Saint of the Issue: John the Baptist

By Becky Schlofner, Correspondent writer

John, son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, was born in Judea, Palestine 1 BC, a few months before his cousin Jesus was born. When looking at the family tree we see that Elizabeth’s mother is Zoia, the sister of Christ’s grandmother. Zachariah was a priest in the Order of Abijah, while Elizabeth had ties to Aaron.

The family knew that something special was on the horizon since John also was the result of a God-given birth. Elizabeth was too old to have a child, but Gabriel, our favorite messenger of God, came to tell Zachariah that she was pregnant and that when the baby was born, to name him John. This broke with the Jewish tradition where the child should hold his father’s name. Zachariah couldn’t believe that this was happening and that it was a gift from God. That response wasn’t taken lightly; Zachariah was cast mute until John was born.

His childhood would not have hinted at the greatness that was to come. He would go to Temple and hone himself to be another Priest of the Order of Abijah. It wouldn’t be beyond reason to imagine little John and Jesus playing together as children.

When John was around 27 years old, he chose to teach the Word of God not in a Temple but in the wilderness where the everyman was. He gained popularity as a prophet; some thought him to be the next Elijah. He didn’t wear the robes of a priest, but rather garments of camel hair, the same garb that the prophets wore. He had his own set of disciples who would follow him and spread his word much like Jesus’ disciples did.

Tevilah is the act of immersion in a natural source of water, and this is what was being referred to as baptism in the Jordan during John’s mission. The word spread from Aenon near Salim to Jericho along the Jordan valley as hundreds, even thousands came to be baptized by John. John spoke of baptizing as a sign of repentance for sins so as to partake of the fruits of repentance. “Repent for the Kingdom is near” we hear in Matthew. He admonished the Sadducees and Pharisees, reminding them to not assume they were getting any special privilege simply because of their status. John would always speak about the One Who was greater than himself Who was to come.

Jesus had set out on His ministry when He was in His twenties as well. One day He came to John. Matthew tells us: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 [a]John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 [b]After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. 17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son,[c] with whom I am well pleased.”

Being the forerunner to that of Jesus, John’s ministry comes to an end as Jesus’ expands. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets as he preached the New and Old Testament. John is arrested by Herod in March 28 AD after John criticized the King’s marriage to his brother’s wife. While imprisoned, he continues to hear of his cousin’s deeds and miracles. John remains jailed at Machaerus, Herod’s fortress on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, for a year. Salome, Herodias’ daughter, during a festival for Herod’s birthday and at the bequest of her mother, asks for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. In March 29 AD John met his death.



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