In the first two verses, Luke goes to great pains to let us know that the Word of God came to John in the wilderness in the year 28, but of course the coming of the Word is the most important thing John’s time had come.
Notice in the text that Luke is careful to point out that John was on the scene in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, for this was no fluke; John’s mission was one that everyone would recognize. It’s sometimes hard for us to remember that in the first century the Jewish people were expecting the Messiah to appear, based upon the prophecies of Daniel who had given them the timeframe for His arrival. John’s appearance would have made quite an impact. So there he was, out in the desert, preaching of all things repentance… but the people would flock to Him to hear his preaching, and to receive his baptism of repentance, for they knew that the Messiah would shortly appear, and they wanted to be ready.
Isn’t this an interesting contrast to our attitude about repentance today?
Notice the interesting exchanges recorded in 3:7-14: The people were receptive to his message for the most part, asking what they should do. As we see in the next verse, some were even wondering if John himself was the Messiah, but he quickly set them straight:
John answered them all, “I baptize you wit] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and 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.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. (3:16-18)
John’s ministry would end at God’s appointed time as we see in the last two verses of this section, but not before he has an encounter with Jesus Himself that we’ll look at next time. What we need to review is that the early church also would preach a message of repentance that resonated with many people who remembered John’s teaching, for John was very popular with the Jewish people, if not the Jewish authorities, for they were not particularly feeling empowered by John’s and later Jesus’ appearance on the scene; they were much to honest to play the games of the rich and powerful as John demonstrates in the last two verses of this section…
But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison. (3:19-20)