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THE PROPHET IN THE WILDERNESS
Matthew iii: 1 to 17; Mark i: 1 to 11, Luke iii: 1 to 22.
E come now to a time when Jesus, the son of Mary, was
a young man about thirty years of age. John, the son
of the priest Zacharias, was six months older, but
these two young men had never met, for one was in the
north at Nazareth, and the other was living in the
desert on the south of Judea.
Suddenly the news went through all the land of Israel
that a prophet had risen up and was giving to the
people the work of the Lord. It was more than four
hundred years since God had sent a
 prophet to his
people; and when it was known that again a man was
speaking what God had told him, and not what he had
learned by studying the old writings, a thrill went
through the hearts of all the people. From all parts
of the land, out of cities and villages, people poured
forth to the wild region beside the river Jordan, where
the new prophet was preaching the word of the Lord.
This prophet was John, the son of Zacharias. He lived
in the wilderness, where he was alone with God and
listened to God's voice. In his looks and dress John
was not like other men. His garment was made of rough
cloth woven from camel's hair; around his waist was a
girdle of skin; and the food which he ate was dried
locusts and the wild honey from the trees. And this
was his message, "Turn from sin to doing right, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the King is soon to
come." The people came to hear his words, and when
they asked him, "What shall we do?" John said to them,
"He that has two coats, let him give to him that has
none; and he that has food, more than he needs, let him
give to him that is hungry."
JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THE WILDERNESS
The men who gathered the taxes, and were called
publicans, asked of John, "Master, what shall we do?"
And John answered them, "Do not cheat the people nor
rob them, nor take more money than the law tells you to
take from them."
And when the soldiers came to him, he said to them, "Do
not harm any one, nor bring false charges against any;
and be content with the wages that are paid to you."
There came to John some people who were called
Pharisees. These men made a great show of being good,
and of worshipping
 often and of keeping the law of
Moses. But in their hearts they were evil, and their
goodness was not real. John said to these men when he
saw them, "O ye brood of vipers! Who has told you to
escape from the wrath of God that is soon to come?
Turn from your sins to God, and do right. And do not
say to yourselves, 'Abraham is our father,' for God is
able out of these stones to raise up children to
When men who heard the words of John wished to give
themselves up to serve God and to do his will, John
baptized them in the river Jordan, as a sign that their
sins were washed away. And because of this he was
called "John the Baptist." Some of the people began
to ask, "Is not this man the Christ whom God promised
long ago to send to rule over the people?"
John heard this, and he said, "I baptize you with
water, but there is one coming after me who is greater
than I. He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and
with fire. He is so high above me that I am not worthy
even to stoop down and untie the strings of his shoes.
This mighty one who is coming shall sift out the wheat
from the chaff among the people. The wheat he will
gather into his garner, but the chaff he will burn up
with fire that no man can put out."
Nearly all the people in the land came to hear John in
the wilderness, and were baptized by him. Among the
last who came was Jesus, the young carpenter from
Nazareth. When John saw Jesus something within told
John that here was one greater and holier than himself.
He said to Jesus, "I have need to be baptized by thee,
and comest thou to me?"
Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for it is
fitting that I should do all things that are right."
Then John baptized Jesus, as he had baptized others.
And as Jesus came up out of the water, and was praying,
John saw above the head of Jesus the heavens opening,
and the Holy Spirit coming down like a dove and
lighting upon him. And John heard from heaven a voice
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
And then John knew and told to others that this was the
Son of God, the Christ whom God had promised to send to