“Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.””
Matthew 3:4-7, 9-11, 13-17 NKJV
“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.””
John 1:19-34 NKJV
Today is the first day of lent. We have 40 days to prepare our hearts to celebrate our Risen Lord. 40 – a number God often uses to represent testing. It is the number of days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness, but before Jesus wanders off into the wilderness, He has a Divine Appointment with His cousin John. John the Baptizer is Jesus’ first personal encounter on His road to public ministry. John is the one whom God uses to usher in His Son’s earthly ministry.
John the Baptizer
John woke up that morning and wiped the dust off his camel hair robe. His bones were weary and his muscles ached. He must have dunked hundreds of people in the Jordan River over the past few days. He didn’t mind though; the aches and pains reminded him of the fight he was engaged in. He had been given an assignment from God. That assignment had been poured into him from before he was even conceived. He knew his lane and he was running in it all the way to the finish line. During those days, everyone was gripped with the messianic expectations. They believed the Messiah would come at any moment. They flocked to the Jordan to be baptized by him. John’s message of repentance sliced though their very soul’s and pierced their hearts. It was time. It was past time for the children of Abraham to get their hearts right before the Lord. And that is what he preached. John told the crowds, “He baptizes only with water.” So he walked out into the Jordan and began the dunking. Symbolically washing each one who desired repentance, but in his heart he knew there would be One who would baptize in power of the Holy Spirit.” Day after day he too longed to see the One who comes after him whose sandals he was not worthy to untie.
It was time. The Father had revealed it to Him. He descended the hills of Nazareth. He had an appointment at the Jordan River. His Father had made it. He knew who He must meet, He knew where they must meet, and He knew what the meeting would accomplish. His Father in Heaven was sending Him. His Father had prepared Him. He too had been given an assignment, but there was one thing He must accomplish before He was propelled into the assignment. So He walked the 30 miles and found His cousin baptizing in the Jordan River, right where His Father had sent Him. He walked into the River and clasped the hand of His cousin in greeting. They had met before. They had met in each of their mother’s wombs, before either had even been born into this world. John recognized Him then with excitement and He recognized Him now with humility. “I will be baptized by you, John, on this very day,” Jesus said to the Baptizer. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” He spoke humbly to His Messiah. “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Both Savior and servant had a desire to do everything right before God Most High. John took the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God, his Cousin, into His arms and immersed Jesus into the flowing water of the Jordan River. His heart pounded because this was a Holy Moment and he was thankful the Lord allowed Him to be a part of it. As Jesus’ face broke the plane of the water when John pulled Him up, His eyes were cast to the skies, He and John both saw the heavens opened. Jesus saw His Heavenly Father release the Holy Spirit of God. God’s Spirit descended like a dove and lit upon His Shoulder. He remembered the dove Noah had released once a long time ago. Noah never knew where the dove landed but Jesus always had His eye on that dove, and now the Spirit of God had come to Him in that form. Jesus heard His Father’s booming voice once again, “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” That voice and those words gave Him courage. With the knowledge that His Father was pleased with Him, He could face the challenges and the wildernesses of this earth. And He walked off to run His Race.
John the Baptizer
He had fire in his gut. He was the pioneer of Man vs Wild. His clothes were made of camel’s hair. He wore a leather belly bag. He ate bugs and honey straight from the bee hive. He would stick out like a sore thumb on the streets of Manhattan. He was the thunderous voice in the lonely wilderness booming, “Wake up and get your heart ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus.!” When he saw the religious scholars coming toward him, he knew their harsh and rigorous teachings about what people must do to be godly, and he condemned them. He called them a brood of vipers. He wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was. He spoke plainly and truthfully, “Out of these stones God can raise up children of Abraham.” His heart was genuine. His heart was passionate for the things of God, and because he had the right heart condition he experienced a Holy Moment with His Savior.
Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
His first personal encounter was with His cousin John.
“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Luke 7:33-34
Different has any two you know, John was used to prepare the way for Jesus. Jesus came to bear the cross and defeat death hell and the grave for a dying world. An unlikely pair, but each ran their God-appointed races and ran them well.