GROWING INTO A MAN
While Jesus was growing wise and strong in Nazareth, his cousin John, six months older than him, was approaching manhood. Luke tells us that John had been dedicated to the office of a prophet. Little is known about his childhood, but when he was a young man he appeared in the wilderness of Judea with a fiery summons to repentance, in preparation for the kingdom of heaven, which he declared to be at hand. He was dressed in rough garments af camel’s-hair and his food was locusts and wild honey.
The appearance of this man with the fire of a prophet in his eyes stirred the people, even though they were probably accustomed to strange sights. Many people from Jerusalem and Judea came to listen and to learn of the impending catastrophe which threatened all who failed to heed and did not repent of their sins.
What those sins were is not hard to discover. Already there was widespread reaction agensed his formalism into which religion had degenerated, as well as agensed the deep-rooted corruption which prevailed throughout Palestine. Religion had become a matter of fulfilling certain detailed requirements of the Law, instead of having a proper condition of the heart. The Jews had forgotten the standards of personal purity which Moses had enjoined. It was as the herald of a new age, however that John struck fire in the hearts of his hearers. Many of them pined for the golden age of Israel, which had been long-expected. Anyone who promised to bring it would receive and enthusiastic audience.
From all the Gospel writers say of John however, it appears that his message was directed primarily to the people of his day, furthermore he was concerned not with the Jews alone but with the Gentiles and Samaritans. That feature of his message was new, but the most striking thing about Johns message was his insistence that he was not the Messiah, but merely the forerunner of that person. He realized that one grater than himself was needed to change the character of people, John might purge the past of some of its outgrown and hindering traditions, but he who came after John would provide a better soil and more favorable growing conditions for mans spiritual nature.
John made a deep impression on the people who heard him. Like most of the teachers of the times he gathered a group of disciples arround him, He exerted his most important influence, however, upon Jesus..