The Gospels record little of the year of obscurity. It was a preparatory period, with negative results as far
as the rulers in Jerusalem was concerned. Apart from the synoptic accounts of Jesus’ baptism and
temptation, this period is recorded almost exclusively in John 1-4.
The Forerunner (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:3-18). The times were ripe. Not only was the
Roman world in desperate need of God’s message, but the nation Israel likewise needed His revelation.
The 430 years of God’s silence was broken. In the fifteenth year of Tiberius, John the Baptizer, preacher,
prophet, forerunner of the Messiah suddenly appeared in the desert region of Judea preaching a baptism of
repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Baptism symbolized a complete moral cleansing. It was a public confession of sin and of the need of a
Savior-Messiah. The one receiving this rite had to first give evidence of genuine repentance, a sorrow for
sin and a determination to turn away from it. It was a declaration also of allegiance to the coming
Messiah, when He should appear. Hence, John’s message was preparatory and transitory.
Instead of appearing at the Temple or the city of Jerusalem, John appeared in the desert. His very lifestyle
suggested that he was outside the established religious order of his day. He did not come to
transform the established religion but to separate people from it to the Lord.
John the Baptizer is called “a voice,” but he was not like the still small voice that the Prophet Elijah had
heard in his mountain cave; he was rather like the wind and the fire that broke in pieces the rocks. People
from the banks of Jordan crowed to hear him. His fame reached Jerusalem, and Sadducees and Pharisees,
teachers of the law and priests, tax collectors and sinners, went forth to listen, and be awed into a passing
reverence and faith.
The religious leaders in their self-righteousness considered themselves acceptable to God. They denied
having sin that needed to be confessed or unrighteousness that needed to be forgiven. By virtue of their
physical birth, they saw themselves as Abraham’s children, as acceptable to God, and as members of His
kingdom. Matthew 3:7-10 and Luke 3:7-14 records John’s message to the self-righteous. He demanded
repentance of the religious leaders and proof of it.
After John had been preaching and baptizing for over six months, came Jesus from Nazareth to John to be