10. John Baptizes and Preaches.
Baptism, one of the Essenes' main practices, was intended to be a purification and a renouncing of evil. The process is one of changing one's mind and heart from worldly desires in order to enter the sovereignty of heaven and the living community of the new covenant. In the Essene community all one's possessions were given to the group as a whole. Now John was inviting everyone to change their lives, be baptized, and live in a more spiritual consciousness. This community implied a greater equality or leveling of the mountains and hills and raising of the valleys; humans were to be more straight and honest and more smooth in relating. Thus the salvation of God may be experienced while still alive in the physical body.
John's particular life-style was rather ascetic, but his baptisms and preaching drew many people to him from the towns around and Jerusalem. He was quite critical of the self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees who thought they had it made as descendants of Abraham, but whose actions following merely the old law showed they did not really live according to the new community. He suggested they share their possessions with each other, and even the tax collectors and soldiers could improve their lives by being honest and just with the people.