The name “John” means, “YHWH is gracious.” The more we learn about John the Baptist, the more we understand that he demonstrates his name in everything he does.
The Bible introduces John the Baptist, referred to as simply “John” from here on out, in the famous story of him leaping in his mother’s womb. Mary, Jesus’ mom, is visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John. When Mary arrives with the unborn Savior, John literally leaps in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:39-41). The Bible doesn’t include any content describing John’s childhood. (But how cool would it be if it had stories of teenaged John and Jesus tag-teaming the religious leaders of the day?!) After the leaping scene, the next time we read about John, he is well into his ministry.
John is preaching “in the wilderness” (Matthew 3:3), eating bugs, wearing clothes made of camel hair, and seemingly baptizing everyone in sight. Honestly, John’s description sounds borderline creepy, yet people are coming from all over to be baptized by him.
Due to the many amazing things John is doing, including all of these baptisms, he is often asked if he is the Messiah. In Matthew 3, the Bible says that John “prepared the way for Jesus,” (John’s birth is even a sign of the coming Messiah) and he does so in baptism and in the way that he talks about Jesus. John’s response to the oft-asked question of if he was the messiah is the perfect combination of humility and reverence. In Matthew 3:11, John essentially says, “There’s another who is coming, and while I baptize you with water for repentance, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Further, He is so much greater than I am that I am not even worthy to carry his shoes.”
Then, in what he is probably most known for, John gets to baptize that “One who is greater than he is.” Jesus comes to John and asks John to baptize Him. John challenged this request, responding with, “I need to be baptized by you…” (Matthew 3:14). Remember, John admittedly was baptizing people for repentance, and Jesus obviously didn’t have anything to repent of.
John ends up complying with Jesus’ request, baptizing Him, and in response to Jesus’ baptism, “the heavens were opened… and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17). As a direct result of John’s obedience, this is one of a few times in the Bible that God the Father’s voice is heard from heaven by multiple people. John goes on to do so many good deeds in the name of Jesus that he ends up in jail. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 11:11 that “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”
In the week leading up to Easter, what better time to act like John. To act with humility and reverence, to follow God’s commands, and more than anything, to point people to Jesus. We have the opportunity to share the greatest news in history this week- sin and death are defeated and Jesus is alive! It seems like John the Baptist told everyone he knew about Jesus, and we need to do the same!
Written By: Keegan Krell