All things were created through “the Word” (John 1:1-3):
The Joseph Smith translation tells us that the Word was the gospel and Christ was the bearer of the Word. Latter-day Saints know that God the Father, through Christ, has created worlds without number. (See Moses 1.) The Lord told Moses that these numberless worlds were created by the “Word of My Power.” In Moses 2:2 God is describing the creation of the earth and uses the phrase familiar to us from Genesis: “And I, God, said: Let there be light; and there was light.” God spoke, and the universe moved from chaos to order, infused with light that emanates from God through Christ. First, an interesting discussion might be the power of words and the power of God’s word. Why might Christ or the gospel be called The Word?
Jesus is light (John 1:4):
We know from our modern scriptures that the light of Christ is in all things and through all things and powers the universe and everything in it. A discussion of light and the light of Christ could incorporate the following scriptures: D&C 10:70; D&C 11:13; D&C 14:9; D&C 84:46; D&C 88; D&C 93:9.
Crowds came to hear John the Baptist preach:
Many times John refers to or speaks to the Pharisees who have come to watch him preach. They are there not to be baptized but to gather information on what John is doing. John demonstrated more knowledge and power than had been manifested in Judea, but he preached and baptized outside tradition and lines of responsibility. He became quite a spectacle and generated a lot of curiosity. People came from miles around to see him, including four of Christ’s original followers. In John 1 the Pharisees are trying to identify John as someone outside the realm of day-to-day Jewish practice.
Could John have been a storied character from scripture and history?
The Pharisees wondered if John could be Elijah. Elijah was taken up to heaven without tasting death and most Jews expected him to return as promised in Malachi. Tradition held that Elijah’s return would precede the coming of the Messiah. In fact, Messiah would come so quickly after Elijah’s return that it would be like Messiah had hold of Elijah’s cloak. Messianic fervor was sweeping Israel. Could John be Elijah or some other prophet prophesied to come to prepare the way?
Was baptism practiced by the Jews?
The Jews did and do practice ritual immersion, called mikveh. Ritual immersion can be in a font, but “living water” is required. The water must be passing through, not standing. Jews participate in ritual immersion upon conversion to Judaism, but also for purification for high holy days and after periods of uncleanness. So John’s practice of baptizing in the Jordan river would have been an oddity but related to a practice that was understood.
Were John and Jesus strangers to each other? (John 1:26):
There is nothing in the Bible that specifically mentions John and Jesus encountering each other physically until Jesus’ baptism. They were cousins, but Jesus grew up in Nazareth in the north and John in Judea and the wilderness. Could not the family of Joseph and Mary visit and even stay with Zacharias and Elizabeth when they came to Jerusalem for high holy days? This is a mystery. Even if they were kept apart by deaths of their parents (Zacharias and Elizabeth were aged and Joseph appears to have died by the time Christ was crucified) or because of dangerous enemies, they were kindred spirits who loved each other dearly.
Peter, Andrew, Phillip, and Nathaniel were all converted by John’s preaching:
John’s preaching was the result of direct revelation from God. His baptizing in the wilderness was odd and jarring. It made people wake up and feel that something earthshaking was transpiring in Israel. People had the scriptures before them, and promises had been made by the prophets. Those who knew those prophecies sought the truth through the Spirit and were led to conversion to the gospel of Christ.
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