Many believers see John the Baptist as a shadowy figure. Certainly he baptized people. Some know he lived in the desert and ate locusts and honey. Those who study the Scriptures may even know he was the forerunner of the Meshiach. But that’s about it. Yet, Yeshua said of him: Yes! I tell you that among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than Yochanan the Immerser (Mattityahu 11:11 CJB)!
From Doctor Luke, a physician by training, we learn that John was born an only child to an aging priest, Zechariah, and his barren wife, Elizabeth (see Ao – The Birth of John the Baptist). His birth caused quite a stir to everyone in the Judean hill country, not only because of his astonishing birth, but also because of the way he lived. A Nazirite from birth, he did not cut his hair, touch anything dead, nor partake of anything of the vine – no wine, no grapes or no raisins (Numbers 6:2-6). ADONAI had chosen him, even before his birth, to be the forerunner of the Messiah (see Ao – The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold).
When John came out of the wilderness to confront and convict the nation of Isra’el of her sin, he looked and sounded and acted very differently from the religious elite of Jerusalem that the people were used to hearing. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey (Mark 1:6). Whereas the Sadducees, Pharisees, chief priests, Torah-teachers and Herodians robed themselves in the finest clothes and treated themselves to meat and wine, Yochanan stood gaunt from a life set apart for ADONAI and leathery from the sun.
His message was just as basic as his appearance: Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near (Matthew 3:2)! So when the Pharisees and Sadducees came from Jerusalem to see what he and his movement was all about – he told them in no uncertain terms: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham (Mattityahu 3:7-9).
Wow, did they ever hate him! They would have killed him right there on the spot if he were not surrounded by growing multitudes of people who genuinely repented of their sin. But while John the Baptizer was as extraordinary as any mere human could be, he was nonetheless, a man. Just a man. Therefore, John, the inspired author of his Gospel, introduces him simply as a man sent from God whose name was Yochanan. In the next two files, we will see what made this mere man so special.287