John the Baptist was a prophet after the pattern and stature of Elijah.  His baptism went beyond ritual self-cleansing to a baptism that marked repentance in search of forgiveness from God.  In all this he was an effective herald of the ministry of Jesus, a prophet far greater than John or any who had preceded him. Jesus, too, would call for repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but would Himself become the source of that forgiveness, enabled by the Holy Spirit.