Chapter 1 - The "Voice" and The "Lamb"
Helen Dowd

Isaiah 40:3 – "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God…'"

John 1:29 – "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

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: 21-22; John 1:29-34

Matthew 3:1 - "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.'"

* * *

"Come see the WILD MAN from the wilderness!!" 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 from the Wilderness," and to hear what his message was all about. What clothes he wore—a garment made of camel's hair! What food he eats—locusts and wild honey! His hair—all straggly and wild! And what a message he shouts—'Repent and be baptized'! Why, he's an absolute maniac!"

"Repent and be baptized... The Kingdom of God is at hand..." The voice of the "Wild Man from the Wilderness," also dubbed "John the Baptist" rang out throughout the area around Jordan. "There is One coming after me who is mightier than I."

John had never met Jesus, but he had loved the Son of God--Son of man from his youth. Even before either of their births a love of Christ had been planted within John. When Mary had told her cousin Elizabeth that God had chosen her to be the mother of His Son, John had leaped within his mother's womb. Even then, before John was born, before he knew anything, the purpose of his birth was stamped upon his brain, and in his heart. From his very earliest childhood, in the depths of his heart, John knew that he had been chosen to be the forerunner of Christ, the Messiah; yet it had not yet been revealed to him just exactly HOW. Although they both lived in the land of Palestine, their paths had not crossed. Jesus lived a humble life with His parents, learning His earthly father's trade of carpentry, while his cousin John, wandered by God's design into the wilderness, where he lived like a wild man.

"Repent! Repent! Prepare the way for the Lord! The Messiah, God's Son, is coming… I baptize with water, but the One who is coming after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." John's voice, like thunder, reached the ears of the crowds who had gathered. And John spared no words. He pelted out the message he had been given by the One who had called him.

When John saw the Pharisees and the Sadducees approaching, their long, white robes flapping as they walked, he had a special message for them: "What are you doing here, you bunch of snakes. Who has warned you to flee from the judgment to come? Oh yes, I know your story, you lawyers. You know the Law. You teach it. But let me tell you this. Those LAWS that you claim to follow, will not gain you repentance, nor pave your way to heaven. Repent! Repent! The Messiah--The Saviour of mankind--is coming. Get ready for Him." Like a hammer chopping at stone, John's voice pounded out his message.

The angered religious leaders shouted back: "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. "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."

"What business then do you have to baptize? You say you are not the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet," the 'religionists' shouted.

John answered: "I baptize you with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. He who is coming is greater than I. I am not worthy, as His servant, even to undo His shoelaces. Soon you will see Him, and then I will disappear from the picture. He will become great. I will diminish. Whereas I baptize with water, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. I am just the messenger; He is the Messiah. Listen to Him. He is the only One who can save you from the wrath to come. Repent! Repent!"

* * *

The next day as John was preaching his message of repentance, he saw a Man approaching him. Although he had never before laid eyes on Jesus, he knew immediately who He was. He raised his arms, pointing toward Jesus, and in his usual thunderous voice he called out: "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Without changing his tone or pitch, he said 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. The whole purpose of my birth was to be His forerunner, to reveal Him to all of Israel… to the entire world. The reason for my preaching the gospel of repentance and baptism has been to prepare you for the Son of God. And here He is!"

Jesus, by this time, had reached the edge of the Jordan River. He walked up to John, and without further ado, He asked him to baptize Him.

"Oh no, my Lord!" John's protest was loud. "No! I am the one who should be baptized by You. I am not worthy to baptize You, my Lord. I am but Your humble servant."

Jesus' answer to John was simple: "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus was aware of what John had been preaching. And He was aware of who in the crowd had been objecting—the religious leaders of the nation. And before this crowd, this motley crowd of the humble and the proud, gathered by Jordan on that day, Jesus declared that He had come to fulfill the Law of Moses. He was, by asking to be baptized by John, 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, but obedient to his Lord, John baptized Jesus before the crowd.

Just as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened. Before his very eyes John saw the Spirit of God, like a dove, descend on Jesus. And Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, he heard a voice from heaven declaring: "This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

God had announced to the world that Jesus was His Son. Before Him and John stood a crowd of astonished people--the humble eager to listen, the proud religious leaders eager to watch, like hawks, this Impostor, waiting to find fault with Him.

It was time for Christ's public ministry to begin. But wait! First He must pass a crucial test. He must exhibit to Satan that He was the Son of God. He must confirm to him that the Son of God has power over the devil and his wiles.

Straight away after His baptism, Jesus vanished from the crowd. The Spirit of God led Him into the wasteland, where He was tempted of the devil. Jesus must demonstrate to Satan--the father of evil--that he could not gain authority over Him, the Son of man-Son of God.

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© Helen Dowd

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