John the Baptist was a very influential preacher. He was not a limousine evangelist; he did not fly into town on a jet and get picked up in a limo. He did not stay at the finest hotels and eat off fine silver and china. None of that with John. He was a plain man. He was a voice crying in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight! He wore a camel-hair coat with a leather girdle and ate locusts and wild honey. So John lived in the desert, dressed plainly, and ate what was at hand. For this reason, John was a dangerous man.
Evangelists who have no personal motives—of profit, personal gain, and power—are really the most
dangerous kind. People listen to them, respond to them, and then look around at the evangelists who are living a different lifestyle. John was extremely popular and very influential among the common folk. As a result, the religious establishment could not ignore him. In Matthew chapter 3, John gives them something of an early warning of a sea change:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits befitting for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the barn; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.