John the Baptist-An important historical figure, biblical character and link in the chain of Messianic Prophecy
Created by Jon Taylor - Tuesday 04 Sep 2018
Jon Taylor
Many cult leaders are self-appointed and attract a following often through their charismatic delivery, ability to work a crowd and the persuasiveness of their delivery, more so than the actual message they present. The timing and significance of the ministry of John the Baptist pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world goes against the flow of the spiritual fads that fizzle out as quickly as they rise to prominence and directs us to the Saviour who is the way, the truth and the life.  

John the Baptist in history
If ancient historians are worth their salt they will know that there is a range of independent evidence commenting about events concerning the Lord Jesus from several sources. Josephus and Tacitus are the ones most commonly quoted, though there are many others that could be listed and who have made valuable contributions.
Interestingly, Josephus also wrote a long paragraph about John the Baptist of which the first part is included here:

"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness (Josephus Book 18, Chapter 5:2)."

John the Baptist in prophecy

Like Jesus, John the Baptist was clearly a historical figure. Prophecy is sometimes considered to be history written in advance…

Two Old Testament prophets spoke of John the Baptist in Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 3:1.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight 
in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth;The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 40:3-5).”
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me.
(Malachi 3:1).”
It is for good reason that the gospel accounts link John the Baptist with the Lord Jesus so early on in each of their respective narratives. The Messiah would be preceded by a messenger and the timing for their respective ministries had to be perfect, considering Isaiah and Malachi prophesied hundreds of years before these events were fulfilled.
Consider that the timing and the location of their respective births was another important factor. It is noticeable that John’s father, the priest Zacharias recognised his son’s crucial role as the prophet of the highest (Luke 1:76) and the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.  John’s mother Elizabeth recognised that her babe leapt in her womb when she met Mary who was to give birth to Jesus (Luke 1:44). They are further linked in their birth narratives since both were brought into the world in a miraculous way (virgin birth plus extreme elderly birth) and were appointed their names before their births.
 It is interesting that when John Baptised Jesus, John identified Him as the Messiah and there was also the confirmation of the Father’s approval ‘This is my Son in whom I am well pleased’ in addition to the Holy Spirit descending upon Him in the form of a dove. The complexity of this single prophecy shows God’s providence in providing a Redeemer who would fulfil His purposes and please the Father with astonishing precision.
The spiritual character of John the Baptist who points us to the lord
There is a lot we can learn from John by studying his character. He exhibited genuine and rare humility and he didn’t let his vital mission grow into inflated self-importance. Yet he preached with authority and proclaimed what the multitudes needed to hear, not simply what they would have liked to have heard or what would have gained him a greater following and which eventually led to his imprisonment. How great is our need today of preachers that will preach God’s Word rather than peddling to the fancies and preferences of those in the audience or the fickle fashions of any era.  The truth must be expounded from the Word of God rather than from the marketplace of pick and mix theology if meaningful change is to result and good fruit is to follow.
John emphasised a baptism of repentance and of turning to the Lord. This isn’t something we do naturally or that appeals to our natural inclinations but is exactly what is required of us. Whilst our Lord said that there was none greater who was born of woman that John the Baptist, John was insistent that he should become lesser and that the Lord become greater. That wasn’t simply because he was humble but because he was rightly concerned with pointing others to the Lord Jesus. Our motivation should be the same with an express purpose in our lives as showing others the way to the lord. John had eternal perspective. He considered himself unworthy to untie the Lord’s sandal strap demonstrating that he knew something of the condescension of the Saviour into our world and of the greatness of His everlasting dominion.  We would benefit greatly by acknowledging how much the Lord gave for us throughout His entire earthly life and ministry and the extent of His worthiness of the glory He now has and had before the foundation of this world.
Tuesday 04 Sep 2018