Now in the quiet village of Nazareth, Jesus has been prepared. The time has come for Jesus to appear in Israel. He has heard that John is preaching and baptizing. The way is ready.
John had probably never seen Jesus, yet when Jesus comes he knows that this is the one who is mightier than he, the latchet of whose shoes he is not worthy to unloose.
For once John hesitates. Jesus had no need of repentance. He was greater than John. John’s father was Zacharias; the father of Jesus was God. “I have need to be baptized of thee,” says John, “and comest thou to me?”
But baptism was a command of God. Jesus did always those things which pleased his Father. He showed us how to fulfil the commandments of God. He fulfilled “all righteousness” by becoming baptised with water at the hand of John. John cannot hesitate any longer. He had been required by one mightier than he to perform the service of baptism, and so both John and Jesus go down into the water. Jesus is completely covered with the waters of the river (for complete immersion is the baptism of John and afterwards of Jesus), and as they come up out of the water God sets His seal of approval on all that has been done, and shows, before all, that Jesus is the “Lamb of God”. For John saw power from God in the form of a dove descending and resting on Jesus, and he heard a voice: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Jesus was now annointed with spirit and with power: “The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”
The words he spake would be the words of God. The works he did would be worked by the power which he had received from God. Jesus was now Jesus Christ – for the word Christ means “annointed”.
From this time Jesus would increase, John would decrease. The work of Jesus was beginning, that of John ending. They have met after thirty years. John gives his witness that Jesus is the Messiah; then they part, Jesus being led into the wilderness, whilst John continues for a short time baptizing in the Jordan.
We will now follow John, for his work is nearly done.
He is now in the territory ruled over by the son of Herod, called Herod Antipas. Now Hderod had been guilty of great wickedness in marrying Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for Philip was alive, and Herodias had merely left him and married Herod, whilst the latter had divorced his former wife without any cause except that he wished to marry Herodias. Add to this fact that Herod was uncle to Herodias, that the Law of Moses distinctly forbade such marriage, and we shall be able to see how greatly Herod had offended the people of his time.
Fearless John was not to be kept silent on such wickedness. He openly said that Herod had sinned. Because of this, and perhaps also because he thought that John might become so popular, and receive such support, that he would endeavour to raise and lead armies for the overthrow of the Roman rule under which Herod held the land, he determined to imprison him. We know of course, that John preached nothing of this, but the fears of monarchs at this time led them to suspect everywhere plots and insurrections.
John was taken, very probably by night – for Herod feared the people because they counted John a prophet – and imprisoned in a fortress in the extreme south of Herod’s dominion.
At Machaerus (about five miles east of the Dead Sea) Herod had built this fortress-palace. It was built on the crest of a narrow mountain ridge. At one end of the crest was the fortress-palace. At the other end was the citidel. Between them the crest of the ridge was broken by a small, but steep valley across which was a bridle path, fortified with many gates, which served as a link. But that was the only link. Straight down from the walls of the fortress on the three remaining sides the rocks fell, forming precipices which could not possible be scaled. One cannot imagine a stronger fortress, and here John, used all his life to the open air of the wilderness, was imprisoned.
from The Life of Jesus Christ by W.R. Mitchell