JOHN COMES PREACHING AND BAPTIZING
MANY GET BAPTIZED, BUT NOT ALL
Some 17 years have passed since Jesus at 12 years of age was questioning the teachers in the temple. It is now the spring of 29 C.E. Many are talking about Jesus’ relative John, who is preaching in all the country on the eastern side of the Jordan River.
John is quite an impressive man, both in appearance and in speech. His clothing is made of camel’s hair, and he wears a leather belt around his waist. He eats locusts
John’s message excites those who have come out to hear him. Many realize their need to repent, that is, to change their attitude and ways, rejecting their past course of life as undesirable. Those who come to him are from “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country around the Jordan.” (Matthew 3:5) Many of those who come out to John do repent. He baptizes them, immersing them in the waters of the Jordan. Why?
He baptizes people in symbol, or acknowledgment, of their heartfelt repentance for sins against God’s Law covenant. (Acts 19:4) Not all qualify, though. When some religious leaders, Pharisees and Sadducees, come to him, John calls them “offspring of vipers.” He says: “Produce fruit that befits repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. The ax is already lying at the root of the trees. Every tree, then, that does not produce fine fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Because John is receiving much attention, has a powerful message, and is baptizing many, the priests and Levites are sent out to ask him: “Who are you?”
“I am not the Christ,” John confesses.
“What, then? Are you Elijah?” they inquire.
He answers: “I am not.”
“No!” John replies.
They become insistent: “Who are you? Tell us so that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John says: “I am a voice of someone crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make the way of Jehovah straight,’ just as Isaiah the prophet said.”
“Why, then, do you baptize,” they want to know, “if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” He gives a meaningful answer: “I baptize in water. One is standing among you whom you do not know, the one coming behind me.”
Yes, John acknowledges that he is preparing the way by getting people in a proper heart condition to accept the foretold Messiah, the one who is to become King. Of him, John says: “The one coming after me is stronger than I am, whose sandals I am not worthy to take off.” (Matthew 3:11) In fact, John even says: “The one coming behind me has advanced in front of me, for he existed before me.”
Thus, John’s message “Repent, for the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near” is indeed appropriate. (Matthew 3:2) It serves as a public notice that the ministry of Jehovah’s coming King, Jesus Christ, is about to begin.