3. John the Baptist
John, cousin of the Lord, chosen before his birth to be the last prophet of the Old Testament, is an incredible person. He knew his purpose, was humble in the presence of the Lord and fearless in the presence of Roman power; he went to prison for possibly as long as a year for speaking openly to Herod Antipas about his sin. John identified sin where he saw it, called the people to turn to God and away from unrighteousness, and be baptized.
The difference between John’s and Jesus ministry styles was great, and people noticed it, and even asked Jesus about it (Mk 2:18). I imagine them thinking, “You can’t both be right!” John himself had a moment of doubt as he languished in prison. He sent his disciples to ask,”Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”(Luke 7:19) Jesus answers by quoting Isaiah’s predictions about what will happen when the Messiah appears in the land- all wonderful events – but one that Jesus does not mention is “to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners.” According to Ray Vanderlaan, who teaches about Jewish life in the first century, the absence of that part of the prophecy was well understood by John and his disciples; it meant that John would not be released from prison, but would die there. Thus it makes sense for Jesus to follow those marvelous promises with the phrase, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7:23)
John was the forerunner of the Lamb of God, sent to prepare the way of the Lord, which he did at the cost of his life.