Summary: John the Baptist steps out on the stage of history. He is a New Testament personality, but I classify him as an Old Testament prophet, because of his character and his message.
John’s Ministry Begins
God planned the ministry of John the Baptist. We know this because we find him in prophecy. Malachi 3:1 says of him, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come, says the Lord Almighty.” John is the messenger “who will prepare the way before me.” Jesus Christ is the “messenger of the covenant.” Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets and his is the last book of the Old Testament. A curtain descended at this time and God was silent for 400 years. Then John the Baptist steps out on the stage of history. He is a New Testament personality, but I classify him as an Old Testament prophet, because of his character and his message. Let’s see what the Gospels say about his ministry.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea. (Matthew 3:1)
Matthew doesn’t tell us anything about John, before we are introduced to him in this verse. He doesn’t tell us where he came from or anything about his background. The reason for that is clear. What is important, is it the message, not the messenger. John would make it clear that he was just the messenger, and Matthew does too. His message would be, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.”-“a voice of one crying in the desert, ‘prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Mark 3:1-3)
This is where the Gospel begins. The Savior of mankind has come to earth to live among men, to die for our sins, to be buried and to rise again. That is the Gospel.
There are three beginnings recorded in scripture. Let me mention them here.
1. “In the beginning was the word.” (John 1:1) The word is Jesus who was in the beginning and I don’t know when that was. To me everything has a beginning, because that’s how my mind works. But I can’t confine God to what I know with my limited knowledge, so no matter how far I can go back in time, it is not far enough, because Jesus was already there.
2. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) If you can date the universe then you know the time when our world was created and when God formed men and women. I believe that this was 6,000-8,000 years ago. Other men, much more knowledgeable than I am, say it was millions of years ago. This is not as important to me as the date that I met my Savior. That was fifty years ago. I was born almost 69 years ago (physically), but I met Jesus 60 years ago, and I was born again.
3. “The beginning of the Gospel,” (Mark 3:1) is the same as, “That which was from the beginning.” (John 1:1) The Gospel begins at the precise moment that Jesus Christ took on human flesh. Jesus Christ is the Gospel.
Mark quotes prophecy from Isaiah and Malachi in verses 2 and 3 to give John the Baptist references. He was the one coming to fulfill these prophecies; to be the forerunner of Christ and to prepare the way for Him.
And so John came baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4)
It is important to note that John preached repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins, not of the forgiveness of sins. John’s ministry was to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who can forgive sins.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar-when Pontius Pilot was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch in Iturea and Tracenitus and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene-during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. (Luke 3:1-2)
The six men mentioned in verse one allows us to date when this happened, because these men occur in secular history. We know something about these men. We have already discussed Herod. Tiberius Caesar was brilliant but brutal. He was clever, cunning, inhuman and profane. He tried to master the world.
Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. Why were there two? Because of the power of Rome, Caiaphas was appointed by Rome to be the high priest, but Annas was the power behind the throne. Rome was involved with the religion of the nations that they conquered.