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The ministry of John the Immerser

In the fifteenth year of the governorship of Tiberias Caesar, Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea, Herod was ruler over one-fourth of Galilee, his brother Philip was ruler over one-fourth of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was ruler over one-fourth of Abilene. It was then, during the ruling priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, that an announcement from God came to John, the son of Zacharias.

His assignment was to serve as a witness to the Light so that everyone could believe through his testimony. He was not the Light himself, but only came as a witness to the true Light that illuminates every person coming into the world. But even though the Light came into the world he made, it didn’t recognize him; he came to his own, but they didn’t accept him. Yet to those who accepted him by putting their trust in him, he granted the privilege of being adopted children— not children born of a woman or the will of the flesh or a husband, but of God. This Light, the Word, became flesh and made his home among us, and we saw his majesty, the majesty of the Unique One who is with the Father and is filled with favor and truth.

As written by the prophet Isaiah, “Look! I am sending my messenger to pave the road in front of you. I hear the sound of someone shouting in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Master! Make the path straight!’ Its ravines will be filled in, every hill will be lowered, every crooked thing will be straightened, and every rocky place will be smoothed. Then everyone will clearly see the deliverance of God.”

John the Immerser was the one mentioned by the prophet Isaiah. He was in the desert proclaiming the Kingdom of God, telling people to turn to God and be immersed in water, so that they could be acquitted of their sins. He dressed himself with cloth made from camel hair, his belt was made of leather, and he lived on locusts and wild honey.

The whole province of Judea and the people of Jerusalem went out to him, and he immersed them all in the Jordan River as they admitted their sins. But when he saw many religious leaders coming to where he was immersing, he said to them, “You hatchlings of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to run away from impending doom? First prove that you’ve turned to God! And don’t think that you’re off the hook because you descended from Abraham, because God could raise up children for Abraham out of these stones! The ax is already poised to strike the root of the tree, and any tree not producing good fruit is to be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

Now all the people were in anticipation, wondering among themselves whether John was actually the Anointed One, and these religious leaders had been sent from Jerusalem to interrogate him. So they asked, “Who are you?”

And he told them plainly, “I’m not the Anointed One.”

So they asked him, “Then who are you, Elijah?”

“No,” he said, “I am not.”

“Are you The Prophet?”


Again they asked, “So who are you? Tell us what you say about yourself, so we have something to report to those who sent us.”

He replied, “I am ‘the voice of one shouting in the desert, “Straighten the road of the Master”’, according to what the prophet Isaiah said.”

“Then why are you immersing,” they asked, “if you’re not the Anointed One, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

“I immerse people in water to show that they turned to God,” he replied. “But after me will come someone stronger than I am, someone I’m unworthy to even serve, and he will immerse you in the Holy Spirit and fire. He has a broom in his hand, and he’s about to sweep the floor clean! He’ll collect his grain and store it away, but he’ll burn the chaff in a fire that can’t be put out.”

All this happened in Bethany, on the other side of the Jordan River where John was immersing. Then the crowd asked him, “What should we do?”

“If you have extra clothing, share with someone in need,” he replied. “Do the same with food.”

Then some tax collectors came to be immersed, and they asked him, “Teacher, what about us?”

“Don’t take one bit more than you’re supposed to,” he answered.

Next some police asked what they should do, and he told them, “Stop intimidating and extorting people; be content with your pay.”

John immerses Jesus

In those days Jesus arrived from Nazareth in Galilee. When John saw him coming he exclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘The one coming after me actually existed before me’! Though I didn’t recognize him right away, the whole reason I’ve been immersing people in water is to present him to Israel. The one who sent me to immerse in water told me that the one I would see the Spirit land on would be the one who immerses in the Holy Spirit. I have seen this, so I testify that this is the God-Man.”

(Earlier Jesus had come to be immersed by John in the Jordan. But John objected, “I’m the one who needs to be immersed by you, yet you come to me?”

“It has to be this way for now,” replied Jesus. “We have to do the right thing.”

So he consented to immerse him. And just as Jesus came up out of the water and was praying, suddenly the heavens opened up and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and landing on him. At that moment there was a voice from heaven saying, “This is my dear son; I am quite pleased with him!”)

Jesus is tested

Right away Jesus was led by the Spirit to go into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. After having gone forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. So the devil came to tempt him to sin: “If you’re really the God-Man, tell these stones to become bread.”

“It is written,” Jesus replied, “that no one lives on bread alone but on every word uttered by God.”

Then the devil took him into the holy city. He stood him on the highest point of the temple compound and said, “If you’re really the God-Man, throw yourself down. As it is written, ‘He will command his angels to lift you up with their hands so you won’t strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

“It is also written,” Jesus replied, “that you must not provoke the Master your God!”

Next the devil took him up into a very high mountain and instantly showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their splendor. “I will give you complete jurisdiction over all this, and the fame and honor that goes with it,” he said. “I can give it to whomever I wish because it was all handed over to me. It can all be yours, if you fall face-down and worship me!”

“Get away from me, Satan!” Jesus retorted. “For it is written: ‘It is only the Master your God you must worship; serve no one else!’” Then the devil left him until another opportunity might present itself, and right away angels came and attended to Jesus’ needs.

Jesus begins to gather disciples

Jesus’ activities began when he was about thirty years old. One day when John and two of his disciples were there again they saw Jesus walking around. So John said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this and became followers of Jesus. Now Jesus turned around and saw them following him, so he asked, “What are you looking for?”

But they said to him, “Rabbi” (which is the Hebrew word for Teacher), “where are you staying?”

“Come and you’ll see,” he replied. They came and saw where he was staying, and remained with him for the day. It was about 4 p.m.

Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. The first thing he did was to find his brother and tell him, “We have found the Messiah!” (This Hebrew name meaning The Anointed One is “Christ” in Greek.) He led him to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John; from now on you’ll be called Cephas.” (This Hebrew name meaning Stone is Peter in Greek.)

The next day Jesus decided to go into Galilee, where he found Philip and said, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the same city as Andrew and Peter.

Philip then found Nathaniel and said, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“Come and see,” replied Philip.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said, “Now there’s a genuine Israelite; there’s no treachery in him.”

Nathanael asked, “How do you know me?”

Jesus replied, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

“Rabbi, you are the God-Man!” Nathanael exclaimed. “You are the King of Israel!”

And Jesus replied, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree; you’ll be seeing greater things than that!” Then he added, “Very truly I tell you all, you’ll see the sky opened up and the angels of God ascending and descending to and from the Human.”

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