Crowds were drawn in great numbers to hear what this 2nd century holy hippie named John had to say. JB was not into fashion, his hair was matted into dreadlocks; he wore camel hair skins and ate locusts and wild honey. He had grown up with the Essenes, in an outdoor commune. It was a sect of society that were known to be rigid in their abstinence of all worldly pleasures. John the Baptist (JB) lived under the Old Testament law, and the severe restraints of the Essenes. In his commune, the human appetite for anything that may corrupt the spiritual goal of purity was denied. They adamantly practiced celibacy and willful poverty. When he was 30, JB began preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." To the dismay of King Herod, many were moved by JB’s spirit filled words. Throngs of people were confessing their sins and getting baptized by JB in the Jordon River.
Jordan fifteen miles southeast of the mouth of the Jordan River on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. Before JB was imprisoned he greeted the Messiah asking Him “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and JB saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:11-17 ~ So now imagine our JB, a strict Old Testament Jew, raised by the Essenes, sitting alone in a dark prison when he suddenly gets highly agitated upon learning that Jesus has served wine at a wedding, that he healed folks on a Sunday, and that Jesus was seen in a bar talking with sinners, and that He spoke to a prostitute! JB was extremely rattled and he actually questioned the divinity of Christ!
“When JB in prison heard what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied “Go back and report to JB what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the GOOD NEWS is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me.” Jesus baffles John’s disciples by asking them “What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? A Prophet? Yes, I tell you more than a Prophet. JB is the one about whom it is written: “I will send my messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.” I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:2-16 ~ Man judges by appearances, but our holy God judges us by the content of our hearts.
John the Baptist was highly influenced by the Essenes, of Judea. The Essenes were stoic and rigidly performed cleansing rituals prior to writing the name of God, Yahweh. The Essenes were a sect of Second Temple Judaism that flourished in the 2nd century BCE. They were much fewer in number than the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were the other two major sects at the time. They lived in various cities but congregated in communal life dedicated to asceticism which is a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing very high spiritual goals. Many religious traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity still advocate strict restraint with respect to actions of body, speech, and mind. The Essenes rigidly practiced voluntary poverty, daily immersion and celibacy.
As the forerunner of Jesus, JB lived with great expectation for the return of the Messiah. God had anointed JB in his mother’s womb. When Elizabeth was pregnant with JB and her niece Mary arrived pregnant with Jesus, JB flipped in Liz’s womb, recognizing Jesus Christ as God, his Creator. Zechariah's wife, mentioned in the New Testament as Elizabeth, was barren and therefore the birth of a child seemed impossible. As a gift from God, Zechariah was given a son by the name of "Yaḥya", (John) a name specially chosen for this child alone. In accordance with Zechariah's prayer, God created John and Jesus in the womb, and they were born 6 months apart. God's purpose was to use His two creations to bring the GOOD NEWS message of our Father God, into New Testament times. The High Priests of Israel had corrupted the truth. This is according to exegesis, which includes the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds for the author, the text, and the original audience. JB was also identified by the prophet Elijah. According to 2 Kings 2:1-11, Elijah defended the worship of Yahweh over that of the Canaanite god Baal, which was considered as idol worship. Elijah raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and was taken up "by a whirlwind." In the Book of Malachi, Elijah's return is prophesied "before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord," making Elijah a harbinger of the Messiah and the eschaton in various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible. According to Flavius Josephus, Macherus is the location of the imprisonment and execution of John the Baptist. According to the chronology of the Bible, JB's infamous execution took place following his imprisonment of 2 years, shortly after the Passover.