‘There was a person, named John, sent from God: he came as a witness…’ (John 1:6-7)

Dear John: Janet Scott takes a reading from the gospels

John the Baptist, oil on panel. | Photo: Painted by Matthias Grünewald.

All four gospels begin their accounts of the ministry of Jesus not with Jesus himself but with a radical desert preacher, John. John’s preaching of the need to repent of sin, and his practice of signifying cleansing by dipping in the river, drew large crowds. These crowds included Jesus, and gathered disciples. John’s impact was such that some wondered if he might be the Messiah (John 1:19-20). He was imprisoned for criticising Herod Antipas, whose cruelty allowed John to be executed (Mark 6:17-29). Jesus began his preaching after the arrest of John. The fourth gospel (John 1:35-42) says that Andrew, Peter’s brother, was a disciple of John before he followed Jesus, and this may help explain why the Galilean fishermen were so quick to respond to Jesus’ call (Mark 1:16-20).

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