THE 4 GOSPELS PARALLELED (Part 5 (1) – (4))

(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
5. THE EARLY MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
(1) The Commencement Of His Ministry 
“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Luke’s account gives precise details as to the historical time period:
1.      The 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar
2.      Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea
3.      Herod Antipas was tetrarch in Galilee and Perea
4.      Herod Phililp was tetrarch of Iturea and Tracontis
5.      Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene
6.      Anas and Caiaphas were high priests
Pontius Pilate had succeeded Valerius Gratus who had deposed Anas (Ananus) and appointed Joseph Caiaphas to the office of high priest, the Jews, however, continued to recognize Anas as their high priest (source: Josephus pgs. 262-264) . From Josephus’ account we see that the ministry of John the Baptist began during troublesome times for the Jewish people who were ruled by Roman governors that forcefully brought changes to their religious activities, thus the desire of the people for their Messiah to deliver them from the Roman oppression
(2) The Message And The Messenger 
“John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” . Both Matthew and Mark describe John’s clothing and food, such dress and food was no doubt the result of living in the desert from the time of his parents’ death . All three accounts describe his message as “A voice of one calling in the desert” which is a quotation from the prophet Isaiah , Mark adding the quotation from Malachi . John’s message was that of preparing the way for the Messiah by preaching repentance from sin and making a public demonstration of their repentance by being baptized – “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”, and both Matthew and Mark clarifies this statement by adding “Confessing their sins they were baptized by him….”
(3) The Courage Of John

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”

“Pharisees and Sadducees”. The characteristic feature of the Pharisees arises from their legal tendency; the accurate observance of the ceremonial law was regarded as the true essence of religious conduct. The Pharisee taught such a servile adherence to the letter of the law that its remarkable character, as a pointing forward to something higher than its letter, was completely overlooked, and its moral precepts, intended to elevate men, were made rather the instruments of contracting and debasing their ideas of morality. The Pharisees multiplied minute precepts and distinctions to such an extent, upon the pretence of maintaining it intact, that the whole life of Israel was hemmed in and burdened on every side by instructions so numerous and trifling that the law was almost, if not wholly, lost sight of. [from New Unger’s Bible Dictionary]
The Sadduceeswere aristocratic. They were the aristocrats, the wealthy euporoi, persons of rank from the priesthood. The NT and Josephus testifies that the high-priestly families belonged to the Sadducean party. The Sadduceans were not, however, merely the priestly party but aristocratic priests. The Sadducees refused to believe in a resurrection of the body and retribution in a future life or in any personal continuity of the individual . The Jews would not consider themselves bound to accept any doctrine as an article of faith, unless it had been proclaimed by Moses, their great lawgiver; . . . and it is certain that in the written law of the Pentateuch there is a total absence of any assertion by Moses of the resurrection of the dead. According to , the Sadducees denied that there was angel or spirit. Regarding the question of free will and predestination, the Sadducees came to lay great stress upon human freedom. [from New Unger’s Bible Dictionary]
As a result of their doctrines, both the Pharisees and Sadducees were far from the truth of the Scriptures; the Pharisees were “far-u-see” because they taught that strict adherence to the letter of the Law was necessary and in so teaching they added to the Law; while the Sadducees were “sad-u-see”because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Both sects therefore made the spiritual lives of the people miserable, resulting in the greetinggiven them from John – “You brood of vipers! – similar to the greeting that Elijah gave to Ahab and the people on Mount Carmel .
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” was John’s instruction to them , in other words practice what you preach. True repentance should be reflected in true sorrow for sin and the determination to live a holy life by the convert, and this was the true meaning of “baptism of repentance”. This was John’s way of preparing for the Messiah – no holding back of the true Gospel Message
(4) John’s Portrayal Of The Messiah 
“The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 
“…all wondering…. if John might possibly be the Christ.” The Jewish people experiencing the oppression of the Roman occupation of their land, were all looking for and hoping for the appearance of their Messiah, and thought that John might be the expected Messiah; John quickly responded to this hope by portraying who the Messiah would be – “one more powerful than I will come” – and he, John, would not be worthy to bend down to untie His (Messiah’s) sandals. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” – the baptism of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled at Pentecost , while the baptism of fire speaks of the coming judgment for the unforgiven sin of the unrepentant people. “…he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”– the wheat representing the righteous will be gathered; while the chaff representing the unrighteous, Jew and Gentile, will be burnt with unappeasable (never satisfied) fire. Such was John’s picture of their Messiah – not a coming deliverer from the Roman oppression, but a Saviour from sin and a righteous judge of the evil-doers. “And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.” – he continued to preach the good news of a coming salvation from sin, preparing for Messiah to make His appearance. 
(Continued…..)

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