JOHN THE BAPTIST’S MINISTRY
● John the Baptist’s message was simple and basic and to-the-point: (Matthew 3:1–3; Luke 3:7–14).
— Prepare for the coming of the Lord, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
— Evil will be destroyed.
— Do good to each other: clothe and feed those in need; treat each other kindly and justly; be honest in all your dealings.
● John began his public ministry preaching in the wilderness and then in Jerusalem and “all the region round about Jordan” (Matthew 3:5).
● People from Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordan River area confessed their sins and were baptized (Matthew 3:6).
● His condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:8–10).
● Elder James E. Talmage said, “Judaism held that the posterity of Abraham had an assured place in the kingdom of the expected Messiah, and that no proselyte from among the Gentiles could possibly attain the rank and distinction of which the ‘children” were sure. John’s forceful assertion that God could raise up, from the stones on the river bank, children to Abraham, meant to those who heard that even the lowest of the human family might be preferred before themselves unless they repented and reformed.”
● John rebuked them saying, “repent . . . and bring forth fruits meet for repentance” (JST Matt. 3:35).
John’s Testimony of Jesus
● The people thought he might be the Christ, but he told them he was the forerunner of Christ, who was greater than he. He baptized them with water but Christ would baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire (Matthew 3:11–12; Luke 3:15–16).
● “No man hath seen God at any time” should read “And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.” John clarifies this in John 6:46 (John 1:18; JST John 1:19; John 6:46).
John’s answers to their questions: (John 1:19–25).
● Question #1 “Art thou the Christ?” I am not (vv. 19–20).
● Question #2 “Art thou Elias?” (meaning Elijah) I am not (v. 21).
— And he confessed, and denied not that he was Elias; but confessed, saying: I am not the Christ” (JST v. 21”).
● Question #3 “Art thou that prophet?” (meaning Messiah ben Joseph) No (v. 21).
— “And he said, I am not that Elias who was to restore all things” (JST v. 22).
— Richard N. Skousen said, “One of the most ancient and respected traditions among Jewish scholars is a prophecy that a “Messiah ben Joseph” would be raised up in the latter days for the specific purpose of preparing the way for the coming of their Great Messiah, Messiah ben David. This astounding Jewish prophecy is discussed in the Talmud, the Midrash and the Targum. This prophecy said that this ‘Joseph’ of the latter days would die a martyr’s death while performing his sacred mission. (Joseph Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel, 496).
● Question #4 “Who art thou?”
— I am the voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord (vv. 22–24).
● Question #5 “Why baptizest thou then?” (v. 25).
— “There standeth one among you . . . who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (vv. 26–28; JST 27–28).
— Elder James E. Talmage explained the “shoe latchet:” “To loose the shoe latchet or sandal thong, or to carry the shoes of another, ‘was a menial office betokening great inferiority on the part of the person performing it.’ (Smith”s Dictionary of the Bible). A passage in the Talmud (Tract. Kiddusshin xxii: 2) requires a disciple to do for his teacher whatever a servant might be required to do for his master, except the loosing of his sandal thong . . . The humility of the Baptist . . . is impressive.”
● The testimony John gave on the two succeeding days:
— Jesus is the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29–36).
JESUS IS BAPTIZED
Jesus Came to John for Baptism
● Jesus came to John to be baptized (Matthew 3:13–15).
— At his baptism, Jesus was about thirty years old (Luke 2:23).
— Elder James E. Talmage said, “Criticism and objection might have resulted if he had started his mission before thirty.”
Jesus Was Baptized by Immersion
John Bore Witness of Jesus Christ
● After baptizing Jesus, John received a special testimony of the Savior, which was recorded by the Apostle John in his Gospel (John 1:32–34). John the Baptist’s testimony has been revealed more fully in the present dispensation (D&C 93:15–18).
JOHN’S DISCIPLES BEGAN TO FOLLOW CHRIST
● John the Baptist encouraged his own disciples to follow the Savior (John 1:35–39).
● John bore powerful witness to his disciples that Jesus is the Christ (John 3:25–36).
● John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod (Luke 3:19–20).
● Jesus sent angels to minister unto John in prison (JST Matthew 4:11).
What are the doctrinal insights we receive from the baptism of Jesus Christ? You should consider discussing one or more of these with your class.
● Bringing Forth Fruits Meet for Repentance (Luke 3:3–14). John taught concerning the “fruits” one must bring when being baptized. As we know and understand these fruits from our Articles of Faith, these are faith and repentance. These must be achieved before baptism, not merely after. This is why we do not immediately baptize people who show interest in the Church. They must first demonstrate that they have changed their life in significant ways such as attending Church, living the Word of Wisdom, and paying tithing.
● Repentance Is a “Mighty Change of Heart” (Bible Dictionary, “Repentance”) John the Baptist did more than just baptize. He preached a complete change of heart from whatever the people’s previous practices and thoughts may have been (Luke 3:7–14). Mere ritual does not remit sins, a principle that the Jews had long forgotten. Being baptized is symbolic of burying the “old man” and resurrecting a “new man.” This must be a real and mighty change of attitude and behavior.
● Baptism By Fire Must Follow Baptism By Water (Matthew 3:11). John the Baptist told his followers that the Savior would baptize them “with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (v. 11). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “The gospel requires baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, which is the meaning of the word in the original language—namely, to bury or immerse. . . . I further believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, [as evidenced] by Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:38. You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Savior says,”
● These Two Baptisms Are the Gateway Into the Kingdom of God (John 3:5). If we properly understand that the Kingdom of God is the Savior’s Church on the earth, then the meaning of the Savior’s teaching, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (v. 5] become more clear. This is how we become members of His Church, as well as how we are forgiven for our sins and qualify for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
● Baptism Is Required of All Men, Including Christ (Matt. 3:15; 2 Nephi 31:4–11). Though He was sinless, yet to “fulfill all righteousness” He submitted Himself to the ordinance He requires of the rest of us. Nephi explained why the Savior was baptized (2 Nephi 31:4–11).
— To fulfill all righteousness
— To set the example for all men and women to follow: The Savior said regarding baptism, “Follow thou me.”
— To be obedient to the Father”s commandments
● There Are Three Separate Members of the Godhead (Matt. 3:16–17). All three members of the Godhead were manifested at Jesus’ baptism. The Father bore witness of His Son and the Holy Ghost descended (Matthew 3:16–17; John 2:1–11; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21–22). This verified that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are separate beings.
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said, [John] “led the Son of God into the waters of baptism, and had the privilege of beholding the Holy Ghost descend in the form of a dove, or rather in the sign of the dove, in witness of that administration. The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence.”
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “All four gospel authors record that the Spirit descended ‘like a dove’; Luke adds that he also came in ‘bodily shape’; and the Book of Mormon accounts say he came ‘in the form of a dove.’ (1 Ne. 11:27; 2 Ne. 31:8). . . . It thus appears that John witnessed the sign of the dove, that he saw the Holy Ghost descend in the ‘bodily shape’ of the personage that he is, and that the descent was ‘like a dove.’”
1. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 123.
2. Brother Joseph, Vol. 1: Seer of a New Dispensation, 15–16.
3. Jesus the Christ, 137.
4. Jesus the Christ, 166.
5. Bible Dictionary, “Baptism,” 618.
6. History of the Church, 5:499; punctuation modernized; paragraph divisions altered; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards.
7. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 276.
8. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:123–124.