John the Baptist was the last of the prophets who announced the coming of Jesus. He was Jesus’ cousin and prepared the way for his ministry.
The Old Testament said that a prophet would come just before the Messiah, to announce that he was coming ( Isaiah 40: 3 ). That prophet was John the Baptist. He preached repentance and prepared people for Jesus’ message.
The birth of John the Baptist
John the Baptist’s father was Zacharias, an elderly priest. He and his wife Isabel, who was Mary’s cousin, were God-fearing but could not have children .
One day, Zechariah was chosen to offer incense inside the sanctuary of God. At the sanctuary, he saw the angel Gabriel, who told him that he would have a son named John. Gabriel explained that the boy would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth and would have a very important ministry ( Luke 1: 16-17 ).
Incredulous, Zacarias asked how it would be possible, because he and Isabel were elderly. Gabriel scolded him for his lack of faith and Zacharias was speechless until the birth of his son. The relatives wanted to call the boy Zacharias but Isabel insisted that his name was John. So Zacharias wrote “his name is John” and he spoke again ( Luke 1: 62-64 ).
João Batista grew and became strong. He lived in the desert until he began his ministry, did not drink alcohol, wore camel hair and ate grasshoppers and honey.
See also: who were the Essenes? Does the Bible speak of them?
The ministry of John the Baptist
John the Baptist walked around the Jordan River and preached that people needed to repent of their sins to be forgiven . He warned that God punishes sin and that no one would escape just by being a Jew by birth. It was necessary to repent and live in a way that pleases God ( Luke 3: 7-9 ).
John’s preaching attracted many people and he stayed with several disciples. John baptized those who repented in the Jordan River, as a sign of their cleansing from sin. Some people thought he was Messiah but he explained that someone bigger than him was coming , that he was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit ( Mark 1: 7-8 ).
One day Jesus came to be baptized. John did not want to, because he knew that Jesus was superior to him, but Jesus insisted. When John baptized Jesus, he saw a dove come down and a voice proclaim that Jesus was the Son of God. From then on, John proceeded to announce Jesus as the Messiah ( John 1: 29-31 ).
See here: how was Jesus’ baptism?
The death of John the Baptist
John the Baptist confronted King Herod for his adultery with his brother’s wife and his other sins. But instead of repenting, Herod was angry and threw John into prison .
Herod was afraid to kill John, because he had the support of the people. But one day he took an ill-considered oath to the daughter of the woman with whom he adulterated and was forced to give her the head of John the Baptist ( Matthew 14: 6-10 ). João was beheaded in prison but his legacy remained alive. His work prepared the hearts of the people to receive Jesus.