The Forerunner

All four gospel accounts apply the same passage from the Book of Isaiah to John the Baptist, the messenger who summoned men to repent “for the remission of sins” in preparation for the Messiah. The passage identifies John as the forerunner who was expected before the “Day of the LORD” - “The voice of one crying, in the wilderness, prepare the way of the LORD” - (Isaiah 40:3-5).

Some of John’s activities paralleled the ministry of the Prophet Elijah. For example, John was “clothed with camel's hair and a leather belt,” and like Elijah, he also spent time in the “wilderness” - (2 Kings 1:1-8, Malachi 3:1-3, 4:5, Mark 9:12-13, Luke 1:17).

Waterfall Forest - Photo by Andrew Coelho on Unsplash
[Photo by Andrew Coelho on Unsplash]

The Greek noun translated as “
repentance” points to a “change of mind.” The call was for more than just remorse over past misdeeds. The “remission of sins” required a deliberate change of mind and a complete reorientation of life, and “remission” in Greek and English means to release, discharge, or remit something.

In Scripture, the word translated as “remission” is applied to the “discharge” of debts and for divorce decrees. Repentance discharges the stain of sin and releases the penitent man or woman from its dominion, obligations, and curse.

  • John came baptizing in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judaea and all they of Jerusalem; and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and he had a leathern girdle about his loins, and did eat locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, There is coming after me he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I baptized you in water, but he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit.

John called the nation of Israel to repent, and the crowds that heard him included Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests, namely, the religious leadership of the Jewish nation. Representatives from all levels of Jewish society were summoned to repent - (Matthew 3:6, John 1:19).

The preaching of John and his actions pointed to the coming Messiah. However, Jesus was the one who brought the Good News of the Kingdom of God. John’s baptism prepared hearts for his arrival. Furthermore, John contrasted himself with the coming Messiah in three ways - MightWorth, and Mode of Baptism. The adjective translated as “mightier” in the passage is used elsewhere to describe Jesus as the “mighty one” who bound the “strong man,” Satan - (Mark 3:22-30).

John described himself as unworthy “to unloose the strap of his sandals.” In first-century society, removing another man’s footwear was a menial task normally assigned to slaves and domestic servants.

The baptism of John was preparatory, not final. He baptized sinners in water, but the Messiah would “baptize them in the Holy Spirit.”

The Gift of the Spirit was an expectation of the “Last Days,” the “Promise of the Father” and one of the “blessings of Abraham.” It was fundamental to the coming New Covenant and the people of God - (Acts 2:38-39, Galatians 2:14, Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 36:26-27).

In the gospel accounts, Jesus did not abandon water baptism, but his baptism added something new and significant, the baptism in the Spirit; therefore, his “baptism” was superior to anything previously experienced, including the baptism of John.

John set the stage for the public unveiling of the Messiah and Herald of the Kingdom, Jesus of Nazareth. He would baptize his followers in the Holy Spirit “and fire.”



RELATED POSTS:
  • In Beginning - (In the ministry of Jesus, the kingdom of God arrived, commencing with his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist – Mark 1:1-3)
  • Call His Name Jesus - (Jesus’ means ‘Yahweh saves.’ In the man from Nazareth, the salvation promised by the God of Israel arrived in all its glory)
  • Son of David - (Jesus is the son of David and heir to the Messianic Throne, the beloved Son of God, and the Suffering Servant of Yahweh)

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