John the Baptist
Ladies and gentleman, John the Baptist!
[Awkward clapping and one lone cheer.]
Sorry, John. That's what happens when you're just the warm-up act.
John's job of "preparing the way" (1:3) for Jesus is certainly important, but even he knows that he's just an opener. John himself wants everyone to know that one who is stronger and baptizes with a holy spirit will outstrip and outshine him (1:7-8).
So why do we care about this guy? Mostly, we'd argue, for the way he foreshadows or even prefigures Jesus—even in the tiniest details:
• John proclaims the need to repent. Jesus? Check (1:4, 15).
• John is arrested. Jesus? Big check (1:43; 6:17; 14:46, 48).
• John interests Herod; Jesus amazes Pilate (6:20; 15:5).
• Herod decapitates John under the pressure of his guests; Pilate crucifies Jesus under the pressure of the crowd (6:26; 15:5).
• John's disciples bury his corpse in a tomb; Joseph buries Jesus's body in a tomb (6:39; 15:46).
Yeah, we're going to go ahead and say that John does not belong to himself. Instead, the whole course of his life points toward Jesus. That means Herod's opinion that Jesus is John returned from the dead isn't really without basis, even if Herod is wrong (6:16).