By Narelle Atkins
John the Baptist was the last of the great prophets and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy (Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1). He was the messenger who lived in the desert and prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry.
John’s parents were Zechariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth, a relative of the Virgin Mary. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah (see Luke 1:11-20) and foretold John’s birth and mission. Zechariah and Elizabeth were old and childless and Zechariah’s initial unbelief regarding the angel’s prophesy for his future son led to Zechariah becoming mute and unable to speak until the prophesy came to fruition (Luke 1:64).
John brought a message of repentance and baptism. He called the Israelites to repent from their sins and be baptised in the Jordan River. Baptism was a sign that they had turned back to God and received God’s forgiveness of sins.
John said he was preparing the way for one greater than him, who would baptise the Jews and Gentiles with the Holy Spirit. John baptised Jesus in the Jordan River and the heavens opened, bringing the Spirit down upon Jesus. God the father spoke to Jesus from heaven, saying ‘You are my Son, whom I love: with you I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:11)
Jesus’ ministry started when John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod. Herodias held a grudge against John after John had told Herod it was not lawful for him to marry his brother’s wife. Herodias had been married to Philip, Herod’s brother, but had left Philip for Herod. Herodias and her daughter used an oath promised by Herod at a banquet to kill John. At their request, Herod ordered an executioner to behead John and present his head on a platter at the banquet (Mark 6:17-29).