The beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist
God sent John to serve as a witness to testify about the light that is Christ, so that everyone could believe through that light. John himself was not the light, but he came to tell others about it. The true light, who gives enlightenment to everyone, was about to be revealed to the world. Christ was in the world and the world was created through Christ, yet the world did not recognize him. He came to those he was called to and yet they did not welcome him. But to those who did welcome him, he gave them the honor of being the children of God. Those who believed in Christ were born out of the will of God and not by way of genealogy or human desire.
The word of God that is Christ took on human form and lived among us. We saw his glory as the only begotten Son of the heavenly Father, and that glory was full of grace and truth.
John testified about him by telling people “This is the One I was talking about when I said ‘There is someone who is coming after me, who is greater than I am because he existed before me.’ Indeed we have all received blessing upon blessing from him, because even though the Law was given through Moses, Christ has brought us the grace of forgiveness. No one has ever seen God, but he has been revealed to us through his one and only Son, who is at the Father’s side.”
God’s word came to John the son of Zechariah while he was in the wilderness. This was in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea. At the same time, Herod was the ruler of Galilee and his brother Philip ruled the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruled Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were high priests during this time as well.
John went out into the wilderness of Judea and everywhere around the Jordan, preaching about a baptism to forgive sins for those who are repentant. He was saying “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has arrived.” Everyone from the countryside of Judea and the city of Jerusalem came to him and he baptized them in the Jordan River while they confessed their sins.
He is the one the prophet Isaiah spoke about when he said “Look! I am sending my messenger ahead of you who will prepare the way before you. He is a lone voice crying out into the wilderness, saying ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight!’ Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, the crooked path will straighten, the rough path will become smooth, and the entire world will see God’s salvation.”
MT 3:1-3, MK 1:1-5, LK 3:1-6
John’s clothing was made of camel hair and he wore a leather belt around his waist. He ate only locusts and wild honey.
MT 3:4, MK 1:6
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized by him, he said “You are a nest of snakes! Who warned you to flee from the wrath that is coming? You need to act in a way that proves you are repentant. Don’t think you can get away with saying ‘We have Abraham as our father’, because God can produce children for Abraham from the stones that are here! Even now the ax is poised to chop away at the root of the tree! Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
MT 3:7-10, LK 3:7-9
The crowds asked John “What should we do?” He answered “Anyone who has two shirts should give one to the person who has nothing to wear, and if you have extra food you should give it to those who are hungry.”
Tax collectors came to be baptized by him and they asked “What should we do?” He answered “Collect only what you are required to by law and nothing more.”
Soldiers questioned him in the same manner and he replied “Don’t use force or false accusations to extort money from anyone – be satisfied with what you get paid.”
All the people were debating amongst themselves if John was the Messiah or not. Priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to ask him “Who are you?”
John said “I am not the Messiah.”
Then they asked him “Are you Elijah?”
John again said no.
Then they asked him “Are you the Prophet?”
John again answered “No.”
“Then who are you?” they asked. “We have to give an answer to the people who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
John said “I am a lone person crying out in the wilderness – ‘Make straight the path of the Lord’ – just like the prophet Isaiah said.”
JN 1:19-23, (LK 3:15)
Since they had been sent from the Pharisees they asked him “Why do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet?”
John said “I baptize using water, but there is One coming after me who is more powerful than I am. I am not even worthy to take off his shoes. He will baptize you using the Holy Spirit and fire. He stands among you but you don’t recognize him. He is ready to separate the good from the bad, just like how a farmer gathers the good wheat into his barn but burns the chaff in an unending fire.”
He used many other similar warnings to announce the good news of the kingdom of heaven to everyone. All this happened across the Jordan in Bethany, where John was baptizing.
MT 3:11-12, MK 1:7-8, LK 3:16-18, JN 1:24-28
The baptism of Jesus
Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee to be baptized by John at the Jordan at the same time everyone else did. John protested, saying “I should be baptized by you, yet you want me to baptize you?” Jesus said “It must be done the proper and legal way.” So then John baptized Jesus.
Jesus was praying the moment he came up out of the water after being baptized and immediately the heavens opened. The Holy Spirit of God descended upon him, looking like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, saying “You are my beloved Son and I am very pleased with you!”
MT 3:13-17, MK 1:9-11, LK 3:21-22
Then Jesus returned from the Jordan, filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days. He ate nothing while he was there and was very hungry at the end of that time.
The devil approached him and said “If you are truly the Son of God, then you should tell this stone to become bread so you can eat.” But Jesus answered him “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God.’”
Then the devil took Jesus up onto a high mountain and he showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor in a twinkling of the eye. He said “I will give all of this to you because it has been given to me and I can give it to anyone I want. It will all be yours if you will fall on your knees and worship me.” Jesus answered him “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
So then the devil took him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the top of the Temple and said “If you are the Son of God, then throw yourself down from here, for it is written ‘He will order his angels to take care of you. They will lift you up with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
And Jesus said “It is also written: ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’”
Then the devil left him and immediately the angels came and began to serve him.
MT 4:1-11, MK 1:12-13, LK 4:1-13
John’s commentary after the baptism
John saw Jesus walking towards him the very next day and said “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I was telling you about when I said ‘A man who is far greater than I am is on his way, and he existed long before me!’ I didn’t know this man was him when I said it, but I have been baptizing with water so that the nation of Israel might take notice of him.”
“I saw the Holy Spirit come down from heaven looking like a dove. The Holy Spirit rested on this man. At the time God sent me to baptize, He told me ‘When you see the Holy Spirit descending and resting on someone, that is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. That is the One you are looking for.’ I have seen it with my own eyes and I testify that he is the Son of God!”
The Lamb of God
(According to John, this is how the first disciples were called.)
John was standing with his disciples the next day. He said to them “Behold the Lamb of God!” when he saw Jesus pass by. The two disciples went to follow Jesus after they heard this.
Jesus turned to look at them and asked “What do you seek?” They said “Teacher, where are you staying?”
He replied “Come and see.” He took them to where he was staying and they remained with him that day. This was around ten a.m.
Simon Peter’s brother Andrew was one of the two disciples who left John to follow Jesus. He first went to find his brother and said “We have discovered the Anointed One!” and then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus saw him and said “You are Simon, John’s son, but from now on you will be called Cephas” (meaning “Rock”)
The first disciples
Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee while the crowd was pressing close to hear him speak the word of God. He saw two boats at the edge of the lake. The fishermen were washing their nets on the shore. He got onto the boat that belonged to Simon (Peter) and asked him to take the boat out a little way into the water. He then sat down and resumed teaching the crowds from there.
When he had finished the lesson, he said to Simon (Peter), “Take the boat out further and have your crew put down the nets into the water.”
“Master,” Simon (Peter) replied, “we have fished all night and caught nothing, but because you asked me, I’ll do it.”
They put down their nets into the deep water and they caught so many fish that the nets began to tear. They signaled to their partners on the other boat, who were James and John, along with their father Zebedee, to come over and help. They filled both boats so full of fish that they began to sink. Everyone was amazed at how many fish they caught. Simon (Peter) was so overwhelmed that he fell down on his knees before Jesus and said “Go away from me, Lord because I’m a sinful man.”
Jesus told him “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching people!”
Then they brought the two boats to the shore. Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John left everything – the boats and other workers, even Zebedee, the father of James and John – and began to follow Jesus.
LK 5:1-11, MT 4:18-22, MK 1:16-20
Philip and Nathanael
Also in Galilee, Jesus found Philip and said to him “Follow me!” Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Simon (Peter). Philip found Nathanael and told him “We have found the One that Moses and the prophets wrote about! He is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth!”
Nathanael exclaimed “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip answered him.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching him he said “Here is a man without guile, a true son of Israel!”
“How do you know anything about me?” Nathanael demanded.
“I noticed you under the fig tree before Philip called to you.”
Nathanael replied, “Teacher, you are the Son of God, the king of Israel!”
Jesus asked him “Do you believe this just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see even better proof than this. Mark my words; you will see heaven open and the angels of God traveling back and forth between me and heaven.”
Turning water into wine
Early on in Jesus’ ministry, there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus was there with his mother and his disciples as invited guests. When the wine ran out too soon, Mary told him about the problem.
“Why does this concern you?” he asked her. “It is not the time yet for me to perform miracles.” However, Mary told the servants “Do whatever he tells you to do.”
There were six stone jars filled with water at the wedding. They were intended for the Jewish purification ritual. Each jar could hold at least 20 gallons of water. Jesus told the servants to fill the jars up to the brim. Then he said “Ladle some out and take it to the headwaiter.”
When the headwaiter tasted the water that was now wine, he was amazed. He did not know where it had come from, even though the servants did. He called the groom to him and said “Normally people put out the best wine first, then after people are drunk they put out the cheap stuff. But you have saved the best for last!”
This was Jesus’ first public demonstration of his God-given abilities. His disciples believed in him.Afterwards, he departed for Capernaum with his mother, brothers, and disciples and they stayed there for just a few days.
Jesus speaks with Nicodemus
Nicodemus was a Jewish leader and member of the Pharisees. He came to Jesus secretly at night and said “Teacher, we know that God has sent you as a teacher, because only those who God is with can do the signs you have performed.”
Jesus told him, “Truly I say to you, unless you have been reborn, you can never enter into the kingdom of God.”
“How can anyone be born again?” Nicodemus exclaimed. “How can an old person enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time?”
Jesus answered, “This is the truth: unless you are born by the way of water and of the Holy Spirit, you will never enter the kingdom of God. Whoever is born by the way of the flesh is just flesh, but if you are born by the way of the Spirit, you are so much more. Don’t be amazed when I tell you that you must be born a second time. You can hear the wind blow but you don’t know where it came from or where it will go. The same is true of everyone who is born by the way of the Spirit.”
“How is this possible?” asked Nicodemus.
“You, a respected teacher of the Law of Moses, and you don’t understand this? Truly, I’m telling you what God reveals to me, but you don’t accept it. If you don’t believe me when I tell you about the earthly things that happen, then how will you believe me when I tell you about heavenly things? The only one who has been raised up into heaven is the same one who came down from heaven, and that is the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses raised up an image of a serpent to heal people in the wilderness, the Son of Man must be raised up, so that everyone who believes in him will be saved from death.
God loves the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not die but have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son here to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved because of him. Anyone who believes in him is saved, but those who don’t believe are lost, because they don’t believe in the only Son of God.
Those who are lost have made themselves that way, because the Light has come into the world and they loved the darkness more because they did evil things. Everyone who does evil things hates to have them exposed to the Light. But everyone who lives truthfully comes to the Light so that God’s glory may be revealed.”
Jesus and John the Baptist
Jesus traveled out to the Judean countryside with his disciples. They stayed for a while there and baptized people.
John had not been imprisoned by this point. He was baptizing in Aenon, near Salim because there was a lot of water there.
Then John’s disciples and the Jews began to argue about the ritual of purification. They told John, “Teacher, the one who you said was the Messiah, who was with you on the other side of the Jordan, is baptizing too, and everyone is going to him.”
John answered, “Nothing can be received unless God gives it to you. You know that I said I am not the Messiah, but that I’ve been sent to prepare the way for him. The groom has the bride, but the groom’s friend simply stands by and waits on him, celebrating when he hears him. My joy is complete. He must increase in greatness, but I must become lesser.”
The One from Heaven
The One who comes from heaven is greater than all. The one who is from earth is limited and speaks only of earthly things. The One who is above all speaks about what he has seen and heard, yet no one believes his testimony. Those who have accepted his testimony have affirmed the truth of God. God has sent him, and he speaks what God tells him to say, because God gives the gift of the Holy Spirit without any limitations. God the Father loves the Son, and has given him charge over all things. Those who believe in God have eternal life, but those who choose to not believe are like the dead – the wrath of God rests upon them.
Jesus and the Samaritan woman
Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee when he learned that the Pharisees heard he was baptizing and making more disciples than John. Jesus himself did not baptize, only his disciples did. On his way he traveled to a town in Samaria called Sychar, which is near the piece of land that Jacob had bequeathed to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there and around 6 in the evening Jesus sat down near it because he was exhausted from his journey. A Samaritan woman came near to draw water from the well. Jesus asked her to give him a drink. His disciples had traveled ahead into town to buy food.
She replied “Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jews normally did not associate with Samaritans.
Jesus answered, “If you understood the gift of God, and who is asking you for a drink, you would be asking him, and he would give you living water.”
“Sir,” she said, “the well is deep and you don’t even have a bucket with you. How and where are you going to get this ‘living water’? You aren’t more powerful than Jacob, our father, are you? He is the one who gave us this well. He, his sons, and their livestock all drank from it.”
Jesus said “Anyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I offer will never ever become thirsty again! In fact, the water I offer will become like a spring of water, flowing from within that person for eternal life.”
“Sir,” she said, “let me have some of this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to come all this way to draw water here again.”
“Go get your husband and come back here” he told her.
“I am unmarried,” she replied.
“You are correct in saying ‘I am unmarried,’ because you’ve been divorced five times and the man you are with now is not your husband. You have spoken the truth,” Jesus countered.
“Sir, it is obvious to me that you are a prophet,” the woman replied. “The Samaritans worshipped here on this mountain in years past, yet you Jews believe that Jerusalem is where people should worship.”
Jesus said “Believe me; the time is coming when you won’t need to worship the Father here or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you don’t know, while we Jews know what we worship, because salvation comes into the world through us. However, it is now the time when true worshippers will worship God in spirit and truth. God wants this kind of worship from us. Since God is spirit, God should be worshipped in spirit and truth.”
The Samaritan woman said “I know that the time is coming when the Messiah will arrive” (the One who is called Christ). “He will explain everything to us when he comes.”
“I am the One who is speaking to you.” Jesus told her.
His disciples arrived at this point and they were surprised he was talking with a woman. But none of them asked him what he wanted or why he was talking to her.
Then the Samaritan woman got up, left her water jar there, and went back to town. She told the men “Come with me and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Is it possible this is the Messiah?” They left the town and went straight to where Jesus was.
Meanwhile, the disciples kept urging him to eat something. But he said “I have food that you are unaware of.” The disciples began to wonder among themselves, saying “Could someone else have brought him something?”
Jesus told them “My food is to do God’s will and to finish God’s work. Isn’t it common to say ‘There are four more months before the time for the harvest’? Listen clearly – raise your eyes and look at the fields – they are ripe for the harvest! Right now the reaper is being paid and gathering the harvest for eternal life, so those who sow and those who reap can celebrate together. Here the saying is true – ‘One sows the seed and another reaps the harvest.’ I have sent you to harvest what you didn’t work for. Others have worked and you have benefitted from their work.”
Many people from the Samaritan town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony when she said “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” Because of this, they asked him to stay with them when they came out to see him at the well. Jesus stayed there for two days. Many more people came to believe because of his word. Then they told the woman “We don’t believe just because of your testimony. We have heard him for ourselves and we know that he truly is the Savior of the world.”
John rebuked the ruler Herod because he had married his brother’s wife, Herodias, and had done many other evil things. Herod was also upset about John baptizing people, so because of all of this he locked John up in prison.