7599 - John Enters Ministry


The last prophet of the old Testament time and covenant never appeared in the Old Testament.

In our previous studies in chapters 1 and 2 of Luke’s record of the gospel, we have followed the birth and life of Jesus until age 12. As chapter 3 opens we fast forward for about 18 years; as we find the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist.

Keep in mind that John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus, and was approximately six-months older than Jesus. He is understood to have started his public ministry before Jesus started his, as such is the last prophet before the New Testament and new covenant.

Luke, the only Gentile writer in the New Testament, gives some historical details, which shows the time frame of some events. This is true with the beginning of John’s ministry early in chapter 3.

Luke uses the names of five men who had authority in Israel, either politically or in religion, at the time John came out of his wilderness seclusion and entered into ministry in the Jordan wilderness. Scholars have used the historical records and established a date of about 26-29 AD for this significant event in the life of John the Baptist.

Since John the Baptist was of a priestly family many conclude that he too began ministry when thirty years of age.

Listen as I read the words of Luke 3:1-6:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar --when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene - during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, `Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"

We notice in this passage that the word of God came to John. This should be no surprise for God superintended his conception and birth. Moreover, the angel told his father-to-be, Zechariah, that this One was to be great in the sight of the Lord, and would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. God would use him to prepare people’s hearts for Jesus, the prophesied Messiah. We are told at the end of Chapter One that John became strong in spirit as he resided in the desert. We get the insight that John lived a life separated from other people while God was preparing his heart and life to be His vessel to pave the way for the Messiah.

There had been no prophecy in Israel for hundreds of years. We can sense an ambiance of a spiritually dry and hungry people. Then John emerged and began to preach, and the people were excited.

As is true with the entire scene of the life of Christ, every event was in fulfillment of some prophecy given centuries before the fact. The words of the prophet Isaiah are one example of this truth. Isaiah, writing some 700 years before these events, told that this prophet would be a voice calling in the desert. That’s not the place, which a person who is seeking a crowd, would preach. People had to be eager in interest and willing to suffer a bit to come out and hear John’s message.

But John was declaring a message of hope. He was preparing the hearts of the people even as huge machines would today prepare a rough and rocky terrain for the building of a smooth road. They would blast away the obstructing mountains and fill the valleys to make a smooth road. But the road John was preparing was the hearts of a people for repentance and forgiveness of sins.