John the Baptist
John, the forerunner of Jesus, was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah was a priest and they were passed normal child-bearing age. Zechariah had a vision predicting the birth of a son. He doubted and was mute until the boy was born. He wrote on a tablet that the boy’s name would be John, not a name in his family. His voice was restored and he sang a song of praise for what would do through his son and the coming Messiah. Naming is important and John was named by God. (Luke 1:5-25; 57-80)
John’s childhood, adolescence and early adulthood are not recorded but his parents probably died when he was young. His father was a priest. So were his grandfather and every other in that line until Aaron, the brother of Moses, and first priest under the covenant with God. For centuries they were priests. Some time, probably early in life, John was told that he would not be a priest. He was the forerunner and his relative, Jesus, was the Messiah.
John went into the wilderness and lived off of the land. He waited. He received his call from God and began to preach. (Luke 1:80; 3:1-2)
His message was clear. Repent, change your lives, the Messiah is coming, and he is greater than I am. His preaching and his response to messengers from the religious leaders in Jerusalem are all consistent. Some of the older priests in Jerusalem probably remembered the old priest, the vision, and the boy thirty year earlier. (Luke 3:3-18; John 1: 14-28)
John Hears the Voice of God
Jesus came to John. John questioned whether is was right for him to baptize the Messiah. Jesus assured him and was baptized. As Jesus came out of the water there is a voice from heaven declaring that Jesus was God’s beloved Son and a dove descended. John had been given the sign of the dove as an expected confirmation of the Messiah. (Matthew 3:1-17; Luke 3:21-22)
John’s work as forerunner was complete. He urged his disciples to follow Jesus and some of them become the first members of the Twelve. (John 1:14–42)
He continued to preach reform and was put into prison by Herod because he condemned Herod’s relationship with his brother’s wife. (Luke 3:18-20)
How could it end this way? Elijah was miraculously taken to heaven. John was languishing in prison facing death. In prison he doubted. He sent word asking Jesus if he was really the one. Jesus responded that John was to look and see how Jesus was fulfilling the Messianic ministry. He did not condemn John’s doubts but praised him to the crowds. John was the forerunner. He was the Messiah. John was a great man. Matthew 11:2-19)
John was later executed in prison. (Matthew 14:1-12)
John’s doubts were real. He had heard the voice of God and still doubted. Doubts are real. Great experiences will not eliminate them. The focus is Jesus and his Messianic work. Even the voice of God from heaven will not eliminate doubts.
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