the sky to consume Israel's enemies.) No one was above John's rebuke.

  But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,
20  also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.

7. His doubting.
While he was in prison, John was concerned about the work and teaching of Jesus. He had been in prison all winter and he was expecting Jesus to increase. But from what he heard in rumors he was beginning to wonder. Was Jesus the right man?

1  Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding his twelve disciples, that he departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.
2  And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of  his disciples
  and said to him, “Are you the Coming One, or may we expect another?”
4  Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:
5  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6  And blessed is he who is not offended because of me.”

    The common report of Jesus, John would hear. Jesus was a wine bibber. Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus was not pressing political issues. (Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's). Jesus actually turned people back from following him. (Jno.6)
    John was seeing Jesus decreasing. So Jesus gives John the same thing every other Jew got from him - Look at my works, do not stumble over me.

8. His death.
His death was typical of that day. Caused by debased, mindless hatred of what was good and right.

  But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!”
17  For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her.
18  Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
19  Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not;
20  for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
21  Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee.
22  And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.”
23  He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
24  So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?”  And she said, “The head of John the Immerser!”
25  Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Immerser on a platter.”
26  And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her.
27  Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison,
28  brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.
29  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
30  Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught.
31  And he said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
32  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.

    Mindless, capricious bravado. To please a sluttish young girl, Herod takes the head of the greatest of the O.T. prophets.
    You can see the shock it had on Jesus and his disciples by them leaving to get out of the cities and be alone.
    God had ordained that no prophet should die outside of Jerusalem.

  On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
32  And he said to them, “Go, tell that fox,  Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’
33  Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.

The reason for this... Mt.23:29-39
  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
30  and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
31  “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
32  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
33  Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of Hell?
Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,
35  that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
36  Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
38  See! Your house is left to you desolate;
  for I say to you, you shall see me no more till you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!”'

9. His legacy
What is said of him is tribute enough - but having the Son of God say it is really wonderful.

  “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.
32  There is another who bears witness of me, and I know that the witness which he witnesses of me is true.
33  You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.
34  Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.
35  He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.
36  But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me.
37  And the Father himself, who sent me, has testified of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form.
38  But you do not have his word abiding in you, because whom he sent, him you do not believe.
39  You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me.
40  But you are not willing to come to me that you may have life.
41  “I do not receive honor from men.
42  But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.
43  I have come in my father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.
44  How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?
45  Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you – Moses, in whom you trust.
46  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me.
47  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

  As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
8  But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
9  But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
10  For this is he of whom it is written:

        “Behold, I send my messenger before
        your face, who will prepare your way
        before you.’

11  “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Immerser; but he who is least in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he.
12  And from the days of John the Immerser until now the kingdom of the heavens suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
13  For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
14  And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.
15  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

    What a legacy to have. The prophet of the Highest. But the least Christian in God's kingdom holds a greater position than John. You can be called a child of God. What an honor and legacy to have for yourself. To be revealed in the end to be the faithful child of God - who committed your life to following Jesus and learning of him and growing into his image, giving him glory and praise by your life that you lived here.
    If you are not a child of God - then become one by trusting in Jesus and his death for you - repenting of your sins, confessing your belief and being immersed into Christ for the remission of sins.
    You can share in the legacy of God's children.