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John the Baptist is the name of a man who lived in the desert country bordering the Jordan river in Palestine during the time of Jesus. He was called John “The Baptist” because the Bible records that he baptized many people.
He is well-known in Bible history as a man who publicly spoke about the soon arrival of the Messiah. The Messiah turned out to be Jesus of Nazareth, John’s own cousin.
The story of John’s birth is interesting. The Bible writer Luke, a medical doctor who did a lot of research, wrote about John the Baptist's birth in Luke chapter 1.
The angel that announced John the Baptist’s birth told Zechariah, “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord . . . He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit . . . And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:15-17.
There were no cameras in those days, but the Bible gives an interesting description of John the Baptist’s appearance. “Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). So John even dressed like Elijah.
John ate locusts and honey because they were available in the desert region where he preached. Some people think “locusts and wild honey” is an expression that means the available local foods. Beehives in trees exist all around the world. Even today, some inhabitants from when John lived get an income by collecting wild honey.
John the Baptist is known as the messenger or preacher who announced the arrival of the Messiah in a public way. Crowds went out to the area by the Jordan river where he was preaching. John was the fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah 40:3-5.
Luke writes the following, quoting Isaiah chapter 40, “And he [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, 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...And all flesh shall see the salvation of God”’ “ (Luke 3:3-6).
John also baptized people who demonstrated repentance of their sins and wished to join the ranks of those awaiting the Messiah’s appearance . In this way, his preaching and baptizing prepared the way of the Lord. His most noticeable and memorable baptism is when John baptized Jesus Himself, the Messiah. (See Matthew 3:13-17.)
Mark chapter 6 tells the story of what happened to John.
Finally and most importantly, John the Baptist recognized Jesus even though many around him didn’t. John wasn’t drawn aside by the popular thought that the Messiah would overthrow the Romans with power. Instead he read the Bible and its prophecies and looked for the Messiah based on what the Bible said and not the people around him.
We would do well to take John’s example to heart. The Jews didn’t recognize Jesus at His first coming. How many will recognize Jesus at His second coming? Many will not recognize Jesus because they do not look to the Bible alone instead of the popular theories and beliefs of our day.