John the Baptist's Doubts  
 
 
 
 
Miracles capture the attention of people. That is an obvious statement. So after Jesus healed the centurion’s slave and restored the life of the widow’s son, the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding area. Newspapers, magazines, television, and radio did not exist at the time of Jesus. Information was passed along by word of mouth. Travelers from one community would bring information and news from other towns. The news about Jesus traveled the same way. Eventually the news about Jesus’ miracles reached the ears of John the Baptist who was imprisoned in one of the palaces of King Herod which was also used as a prison. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus states that John the Baptist was imprisoned in the palace of Macherus (Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII, V, 2). The palace was built in 90 B.C. and was located about 24 km southeast of where the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea. John had been in prison for about twelve to eighteen months when news about Jesus disturbed him. We will discover why in a few minutes.
Thoughts In Prison. John had plenty of time to dream about the past, what the past might have been, and what he had believed the future would be like. His birth had been extremely unusual. An angel had visited his father Zacharius, a priest, in the temple when he was preparing to burn incense and told him that his aged wife would give birth to a son who should be named John. The angel Gabriel announced that John would perform his ministry in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:8-17). His birth was unusual because His mission was to be unusual.
His father did not believe the angel. As a result he was not able to speak until John was born. His birth was a miracle because his mother was past her child bearing years (Luke 1:8-17).
After John was born, his father prophesied by the power of the Holy Spirit and announced that John would go before the Lord to prepare the way (Luke 1:76-79). He announced the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3.

Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me . . . (NASB) Mal. 3:1a

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness . . .” (NASB) Is. 40:3

Since John’s mother was very old, we do not know how long she was able to teach him; but we can be sure that John knew he was the one who was to go before the coming Messiah.
He was the one who was to call the people to repent and prepare their hearts for the Messiah the prophets had promised would come. The Jews believed that the Messiah would rescue them from foreign control. Matthew 1:4-8 records John’s persistent message,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (NASB) Matt. 3:2

 
Map of Israel
 
His message was loud and clear. He was announcing the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom. He was dressed in strange clothes as implied by Jesus later during His ministry in Luke 7:25.
John was a relative of Jesus. His mother, Elizabeth, was related to Mary, Jesus’ mother (Luke 1:36). So John must have heard about Jesus during His youth. Yet John did not know that Jesus was the Messiah until much later. Even though Matthew 3:13-15 implies that John knew Jesus was an extremely righteous man, he did not understand that Jesus was the Messiah. This also suggests that Jesus did not do miracles as a youth contrary to some Gnostic documents. We discover in John 1:31-34 that John had asked God to give him a sign to confirm who the Messiah truly was.

John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (NASB) John 1:32-34

The sign was that the Holy Spirit would descend upon the Messiah - the Coming One. This event occurred at Jesus’ baptism. John 1:27 reveals that John the Baptist also believed that Jesus was God since he said, “He existed before me.” That was a significant statement because John the Baptist was born before Jesus (compare Luke 1:57 to Luke 2:1-7).
Later John the Baptist announced to the crowds that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29, 35-36). Jesus’ ministry began to grow and increase. His ministry increased so much that the Jewish leaders became concerned and apparently attempted to generate competition between Jesus and John. The incident is recorded in John 3:22-30. But John had a divine perspective and a humble heart and stated,

He must increase, but I must decrease. (NASB) John 3:30

John believed in Jesus and believed that they were on a divine mission.
Then a tragic event occurred. He was put into prison by King Herod because the king did not like John’s messages (Matt. 4:12; Luke 3:19-20). John had rebuked Herod for committing adultery with his brother’s wife Herodius. Historians tell us that King Herod had an affair with Herodius while he was away in Rome. When he returned home, Herod divorced his wife and married Herodius. In response John had publicly denounced Herod. So the king put John in prison in Macherus.
 
Centurion Seeking Healing
Macherus Was Located On The Peak
 
 
     
 
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