John the Baptizer (Baptist) was the “one who came before.” Before whom? Before Christ! Let’s look at his credentials.
1 Wine is an intemperate thing, and strong drink is full of violence; and all who commingle with it will not be wise. LXX Version
Of all the things John the Baptizer that gave him the most credibility, it was him being in the right place at the right time in history. In other words, timing is his best credential. His ministry began just a few months before Jesus came to be baptized. It was enough time for John to establish his ministry so that when he identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” people would take him (and Jesus) seriously. The interesting thing is that his ministry only lasted a few months after Jesus began his own ministry. We are looking at probably less than a year of John the Baptizer being on the scene. Yet, Jesus called him the greatest of all who were born of women (Matthew 11:11).
You might be wondering why I chose that verse of today’s Proverbs chapter. It’s because John the Baptizer was a Nazarite (see Numbers 6:1-5). Nazarites didn’t touch anything that comes from the grapevine, nor did they put a razor to their heads. Samson was a Nazarite from birth, as well. Include his long hair and bushy beard with his prophet’s outfit of camel hair and leather belt (see 2 Kings 1:8 concerning Elijah) and his diet of locusts and wild honey and you have a very compelling figure!
John baptized in a communal mikveh (a ritual bath that was built into the bank of the Jordan River, east of Jerusalem, near Jericho). It was one of many that people used to make themselves ritually pure. There have been as many as 70 mikvehs identified around the temple area alone and more than 700 in all of Israel–so far! Baptizing was not a new thing; being baptized for repentance of sins was definitely new. People were supposed to go to the temple and offer sacrifices for their sins, not be baptized in the muddy Jordan River. What were people thinking?! No wonder the religious leaders came out to see what was going on.
They asked John the Baptizer if he was one of three people:
- The Christ (Anointed One, Messiah);
- Elijah (back from wherever it was that he went on the chariot of fire);
- The Prophet (spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
He was none of the above. Jesus, on the other hand, said that if people were willing to see with spiritual eyes, that John was, indeed, Elijah (in spirit; see Matthew 11:14 who fulfilled Malachi 4:5-6). He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5, which said,
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain [for the coming of the King];
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Tomorrow, we will look at John’s message, and the message Jesus sent back to him for comfort.
Abba, John the Baptizer’s life and ministry were not long, but, oh, how important they were! Thank You for such a sign as the “One who Came Before.” I look forward to meeting him. Amen.