For centuries the Jewish people had been anticipating the coming of an ideal leader, described as the "coming one" or, more especially, "the Messiah," literally "the Anointed"—one selected by God to act as His representative on earth.
The Gospels present John, the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, as the one who was given the vital task of preparing for and announcing the advent of the Messiah. Indeed, they have almost as much to report about John's background and birth as about those of the Saviour he was to proclaim.
Jesus' statement "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matt. 11:11) challenges us to a careful study of the Baptist's life and his place in the Gospel story. Never should we minimize or ignore him who epitomized the substance of Old Testament prophecy. In earnest and simple faith he was "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" as the angel Gabriel announces his mission in Luke 1:17.