John the Baptist communicated Jesus’ importance when he saw Him and told his disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me’” (Jn 1:29-30). This declaration was a big deal having come from John.
Because there’s not a lot written about John we often don’t think of him all that highly, but Jesus said that, “among those born of women none is greater than John” (Lk 7:28). Crowds that included high ranking religious figures like the Pharisees and Sadducees all came to see this prophet speak and baptize people. Even a politician feared him and wanted to keep him safe (Mk 6:20).
And so, before there was Jesus, there was John—a prophet so incredible that he was “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15). Jesus even identified him as “Elijah who is to come” (Mt 11:14). And now this Holy-Spirit-empowered-prophet has made way for the newly empowered God-in-flesh to take the reins.
And so, just as John had the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, so does Jesus. Just as John had crowds follow him, so will Jesus. Just as John prophetically called out the religious officials (Mt 3:7), so will Jesus (Mt 12:34). The torch is being passed on in the spiritual realm, for after all, John cited his prophetic mission statement as Isaiah 40:3, saying, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (Jn 1:23). And so John had made the way straight for Jesus before enduring a death sentence at the hands of local politicians, just as Jesus Himself will later endure.