More Than Repentance

Dressed in camel skin, a leather belt round his waist, he stood on the banks of the River Jordan calling everyone to prepare for the Kingdom. A genuine prophet, Yochanan was born to Zechariah and Elisheva, of the tribe of Levi. Yochanan was well known throughout Israel. His appearance was like that of the prophets of old. He spoke like them, with the same urgency and passion. And his message, like theirs, was inescapable. "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!"

The people of Israel were expecting the Kingdom. The Jewish prophets had warned their forefathers and pointed to the Coming King. It was only a matter of time.

"As it is written in the Prophets: 'Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the LORD, make his paths straight. "'" (Mark 1:2-3)

According to Yochanan ben Zechariah (John son of Zechariah) the time had come and the people should prepare.

The prophet baptized all who responded to the call. Baptism, a Greek translation of the Hebrew word, mikveh, was a familiar event for the people of Israel. The mikveh cleansed an individual and was required by Scripture as part of a purification ritual. And so Yochanan's call to be 'cleansed' was nothing new. The significance of Yochanan's mikveh cleansing was that it prepared participants for the arrival of the King.

Yochanan declared, "There comes one after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal-strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. " (Mark 1:7-8)

All who knew him realized that his message was authentic. Yochanan was a genuine messenger of the God of Israel. The people believed he was from God. King Herod feared him and put him in prison hoping that the Jewish prophet would die there. Whilst the spiritual leaders of Israel did not publicly proclaim him a prophet, neither did they denounce him. Some even came to the Jordan to be baptized by Yochanan. Like the prophets of old, Yochanan was not intimidated by their status in the community. His message was for everyone.

" . . . when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father. " For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "'" (Matthew 3:7-10)

Yochanan's influence, like his message, was powerful indeed. Many came from all Israel to be cleansed in the River Jordan. They were preparing for the King and the Kingdom because Yochanan prophesied that the One who would come after him "is mightier" than he.

They eagerly waited for the prophet's announcement of Who that would be.

"It came to pass in those days that Yeshua came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by Yochanan (John) in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. '" (Mark 1:9-11)

This was the moment for which Yochanan had waited. This was the moment for which he had been appointed – the fulfilment of his message. The Messiah had arrived and Yochanan beheld Him with his own eyes. He eye-witnessed the Spirit of God anointing Yeshua, proof to him that Yeshua was the Messiah – the One whom he spoke of. Also, Yochanan heard the voice from heaven confirming that Yeshua was indeed Israel's King and the long-awaited Messiah.

Thus Yeshua was the One who "is mightier" than Yochanan; mightier how?

Yochanan was a true Jewish prophet. He was the Preparer of the Way. He prepared those who longed for the Kingdom and the King Messiah. He prepared them by water baptism, in the River Jordan. However, the Messiah would baptize by the Spirit of God, the Ruach HaKodesh.

"I indeed baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. " (Mark 1:8)

Yochanan's cleansing (baptism) was an important mikveh because it signalled the individual's repentance from sin, and a readiness to follow the Messiah in the Torah and ways of God. It was an individual's response. However, the Messiah's mikveh cleansing would be a work of God, within the individual.

According to the prophet Jeremiah, the Messiah would put the Torah in and write the Torah on the heart of every believer. "I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people. " (Jeremiah 31:33) This is what the Jewish people had longed for for centuries, namely, the Torah living inside with every heartbeat and thought of the mind.

Clearly, the Messiah's mikveh; baptism, is a mighty spiritual work of the Ruach HaShem, the Spirit of God.

So powerful is the work of God within every believer that, "No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' says the LORD. 'For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more. '" (Jeremiah 31:34)

The Messiah's mikveh (baptism) is unique because when those who are in Messiah study the Scriptures, the Messiah is immediately recognized by them since the Spirit of God has written Yeshua on their hearts and put Him in their minds; "they all shall know me" .

Whilst only a remnant of Jewish people believe in the Messiah today, the entire nation of Israel will, one day, believe in Him, because the covenant was made with them. As it is written, " . . . I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah . . . " (Jeremiah 31:31)

The Jewish people in Yochanan's day were ready for the Kingdom. They responded to the call to repent, and prepared themselves for the arrival of the King. When the Messiah came all that was required was for them to believe.

Today, centuries later, the truth has not changed. Yochanan remains a genuine Jewish prophet. He was the fore-runner to the Messiah, whom he confirmed to be Yeshua of Nazareth. Yochanan testified that whilst his baptism, a cleansing in water, was important to signify repentance from sin, it was only preparatory to believing in Yeshua, the Messiah " . . . who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. " All that is needed is to believe.