One day, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah. Zechariah was terrified, but the angel said to him,
"Don't be afraid, Zechariah! For I have come to tell you that God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son! And you are to name him John. You will both have great joy and gladness at his birth, and many will rejoice with you. For he will be one of the Lord's great men. He must never touch wine or hard liquor - and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from before his birth! And he will persuade many a Jew to turn to the Lord his God. He will be a man of rugged spirit and power like Elijah, the prophet of old; and he will precede the coming of the Messiah, preparing the people for his arrival." (TLB, Luke 1:13-17)
Zechariah should have had faith in the angel and given thanks to God for the good news he received, but Zechariah was not convinced. He told the angel that he and Elizabeth were too old to ever have a child. For his irreverent lack of faith, the angel told Zechariah he would be unable to speak until the time John was born!
Everything the angel said came true. Zechariah was unable to speak, and Elizabeth did become pregnant. It was not until after John was born that Zechariah was able to speak again.
John the Baptist lived in the wilderness. He wore clothing of camel's hair and ate grasshoppers and wild honey.
John announced that the kingdom of God was coming near. He warned the people that being God's chosen people was not enough to save them from God's wrath. They must repent - change their sinful ways. He warned the well-to-do that they must share their food and clothing with the less fortunate. He exposed the greed of tax collectors and warned them not to cheat people. He warned soldiers to be satisfied with their wages and not take advantage of people. John criticized King Herod for unlawfully marrying his brother's wife. This confrontation eventually led to John being beheaded on the king's order.
John baptized people with water. It was a symbol of washing away the old sins and making a new beginning toward living a holy life.
Many people thought John was the Savior, the Messiah, that they had been waiting so many years for. But John told them,
I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. (NRSV, Matthew 3:11-12)
John baptized Jesus in the River Jordan, and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove.
Jesus was about 30 years old by this time. So far, He had lived His life quietly as a carpenter. But one day Jesus came to the wilderness, where John was preaching, and asked to be baptized. John knew Jesus was the Messiah and told Him, "No, I am the one who needs to be baptized by You. Why are You coming to me?" But Jesus said it was the proper thing to do, so John baptized Jesus in the River Jordan.
After Jesus was baptized, as He was coming out of the water, the Spirit of God came down on Jesus like a dove from heaven. A voice from heaven was heard to say, "This is my beloved Son, and I am very pleased with Him."
The events at Jesus' baptism - the Spirit descending and the voice from heaven - are two more signs that Jesus was no ordinary man. Like His miraculous birth, these events show that Jesus was truly the Son of God.