Mission and Preaching
of John the Baptist
Luke 3:1-18In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages." As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
John the Baptist
Early Christian preaching started with the witness of John the Baptist (Acts 1.22; 10.37). This situated Jesus in the expectations and hopes of the Old Testament. What follows dawns out of the past in John the Baptist.
John was the only son of a priest whose name was Zechariah. Zechariah ministered in the temple of Jerusalem and was married to Elizabeth, a cousin of Mary. The Gospel of St. Luke tells us of the circumstances of John's birth and the visit of Mary.
The only son of a priest had the duty to follow his father’s footsteps and marry to ensure that the priestly succession is continued. The adult John forsook all this, retired to the desert and eventually emerged into the public scene like a thunderbolt as an anti-establishment prophet. He caused immense excitement. The Gospels record the huge numbers who went out into the desert to see him, "Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, And all the region along the Jordan" (Matthew.3.5).
John rejected the priestly vocation for that of a prophet. He reminded people of the prophet Elijah (2 Kgs.1:8. Matthew.17:11-13). Clothed in a camel hair tunic and eating rough from the countryside, locusts and wild honey, his life was pared down to the essentials as he confronted people with the power of his word. He preached repentance and a baptism of repentance. The waters of the Jordan bore away people’s sins as they confessed and changed their ways.
From the prison, he seeks assurance that Jesus is really the Messiah (Mt.11). He was finally executed (Mk.6:27-29). He was buried by his disciples in a last act of love; and in a judgement on his life, the Fourth Evangelist describes him as "A burning and shining lamp" (Jn.5:35).
This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists
Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries