CHARACTERS-3 - John the Baptizer
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GREAT BIBLE CHARACTERS
“There was a man sent from God whose name was John,” John 1:6.
We welcome you today to our study of great Bible characters. In
this series of lessons, we've been looking at both Old and New Testament
characters who stand out as men of God and characters in the Bible-who
are ones we can follow as we strive to live for Christ and ultimately glorify
God and make it to that wonderful place called heaven.
What do we know about John the Baptist or John the Immerser?
He is a unique figure who stands out in the Bible as one of the great
heroes who prepared the way for the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Here's just some basic information about John himself and a little bit
of biographical information about his life. John's name, which means "God
is gracious", was given divinely to John's parents Zacharias and Elizabeth
by God himself, Luke 1:13. He is known as the baptizer or the immerser,
one who baptizes. This is not really a title but is more a description of the
work that John, the immerser, did. He was called this, in Matthew 3:1 and
Matthew 11:11, by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In fact, Josephus, in
his Antiquities of the Jewish History, even writes about John and refers to
him as the baptizer.
Now, when we think about the why of that, you can remember all
the regions of Jerusalem, Judea, and the regions there about, they went
out to be baptized by John, Matthew 3:5 following. The great work John did
was getting people ready for the kingdom of God.
You know one of the great compliments that, probably the greatest
compliment John ever received, was given by the Lord and Savior. In
Matthew 11:11, Jesus said of those born of women, none is greater than
John the Baptist.
John played second fiddle. He prepared the way for Jesus. He
didn’t want the limelight. He wasn't even looking for the spotlight. He
wanted to help peopleget their heart ready so that, when the Messiah
came, they would be ready for His message. Luke 1:5 records of John's
background that he was actually born to a priestly family. His father,
Zacharias, was going to be going to his priestly duties when he received
that message: they were going to have a son whose name was going to be
John as well.
As we think about John, he has a great and rich history, but he also
has a very unique connection to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In fact, he was the cousin of Jesus. The Bible records in Luke 1:36
that Elizabeth and Mary were kin, "Your close kin Mary is going to give
birth". So we have that indication that John and Jesus were also kin and so
connected to the Savior in that way as well. In fact, Luke 1:36 records that
Jesus was three months younger than John the immerse. John was six
months older than Jesus.
What's unique about John is that, from his birth, John was a
Nazarite. You study back to the book of Numbers and you look at the
Nazarites. They weren't to cut their hair. They weren't to drink strong drink.
They there to be separated for a special, unique purpose. My friends, John
the immerser surely, John the Baptist surely fulfills that role in that he was a
rather rugged and rough individual. He did a work that God sent him to do.
What was that work? He was not the Messiah, even though some
thought he was, Luke 3:15. His work, rather, was to prepare people for the
Now as we mentioned about John, one of the things stand out as
really unique is his nature. John wasn't like a lot of people. He was a rather
rough and rugged type of individual. Matthew 3:4, we learn, of John, that he
was dressed in camel hair. He ate locusts and honey. He spent a great
deal of time in the wilderness. He wasn't your typical, everyday person.
He was a little different, maybe walked to the beat of a different drum, in
the sense that he was more of a rugged and rough and type of nature of
As you think about John, John may have even rather been reclusive
in some ways concerning his nature, maybe more of an introvert, rather
than an extrovert. Matthew 11:18, they said of Jesus, he came eating and
drinking, but John didn't come eating and drinking. The idea of eating and
drinking during that time frame meant socializing. John wasn't the social
type. Although Jesus went to the masses, the masses actually would end
up coming to John to hear him preach the gospel.
Here's what we know about John, one of the things that stands out
as so unique and amazing about John was his phenomenal influence for
Jesus Christ. Matthew 3:5, "All the regions of Jerusalem, Judea went out to
be baptized by John." John 1:28, John 3:23, "He was baptizing in Aenon
near Salim, because there was much water there". In all those occasions,
you've got hordes of people coming out to be baptized by John.
His message was, “Repent, the kingdom is at hand”, but look at the
mass influence he had. He simply preached the word of God, did what God
told him to, and that word had the power to change people's hearts.
You know another unique thing about John, and this really speaks
to how a lot of people have some misconceptions, today, about the Holy
Spirit. Luke 1:13-15, the Bible says that John had the Holy Spirit without
measure, that is, that he was full of the Holy Spirit. When people think
about the Holy Spirit today, they want to tie that in with miraculous and
speaking in tongues and the sign that you got Holy Spirit, that you can do
some type of miraculous. John teaches us that's not true.
Friend, John 10:41, the Scripture says of John, "John performed no
sign". Now think about this, had the Holy Spirit without measure and never
did a miracle. What do I learn from that? I must not naturally think: Holy
Spirit - miracle. That's not always the case, the word of God dwells in men
and women today and they also can have the Holy Spirit, through the word
of God, and John is a prime example that. All too often, our minds are quick
to run to the miraculous, when we think HolySpirit, but that may not
necessarily be the case.
Well, let's think just a moment, then, about some of the prophesies
we have concerning John. I want to direct your attention to a prophecy in
the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 40. I want you to notice what Isaiah says about
John and the work that he would do. Written 750 years before John comes
on the scene, Isaiah 40:3 records this, "The voice of one crying in the
wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A
highway for our God".
What was John? John was simply a voice proclaiming the way.
John would say, ‘I am not he. There's one coming after me whose sandal
strap I'm not even worthy to loose. I baptize you water; he'll baptize you
He preached to the people, "Repent for the kingdom is at hand". To
those who wanted to do it for outward show, John would say, "You brood
of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come". Was he a fiery,
intense, bold, and straightforward, proclaimer? Sure he was. He proclaimed
the way of God in truth and sincerity. He prepared the way for Christ. He
was to prepare the way, to make his paths straight.
You know in any kind of work, you have preparation. You maybe
even need somebody to go ahead of you and to getthings ready. To make
sure that when that work is ready, you're ready for it happen as well. That
was John's job. He got the people's hearts softened. He broke that outer
shell that we often think of. Now that their hearts are tender, they're
thinking about God, spiritual things, and where they need to be.
Jesus comes on the scene, the path is straight, and the Messiah
can come in and now teach the will of God.
Now, a second Old Testament passage that speaks about John is
Found in the book of Malachi. I direct your attention to that minor prophet,
Malachi, as he speaks about the Messiah and of course his forerunner,
John the Immerser. Notice Malachi 3, here's what the Scripture says in
verse 1, God said, "Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the
way before Me".
What was John's work again? To be a messenger. He had a
message from God. He faithfully proclaimed that message, and he was to
prepare the way for the Messiah. Now in the book of Malachi 4:4-5, it is
prophesied that one was going to come in the spirit of Elijah, or Elijah was
coming. Who was that? According to Luke 1:16 and Matthew 11:12-15, that
was John the Immerser. So that same spirit,that same heart, that same
prophesying what God wanted him to say, preaching what God wanted him
to say, is exactly what John came to do.
Now, we know that John came with a message. Let's take just a
moment and let's think about the powerful message John brought and how
that prepared the people for the Savior. What was his message? John
pointed people to the Lamb of God. Notice John 1:29, John said, "Behold!
The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" John sees Jesus
approaching and he cries out to the people. That voice crying in the
wilderness, cries out, "this is the Lamb of God".
He wasn't trying to live in the limelight. He wanted people to know
Jesus was the Messiah. He was bruised for our iniquities and chastisement
of our peace was upon him, by his stripes we are healed, Isaiah 53:3-4. 1
Peter 1:18-21 says that he was foreordained beforethe foundation of the
world, the lamb without spot and blemish, manifest in these last times for
us. He pointed peopleto the Lamb of God.
What else did John do? John 1:34, John pointed people to Jesus as
the Son of God. Not only did he say here's the Lamb of God, he identified
Christ as the Son of God, Deity, and God in the flesh, as well.
Then when I think about John, John had a real message of change.
Here's that message: Matthew 3:2, John said, "Repent for the kingdom of
God is at hand".
What was his message all about? Changing their hearts, getting
right with God. You know the Jews over history and through time had had
that outward show of repentance but really getting to the heart of the
matter was always the challenge. Yes, they might sit around the ash pile
and throw dust and ashes on their heads, they might pull the hair out of
their beard or out of their head and they might have a great outward sign of
repentance. That's not what God's looking for. Joel 2:13, God said, "Rend
your hearts, not your garments". That's what John wanted to do: get people
to change their hearts.
Along with that repentance, there was a message motivating them
to do that. Matthew 3:7 John said of Jesus, ‘His winnowing fan is in his
hand, and he would separate, as it were, the wheat from the chaff.’ He
would bring judgment on those who did not follow the teaching and the
principles of Almighty God. We see the great work that John did.
Now, let's take just a few moments and let's make some practical
application from the life and example of John that would help us to live
more faithfully in Christ. What is it? Let me ask you this, what is it that gave
John such a head start in life? Friend, I want you to listen real carefully,
and parents, grandparents, listen carefully as well; John had a head start in
life because of his parents. Listen to Luke 1:6, of Zacharias and Mary it is
said, they were both righteous before God, walking in all the statutes and
commandments of the Lord, blameless.
As we think about John, what made him such a great worker, what
gave him such a head start in life, John was head and shoulders above
others in some ways, because his parents really lived and taught what
Friends, as we think about the work of parents today and the good
that can be done, think about Timothy: his mother and grandmother taught
him the holy Scriptures from childhood, 2 Timothy 3:14-15. As parents train
their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Ephesians 6:1-4,
as they teach them the way of God from the earliest days. Deuteronomy
6:6-10, look at the good and the impact that can have on our children. It
gives them a head start in righteousness and doing the things that God
wants them to do.
Let's then make a second practical application from the life of John:
John taught a baptism that was similar, but not the same as the baptism of
Jesus. John's baptism, according to Luke 3:3, was a baptism of
repentance, for the remissionof sins, meaning that for one to be baptized,
they had to repent. Do you remember certain people came out be baptized
by John and John said, "Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the
wrath to come? Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance". It was a baptism
that was, that went ahead of it, before that baptism, preceded by
repentance. One had to change his life before he could be baptized, but it
Now we do know that John's baptism was not the final and ultimate
baptism. Acts 19, we find certain people, they come on the scene and
they're asked, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you're baptized?" Their
response basically is, Holy Spirit, what's that? We didn't even know there
was a Holy Spirit. Whose baptism were you baptized in? John's. They took
and baptized them into Christ.
Jesus' baptism is unique in that John 3:5 Jesus said, "Unless a man
is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God".
Christ's baptism was not preparatory, didn't get people ready, it puts them
in the kingdom of God, is for the remission of sins, Acts 2:38, and is how
one contacts the blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
You know another reason we often look up to John in the Bible
is that John wasn't afraid to speak the truth, even in difficult situations.
Do you remember Mark 6? Here we have Herod and his wife, Philip as
well, mentioned in the context and John is now going is preach to them
about the truth. He's going to speak about their marriage and how that it is
not according to the will of God. John, although he knows this man has the
power to take his life, said, "It's not lawful for you to have her". John wasn't
afraid to speak on difficult situations like marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
The Bible clearly says there'sonly one scriptural reason for divorce and
that's fornication, Matthew 19:9. John wasn't afraid to say, ‘You're living in
unscriptural relationship. That is not right in the sight of God.’
Friend, we need the courage, like John, to boldly speak out on what
God says concerning His truth and His will, for the home, for the family, for
our nation, and whatever it may be. If we're going to be like John, we've got
preach the whole counsel of God, Acts 20:28. We've got to preachthe truth
in love, Ephesians 4:15. We've got to preach the word, 2 Timothy 4:2.
We've got to speak as the oracles of God, 1 Peter 4:11.
You know it's amazing about John is: John stands out as a
wonderful hero because he was willing to give his life for the cause of
He knew his purpose in coming was to prepare the way. Christ is
now on the scene. He isn't afraid to give his life since his mission had been
completed. When he told that ruler, in Mark 6, "It's not lawful for you to
have her". The wife then goes and asked for the head from her daughter,
the daughter asked for the head of John the Baptist. The mother tells the
daughter that, in Mark 6, and John loses his life for the cause of Christ.
Friend, are we committed, like John was? Do we really believe
Revelation 2:10? "Be faithful until death, and I'll give you the crown of life."
Can we say as Paul did, "I've been crucified with Christ, it's no longer I who
live, but Christ who lives in me, the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by
faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me"?
You know one of the great things about John, as we think more
about practicallessons from his life, is John wanted to get out of the way
and point others to Jesus. John 1:27, he wasn't even worthy, he said,
to loosen the sandals from Jesus feet. John 3:30, he would say, "He must
increase. I must decrease". He wanted people to see Christ through him.
He didn't want to be out in front. He wanted to push Jesus to the
forefront. We desperately need that same mentality!
What is it we want in this life? I want people to see Christ living in
me, the hope of glory. We want to let our light shine so that others can see
Christ living in us, Matthew 5:16. We want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus,
1 Peter 2:21. We want to imitate Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:1. When people
look at us, we want them to realize that we've been with Jesus. We want to
direct them to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You know as we think about John, and as we kind of wind things
up regarding him, John wasn't more worried about suffering than he was
about preaching the truth.
Regardless of the issue, John was willing to say what God said. Let
me give you an example: certain of the religious elite, everybody's doing it
and so certain of the religious elite come out to be baptized by John. John
spoke as clearly as he's ever spoken when he said, "You brood of vipers",
current language we might say ‘you bunch of snakes,’ "Who warned you to
flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance". Don't
say to yourself, "We've got Abraham as our father", John will say, Jesus will
say as well. Here are people who are trusting in self, trusting in their
heritage and they want to do it because it's popular. John said, "No,
that's not the way it works, you need to bring forth fruits worthy of
Friend, if there is a very practical lesson that we learn from John,
from his work, from his teaching, from his life, it is that God wants us to
prepare our hearts so that, in obedience to the gospel, we can enter into
the kingdom and truly live a life of sacrifice for our God.
As we think about John today, we ask you kindly and yet we ask
you with a sense of soberness and reality: Are you really ready
for that day when the Lord does return to claim His own? Are you prepared
right now, spiritually, so that your life can glorify God every day?
Have you become a Christian? I'm not asking have you become a
part of a denominational group. We're asking: Have you become a
Remember Acts 11:26? “They were simply called Christians first in
Antioch.” What does one do to become a Christian? The Bible teaches:
you've got to hear the word.
Are you willing to listen to this book and this book alone? Romans
10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God."
Once you've heard that message, are you willing to believe in
Jesus? Jesus said, "Unless you believe that I'm He, you'll surely die in your
sins", John 8:24.
Would you be willing to repent, change your life, and turn to God?
Jesus said in Luke 13:3, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
Would you make that great confession, "Jesus is the Christ, the Son
the living God'? "With the heart one believes unto righteousness, with the
mouth confession is made unto salvation", Romans 10:10.
Would you do what Jesus said, "He that believes and is baptized
will be saved"? Friend, if you've not done those things, we encourage you
to. As Christians, as parents, as members of the Lords body, let's have the
same zeal as John.
Let's point others to the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Study Questions for:
“Great Bible Characters Lesson 3: John the Baptizer”
1. According to John 1:6, who was sent from God?
2. What did Jesus say about John in Mathew 11:11?
3. How is John described in Matthew 3:4?
4. Why did the people go to John in Matthew 3:5?
5. What does it tell us John had in Luke 1:13-15?
6. What does Isaiah 40:3 tell us about John?
7. According to John 1:9, who did John want people to focus their attention
8. What is John’s message in Matthew 3:2?
9. Who has sinned according to Romans 3:23?
10. According to Matthew 3:15, who baptized Christ?