John the Baptist was the long awaited son of Elizabeth and Zachariah. He was Jesus’ cousin. The story of his birth is in Luke 1, but it was predicted four hundred years earlier in Malachi 4:5 which said that before the Messiah came a prophet like Elijah would come to prepare the way for him. Jesus himself said that John was this prophet (Matt 11: 14). He also said that John was the greatest of all Israel’s prophets (Luke 7:18-35).
John’s message was one of repentance. He told people to give up sinning and return to God. He was a formidable man who lived rough in the desert, eating wild honey and locusts. John baptised people in the river Jordan; he even baptised Jesus! (Luke 3)
John was a fiery man who always spoke his mind and did not make himself popular with the authorities. He called the Pharisees ‘snakes’ and attacked the corruption of Herod Antipas. He was thrown into prison and beheaded (Matt 14:1-12).
John was important in pointing people to Jesus as the Messiah. After John was imprisoned, Jesus began his ministry.