Chapter 10 - Full Circle
by Helen Dowd

The Forerunner Announces the King

Friends, relatives and neighbors watched as John grew up. But they said little. God was with John as he grew strong in body and spirit. As soon as he was old enough to leave home he ventured into the desert until it was time to reveal himself to Israel. God was preparing the man whose name is John, who later was called 'John the Baptist' for the ministry He had for him, that of being the"Forerunner of the Messiah." Thirty years later the cousins meet, when John, the son of Elizabeth and Zacharias, baptized Jesus, the Son of God and Mary. And that was the beginning of Jesus' special ministry on earth.

Note: This will not be a detailed account of John the Baptist's life and ministry. This chapter will be just a summary of the introduction of Jesus to the public: His baptism by John. In another series in time to come I will take up the story from here.

Isaiah 40:3 - "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."

John 1:8 - "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Make straight the way of the Lord'"
John 1:29 - "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Isaiah 53:11 - "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities."

Historical setting:
Time:
About 27 A.D.
Place: In the area of the Jordan River
Persons: John, a crowd of onlookers, and Jesus.
Scripture: Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke3:21-23; John 1:29-34

John the Baptist, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness," and Jesus Christ, "the Savior of mankind," meet at last.

"In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Prepare ye the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.'"

And this is the first we have heard of John, the son of Elizabeth and Zacharias, since the announcement of his birth, nearly three decades ago.

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"Have you heard? There is this wild man...he has just come out of the desert. And you should hear how he talks...and what he is saying...and what he wears...and what he eats! He wears clothes made from camel's hair, bound with a leather belt...his hair is long and straggly...his diet is locusts and wild honey. ...And can you imagine this? He shouts out this strange message ...something about repentance...and preparing the way for some great Prophet...the Messiah, of all things! ...And he is even dipping people in the water! It's absolutely crazy! He is a maniac!"

The news spread like wildfire around the area, in Judea and Jerusalem. Spectators from the regions all around the Jordan came out in hordes to see this wild man and to hear what his message was all about.

"You must repent and be baptized. The Kingdom of God is at hand...There is One coming after me who is mightier than I. Why, I am not worthy even to undo His shoes! It is He that you must prepare for...Yes. I baptize with water, but He who is about to appear, will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." John the Baptist's voice, with no need for a loud speaker, boomed forth. "Repent! Repent!" His voice, like thunder, reached the ears of the crowds who had gathered. Even those who lived round about, and had no desire to listen, could not help but hear.
What could it all mean? Many hearing this strange message took it to heart, expressing genuine repentance for their sins. They accepted this baptism that John taught. Some out of the crowd just listened out of curiosity at this strange new doctrine. And some--the Pharisees and Sadducees and religious leaders--came to hear what this radical had to say, to ridicule him.

When John saw the Pharisees and the Sadducees coming, he had a special message for them: "What are you doing here, you bunch of snakes. Who has warned you to flee from the judgement to come? Oh yes, I know your story. You know the Law. You teach it. And you rest on your laurels that you have Abraham as your father. Well, let me tell you, you 'religious' hypocrites, God could raise up stones to be the children of Abraham if He wanted to. Those LAWS that you claim to follow, will not gain your repentance, nor pave your way to heaven. Repent! Repent! The Messiah--The Saviour of mankind--is coming. Get ready for Him."

The 'religious' leaders were taken back for a minute. But soon they came back with a retort: "Who are you anyway? Where did you come from? We don't recall anything from the records about you? You are a phoney! You are not the promised Messiah."

John's answer was swift. "No. I did not say I was the Christ."

"Who are you then? We haven't read about you in the Scriptures. Where do you fit into the picture? What do you have to say for yourself? Are you Elijah? Are you a prophet?"

"No." answered John to all these questions being fired at him. "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness:' Make straight the way of the Lord' as the prophet Isaiah said."

"Why then do you baptize, if you are not Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet?" the 'religionists' wanted to know.

John's answer was: "I baptize you with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know." He went on to say, "He, who is coming along is far greater than I. Soon you will see Him. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. He is the Messiah. Listen to Him."

It was the very next day that John saw Jesus approaching him. In his usual booming voice he called out, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." He continued to explain to the crowd: "This is the MAN that I have been telling you about. He is the One who is greater than I. Even though I have come first to announce Him, and even though I was born into this world before He was, He lived before I was ever thought of. I have been sent to reveal Him to all of Israel´┐Ż to the entire world. That is why I have been preaching the gospel of repentance and baptism. It is to prepare you for the Son of God. And here He is!"

At that precise moment Jesus approached John, asking him to baptize Him. John's protest was loud: "No, my Lord. It is I who should be baptized by You. And You are coming to me?"

Jesus simply replied: "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus was explaining to John, before the crowd gathered by the River Jordan on that day, that He had come to fulfill the Law of Moses. He was showing to the crowd that John's baptism was necessary as a testimony to true repentance. Jesus had nothing to repent of, but He was setting an example to all those before Him.

Humbled, John baptized Jesus before the crowd. Just as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened, and John saw the Spirit of God, like a dove, descend on Jesus. Suddenly, he heard a voice from heaven saying, "This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

God had announced to the world that Jesus was His Son. It was time for Christ's public ministry to begin. But wait! First He must pass a crucial test.

Almost immediately after His baptism, Jesus disappeared from the crowd. He was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness, where He was tempted of the devil for forty days. Jesus must prove to Satan--the father of evil--that he could not gain dominion over Him--the Son of man and the Son of God. Satan would have liked nothing better than to have God's plan for the salvation of man to fail.

But Jesus did not fail. He passed the ultimate test. He exibited to Satan that He was the Son of God. He demonstrated to him that the Son of God had power over the devil and his wiles.


Helen Dowd

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Conclusion of this series. Please watch for upcoming stories on Jesus' public ministry.



  

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