Where did John get his education? Was everything he said imparted by the Holy Spirit? Did he spend time with Jesus while they were growing up? Did Jesus teach him as a child? We know that his mother was filled by the Holy Spirit before his birth when she bore witness for Mary of Jesus’ deity. Was he filled at this time too? If he was, did that filling stay with him his whole life?
John was bold and totally sure of his calling. He never wavered in what he was to do. He didn’t back down or get intimidated by anyone. He was not shy about saying just what he thought. How did he get so bold? Did his parents, from the time he could understand, tell him of his mission in life? Did they really understand his mission themselves? How did his parents raise such a self-assured young man? Not self-assured but God inspired! Was he this way from the time he could talk or did he move into this assurance as he grew older?
He lived an unconventional life. He lived alone in the wilderness eating a diet of locust and wild honey. His clothes were of camel skin tied with a leather belt. Why did he live this way? How long did he live this way? Was he instructed to do so by God? This was not an easy life. Was its intent to remove him from all distractions so he could focus solely on God and his mission? Fasting is often used to this end then and now. I would call this the “Ultimate Lent” experience.
He was probably in his late twenties when he started calling people to repentance and baptizing them in the Jordan. John had fully established his own ministry reputation when Jesus came to him to be baptized. It is believed that Jesus started His own ministry at the age of 30 and John was six months older than Jesus. I don’t know how long it took him to become so famous and build up such a following but people from all walks of life eventually came out to see him. Some probably came to see the “crazy” man, but MANY came out and listened to what he had to say.
Did he travel up and down the Jordan or stay in one place? Matthew states, “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him” and acting on his message. That is a LOT of people! He had such a varied audience. He had the common man, Pharisees and Sadducees, and even Herod in attendance at one time or another. I imagine there were just a few people who noticed him at first. Then crowds started gathering. Little ones at first, but as his message hit home the crowds grew. The rulers probably came because they felt their territory was threatened. They didn’t have any intention of acting on his message.
He gave the same message to poppers, priests and kings. It didn’t matter what people thought of him. He spoke the uncompromising word with boldness. His message was REPENT and be baptized, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. He didn’t pull any punches in his delivery! I guess he had what Ezekiel called “fire shut up in [his] bones.” He had a God given message and he was hell bent on sharing it!
John’s mission was to get the people to a place of readiness for Jesus. He was doing this through calling for repentance and baptism. Where did the symbol of baptism come from? Why was he using that symbol? Was this water burial already a part of Jewish religion? Ceremonial washing certainly was. Is this where baptism came from? I can only assume that God gave him direct instructions as to what message and symbol he wanted used. John’s baptism of Jesus was the necessary beginning of Jesus’ own ministry. Why was that?
I wish I knew my purpose in life on tenth as well as he knew his. I still flounder about on a daily basis trying to figure out what God has called me to do. I know the one thing he called us all to do is share His good news. That news is that the Kingdom of Heaven is HERE in the form of salvation through Jesus Christ. John’s call to repentance is the beginning of that salvation. John’s message is timeless because it came directly from the Maker of time itself. He wants a relationship with each of us; pauper, prince, or priest. Realization of our own need of forgiveness is where that starts.