John the Baptist
Gabriel the Angel Tells of his Coming Birth
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah. His wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God. all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of God appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be great in the sight of God. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to God. And he will go on before God, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for God.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. (Luke 1:5-24)
Mary's Visit to Elizabeth when they were Pregnant
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what God has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:39-45)
Q : Why did John the Prophet leap inside his mother's womb before Christ, who was also still in Mary, his mother's womb?
John did that out of love and honour to God's living Word and His spirit who visited us in Christ.
When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that God had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For God’s hand was with him. His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to God, because he has come and has redeemed his people. and remembers his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before God to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven." And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel. (Luke 1:57-80)
John's Testimony about Christ
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” At that time Christ came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Christ was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. In the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for God.’” The next day John saw Christ coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Christ passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (Mark 1:6-11& John1:15-36)
Q : Why was John called "John the Baptist"?
Because he was baptising (immersing in water) as a symbol of the cleansing and change of heart of those who seek repentance and forgiveness from their sins.
Christ's Testimony about John
Christ began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come." (Matthew 11:7-14)
They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' He must become greater; I must become less. The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”(John3:26-36)
The Martyrdom of John
Herod the tetrarch arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet. On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.
Q : Why did the dancer ask King Herod to cut off John's head? How would you describe Herod's response?
Because John the Baptist was declaring that it was wrong for King Herod to marry the dancer's mother, who was already the wife of the king's brother. And Herod had chosen to continue in his stubbornness rather than giving up his pride to correct his path.
Christ Starts His Ministry
John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Christ. When Christ heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. At that time Herod heard the reports about Christ, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead!" That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”(Matthew 14:1-13)
Q : Why did Herod think that John had risen from the dead when Christ started his ministry?
Because Herod knew John's righteousness which made him close enough to God, who was able to raise people from the dead.