Disciples of John the Baptist

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Before we mention the disciples he attracted we need to learn a little bit about John the Baptist himself. He was born in 5 B.C. just 6 months before the birth of Jesus Christ. His father Zacharias was a priest who served at Jerusalem's temple. His mother Elizabeth, related to Jesus' mother Mary, was of the daughters of Aaron.

Bible prophecy foretold of John's coming and of him being like a voice crying in the wilderness in the spiritual power of Elijah. A Nazarite from birth, he could not drink any alcohol, cut his hair, and other restrictions (see Numbers 6).

He (John the Baptist) said, "I am a voice crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said." (John 1:23, HBFV).

"For he (John) shall be great before the Lord. And he shall never drink wine or strong drink in any form, but he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.

"And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:15 - 17, HBFV).

Preaching of John the Baptist
Preaching of the Baptist
Alessandro Allori, 1601 - 03

John the Baptist spent most of his life living in a mountainous area of Judah that was between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. His diet was strict and he dressed rather roughly (like Elijah, see Matthew 3:4, Mark 1:6, 2Kings 1:8).

Beginning His Ministry

The ministry of John began when he was 30 in 26 A.D. It lasted for about three years until put in prison by Herod Antipas for speaking out against his unlawful marriage. Because of a promise Herod made to his wife's daughter Salome, he had the Baptist beheaded just before the Passover in the Spring of 29 A.D.

John the Baptist had an effective and popular ministry which drew the attention not only of the average person but also of Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herod Antipas (Roman ruler of Galilee and Perea) and others (John 1:19, 24; Matthew 3:7, Mark 6:16 - 19, etc.). He also drew his share of disciples. The first two people Jesus called to follow him were first followers of the Baptist.

John's students were so zealous for him that when they saw Jesus baptizing more people they told him about it - as if something was wrong. He assured those who followed him that "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:26 - 30, NKJV). In time they eventually approached Jesus with a question that had puzzled them "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" (Matthew 9:14). Jesus responded using a wedding analogy to explain the difference (verse 15).

John soon had plenty of time to reflect on Jesus after Herod tossed him into prison. Although he had proclaimed Jesus as the lamb of God, he had not personally witnessed his miracles. He began to hear about the works of Christ. He may have wondered why Jesus did not miraculously deliver him from prison.

His puzzlement over Christ's behavior toward him moved him to send two of his disciples to the Lord. They asked Christ, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" (Matthew 11:3). Jesus told those sent to him to report back what they heard and saw - the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and so on (verses 4 - 5).

Jesus' own disciples, struck with the zealousness of "the voice in the wilderness" and his teaching methods, asked Jesus "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught . . . " (Luke 11:1). The prayer format they received is commonly referred to as the Lord's Prayer (verse 2 - 4).

Impact After Death

John had a tremendous impact on those in Jerusalem and Judea even after his death. In fact, when Herod (who beheaded him) heard about Jesus he said "John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him." (Mark 6:14, NKJV). The memory of his zeal and the lasting effect of his work continued both in his disciples and in the early church.

There were those, like Apollos, who did not know who Jesus was but who spread the gospel based on what John the baptizer taught them (Acts 18:24 - 28). In Ephesus, the apostle Paul ran across some believers who were taught and baptized by him but who knew nothing about receiving God's spirit that would enable them to be converted.

Now it came to pass that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the upper parts and came to Ephesus; and when he found certain disciples,

He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit after you believed?" And they said to him, "We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." Then he said to them, "Unto what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Unto the baptism of John." (Acts 19:1 - 3, HBFV).

Though he performed no miracles, John the Baptist was considered by Jesus to be the greatest prophet up to his time.

"For I tell you, among those who have been born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (Luke 7:28, HBFV).

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Why Did John the Baptist Doubt Jesus?
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