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.”1
● 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).2
● 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.”3
● The testimony John gave on the two succeeding days:
— Jesus is the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29–36).
JESUS IS BAPTIZED
Jesus Comes 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.”4
● 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
— To be obedient to the Father”s commandments v. 10The Savior said regarding baptism, “Follow thou me.”
The Father Speaks and the Holy Ghost Descends
● 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.”6
— 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.’”7
John Bears 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).
JESUS’ TEMPTATION IN THE WILDERNESS
Jesus Went into the Wilderness to Be with God
● Jesus did not to into the wilderness “to be tempted” (Matthew 4:1).
● He went into the wilderness to fast and pray. He was tempted afterward (JST Matt. 4:1–2).
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Jesus did not go into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; righteous men do not seek out temptation. He went ‘to be with God.’ Probably he was visited by the Father; without question he received transcendent spiritual manifestations. The temptations came after he ‘had communed with God,’ ‘after forty days’ The same was true in the case of Moses. He communed with God, saw the visions of eternity, and was then left unto himself to be tempted of the devil. After resisting temptation he again communed with Deity, gaining further light and revelation.”8
The Nature of Satan’s Temptations
● Temptation #1
— Change stone to bread (Matthew 4:3–4).
— Type: Physical appetites.
— Jesus had been fasting for 40 Days and was certainly very hungry.
— Answer: Balance physical/spiritual needs.
● Temptation #2
— Cast himself down (Matthew 4:5–7).
— Type: Pride/vanity/acclaim.
— Answer: Do not tempt (test) God.
— The devil did not transport Jesus up to a pinnacle of the temple. The Spirit transported him, not Satan (JST Matt. 4:5–9).
— The “pinnacle” was a lofty speakers’ platform on the southeast corner of the temple mount, overlooking the temple court from which a large multitude could be addressed.
— Jesus responded to each of Satan’s temptations by quoting scriptures.
— Satan also quotes scripture in this case in order to sound reasonable.
— This temptation was to take a short and easy road to recognition as the Messiah by giving “a sign from heaven.”
— This time, rather than tempting the Savior to use his power, Satan tempted Christ to force God to use his power in Christ’s behalf.
— The Lord continued throughout this ministry to reject the use of miracles to make disciples of those who did not otherwise believe.
● Temptation #3
— Kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8–11).
— Type: Power, wealth, honor.
— Answer: Serve God, not worldly lusts.
— Satan’s offer was false; he did not own these kingdoms
— John 6:15 This was not the last time that the temptation to assume earthly power would come to Christ. The people tried to “take him by force to make him a king,” but he refused.
Similarities to Our Own Temptations
● Satan twice questioned whether Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 4:3, 6). He also causes us to question that God is the Father of our Spirits.
— How this knowledge helped Moses reject Satan (Moses 1:12–22).
— Paul said of himself, “when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Romans 8:21).
— Jesus, the Son of God, faced temptations similar to those we face (Hebrews 4:14–15).
● Spencer W. Kimball said, “The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example . . . He positively and promptly closed the discussion, and commanded: ‘Get thee hence, Satan,’ meaning, likely, ‘Get out of my sight—get out of my presence—I will not listen—I will have nothing to do with you.’ Then, we read, ‘the devil leaveth him.'”9
● Howard W. Hunter said, “The question for us now is—will we succeed? Will we resist? Will we wear the victor’s crown? Satan may have lost Jesus, but he does not believe he has lost us. He continues to tempt, taunt, and plead for our loyalty. We should take strength for this battle from the fact that Christ was victorious not as a God but as a man.”10
● Jesus learned obedience through the things that he suffered. So do we. (Hebrews 5:8–9; 2:28).
● The Prophet Joseph Smith said to the Twelve, “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried [even] as . . . Abraham and other men of God . . . God will feel after you, and He will take hold of . . . and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial kingdom of God.”11
● Harold B. Lee said, “Now I want to bear testimony to you that every one of us have had that kind of testing. Some of us have been tried and have been tested until our very heart strings would seem to break. I have heard of persons dying with a broken heart and I thought that was just a sort of a poetic expression, but I learned that it could be a very real experience. I came near to that thing . . . Don’t be afraid of the testing and trials of life. Sometimes when you are going through the most severe tests, you will be nearer to God than you have any idea. . . .”12
JOHN’S DISCIPLES BEGIN 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).
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. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 276.
7. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:123–124.
8. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:128; see also Mosiah 3:7.
9. Miracle of Forgiveness, 216.
10. In Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 22; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 18–19.
11. John Taylor in Journal of Discourses, 24:197.
12. Munich Area General conference, August 1973.