Introduction: John the Baptist may seem to be an enigmatic figure. Just who is he, we know so little about him. Josephus, the Jewish historian. He wrote the Jewish War (75) and Antiquities of the Jews (95). He defected and became a Roman citizen and wrote about the time of Christ and especially just after his death. He did write a paragraph about John the Baptist and noted that some of the Jews thought Herod’s army had been destroyed by God due to his killing of John the Baptist. He went on to write that John the Baptist warned that even washing would not wash their sins away unless they changed their life-style. Josephus describes him as a charismatic preacher able to persuade people to follow him which made him a possible political threat.
I) John comes on the scene at a moment of religious upheaval as the long awaited Messiah is about to come upon the historical stage. This extraordinary time in history must be introduced by a sounding of a clarion call to action.
II) He calls the people to take notice not by any quote from just any prophet, but a quote from the prophet Isaiah that had been used as one of not just comfort, but a call to move forward. The passage from Isaiah that John quotes begins by telling the people they have suffered double for their sins. The prophet goes on to tell them that their God has not forgotten them in Babylon. He now has come to rescue them and finally bring them back home where they may once more worship Him without fear!
III) The most significant part as far as I am concerned about this passage that John the Baptist quotes from Isaiah is that ALL people shall come to know their God. According to Isaiah God is not acting only to rescue the people of Israel from the domination of false god’s but His plan is to rescue all people from ignorance of who He is and the enslavement to sin. This theme is what John takes up as he warns the people of what is about to happen and to be ready to act by reaching out to others. This baptism will be one where the expectation is not simply to turn from one’s inner life of sin but to reflect the light of God outward to those who sit in darkness.