At this time, the Jews were sadly conscious that the voice of the prophets spoke no more. They said that for 400 years there had been no prophet. Throughout long centuries the voice of prophecy had been silent.
As they put it themselves, “There was no voice, nor any that answered.” But in John the Baptist a prophetic voice spoke again.
Matthew Henry stated that after Malachi there was no prophet until John the Baptist came. He appeared first in the wilderness of Judea.
This was not an uninhabited desert, but a part of the country not thickly peopled, nor much enclosed.
No place is so remote as to shut us out from the visits of Divine grace. The doctrine he preached was repentance; “Repent ye.”
The word here used implies a total alteration in the mind, a change in the judgment, disposition and affections, another, and a better bias of the soul. Consider your ways, change your minds: you have thought amiss; think again, and think aright.
This was explained by the angel (Luke 1:17) as to be fulfilled in John, who would go before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” and was also declared by Jesus to have been fulfilled in John (see Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13).
The ministry of each consisted mainly in severe reproof and exhortation. There was something appropriate to such a work in seclusion of life, with rude fare and coarse clothing. “Even his appearance called men to repentance,” stated John Broadus.
Adam Clarke noted that those who came out to hear John “were baptized of him … confessing their sins.” That is to say, the people earnestly acknowledged that their sins were their own.
Thusly, taking the whole blame upon themselves and laying nothing to the charge of God or others. This is essential to true repentance; and, until a person takes the whole blame on himself or herself, he/she cannot feel the absolute need they have of casting their soul on the mercy of God, that they may be saved.
Interestingly, John was also like Elijah in that he was not a writing prophet but left his work to be recorded by others.
Hence, they are the strict adherents of tradition. They ultimately gained the ascendancy and, in consequence, the standard Jewish books represent the result of their teaching.
The Pharisees belonged almost entirely to the middle classes.
On the other hand, the “Sadducees” were chiefly of the noblest, especially the high-priestly, families. Hence their first thought was political
quiet and with this they not unnaturally combined the love of Greek culture.
They set the plain meaning of the Law far above all tradition, even that of the Prophets. It is to these diverse and, in a theological sense, ideologically extreme, groups that John addressed with his fiery message of “repentance.”
In this expression, John alludes to Malachi 3:1: “Behold, I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Jehovah whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple.” (It should be noted that LORD, in capitals, in the Old Testament, means Jehovah, the incommunicable name of God.)
The one to come after John was, indeed, mightier than he, being no other than Jehovah incarnate. (Wheldon)
“Baptize you with the Holy Ghost” — God’s holy Spirit had been at various times bestowed in sanctifying, regenerating and miracle-working power under the old dispensation.
Since the close of the Old Testament books, miracles had ceased; but Christ came preceded, attended and succeeded by a display of divine powers. The baptism of the Holy Spirit in its sanctifying, quickening, and even wonder-working power, was one of these displays. It was even made visible “the day of Pentecost was fully come” (Acts 2).
Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.