It tells us in Luke 1:17 that John the Baptist ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah…down to the same attire. For the Prophet Elijah was recognized by what he wore – a garment of hair with a leather belt around his waist ( II Kings 1:8). This garb in fact was so powerful that false prophets started copying his dress in order to deceive the people. (Zechariah 13:4) Initially, the curious crowd might have been drawn by the wild-looking man, but when John shouted, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near!” divine conviction fell upon them.
John the Baptist came preaching repentance. His baptism was a ritual symbolizing spiritual cleansing through the forgiveness of sins to those who repented and believed the gospel, and also prepared the Jews for the coming Messiah. But many in the crowd took offense, wanting rather to put their trust in their lineage or “pedigree” for their righteousness. But it tells us in Galatians 3:6-7, “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” We will never get to heaven on the shirt-tails of our Godly father, or on the apron-strings of our prayer warrior grandmother. No, the only way is by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ…and it’s only through repentance and forgiveness of our sins that we have the promise of eternal life.
John the Baptist had been very plain to his followers that he was not the Messiah, but rather sent ahead to proclaim His coming. But his followers could only see Jesus as competition. As the Ministry of Jesus was just starting up…the Ministry of John the Baptist’s was winding down…and John was content with this, but not his followers. For jealousy had reared its ugly head as they watched their crowds dwindle, and the crowds around Jesus grow larger. I’ll be the first to admit there’s been times when I’ve seen the awesome move of God in a person and a twinge of jealousy will resonate deep inside. “Why can’t that be me, Lord?” I whine pathetically . John the Baptist knew the plan and purpose of his life so he didn’t have to view Jesus as a rival, but rather rejoiced with Him in God’s work being accomplished. The Lord’s work shouldn’t be a contest, where all of us are jockeying for attention and resentful when someone else is used by Him. Rather than being jealous, we should be rejoicing for each other.
Why was Jesus so insistent that John the Baptist baptize Him? Why would the Son of God need to submit to it at all? First for credibility…a sinless Jesus could identify with all sinners by humbling Himself to baptism. Secondly for obedience…Jesus demonstrated His total submission to His Heavenly Father in baptism. Finally for new beginnings…for this was the first step in the start of His public ministry here on earth.
Baptism…just as during the time of John the Baptist, is a public action, for an internal, personal decision for Christ. It symbolizes the spiritual cleansing through the forgiveness of sins to those who repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Baptism is part of the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” As a new Christian, you don’t have to be perfect before you can be baptized…you don’t have to have it “all together” and cleaned up prior either. Baptism is a public “Just as I am” coming to Jesus moment.
Malachi was speaking of the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. The forerunner, John the Baptist, came preaching a very simple sermon…Repent! His message from the start was that someone much more important than he was soon coming, and everyone should ready themselves. John’s words ring true even today…Repent! For the time is short. Change your ways, for the King is coming!
This older, (the Bible says, well along in years) childless couple were still praying and hoping beyond hope that God would bless them with a baby. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth came from a long line of priests, and Zechariah was actually serving before the Lord when Gabriel appeared with this wonderful news. The angel not only prophesied over John that he would go before the Lord in the Spirit and power of Elijah and make ready a people prepared for the Lord…but Gabriel also dedicated and called John the Baptist into ministry before he was even conceived.