Summary of passage: John the Baptist came to Judea preaching to the people that the kingdom of heaven is near (i.e. Jesus was coming). He wore camel hair as clothes and ate locusts and honey. People came from all over to confess their sins and be baptized by him in the Jordan River.
When the Pharisees and the Sadducees began coming, John warns them to repent for no longer can they hide behind Abraham as their father for Jesus is coming to judge. He will baptize them with water but after him Jesus will come, baptizing them with the Holy Spirit. He will clear out the evil-doers, gather his believers, and burn up whoever is left.
4a) Zechariah was a priest so he would have been an ideal choice to teach John the Baptist the laws. His parents were upright and observed all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. He was born about 6 months before Jesus and they were cousins. I wonder if they played together as kids and learned from each other.
b) Personal Question. My answer: I was raised a Christian. I was raised knowing I had a purpose in this world and I believe I have all the experiences I need in order to fulfill His purpose for my life.
5a) We are told the advice John gave to those wishing to avoid the fire. He told those who have more than others to share. He told tax collectors to not collect extra for themselves. He told soldiers to not extort people.
b) Personal Question. My answer: The same. Those who have more should give to those who have less. We should not collect more from others than we need. We should be content with what we have. We should not be greedy and treat others how we want to be treated–Golden Rule.
6a) Repentance for the forgiveness of sins and preparation for Jesus’ arrival
b) In essence, John’s job was to tell everyone to ready their hearts for Jesus is about to come and set them free. Thus, he baptized them with water as they repented (regretted) their sins and asked for forgiveness. He doesn’t mention accepting Jesus into their hearts but I believe this is implied in believing the Messiah was coming.
7a) I interpret this passage differently than BSF. I see John’s job as making the path straight to Jesus and God. Jesus levels every playing field for all are equal to come to him. No more Old Testament stipulations of cleansing to come to God, which would be the mountains and the valleys and the hoops you had to perform to get to God. Only Jesus is the way to Him now.
John’s job was to prepare the way for Jesus. To tell those to repent and cleanse your hearts to receive him inside–to rid yourself of anything (mountains or valleys) standing in the way of Jesus.
b) Personal Question. My answer: My sins are the rough places but they are not a mountain or valley or rough place to overcome for Jesus had done that for me. I know when I stumble, God picks me up, and I keep walking His path no matter the obstacles (mountains or valleys) that lay before me.
Conclusions: Challenging lesson that’s for sure as we were all over the place in the Bible. I had an “ah-ha!” when I connected the dots in my brain with Elizabeth and Mary. Before, we hadn’t read Luke 1:5-25 just Luke 1:26-38 in Lesson 1 so I hadn’t realized the relationship between Elizabeth and Mary. I had always heard John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin but had never quite connected the dots. Yeah, BSF, for making me read those passages TOGETHER!
I definitely had a different take on question 7 and an interpretation of the verse so would be curious to see your all’s answers. In my life, I don’t see mountains anymore. I see Jesus. Plain and simple.
Interesting Notes: Again, we see God choosing people off of ability, not what they look like. John the Baptist dressed differently and ate bugs. Not your ordinary guy in ancient times and not one you’d expect to deliver the life-changing message that the Messiah is coming. God knows the heart; that is all that matters to Him.
It was commonly believed that if you were Jewish, you couldn’t go to Hell because of Abraham. John tells them not to rest on their laurels but to be ready for if you are evil and produce bad fruit you will be cut down to Hell.
Begin to notice the predominance of the word “repent” in the New Testament and Jesus’ teachings. Here, it is the first word recorded that John the Baptist said. And it is the dominant message of Jesus: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 4:17