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SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST,

THE FORERUNNER OF CHRIST


AND THE LAST PROPHET
JOHN THE BAPTIST’S MISSION IN THE
OLD TESTAMENT
In the Old Testament,
Isaiah prophesied the
coming of John the
Baptist as the Precursor
or the Forerunner of
the Promised Messiah.
He prophesied that
John is the “voice of the
one who is crying out
in the wilderness:
“Prepare the
way of the LORD,
make His paths
straight.” (Is 40:3-5).
The Prophet Malachi
also prophesied
John’s coming in the
Spirit of Elijah, the
Great Prophet when
he said that “Elijah
will come back and
must come first before
the Messiah and
restore all things”
(Mal 4:5-6).
THE PARENTS OF JOHN AND THE
ANNUNCIATION OF HIS BIRTH AND
HIS MISSION
In the Fulfilment of
God’s Saving Plan to
mankind and
the Prophecy of
the Prophets, Saint
John the Baptist was
born. Saint John’s
Nativity is clearly
shown to us in the Gospel of Saint Luke
( Lk 1:57-66, 80). John’s parents are Elizabeth,
from the House of Aaron and Zechariah, a
priest of the division of Abijah (Lk 1:5). Saint
John’s parents were too old to have a Son. In
the Jewish Culture and Tradition, if you are
barren and you do not have a Son then you
are cursed and considered as a sinner or an
impenitent.
The Two are righteous
before the eyes of the
Lord
and are observing all
the
commandments and
ordinances of the Lord
blamelessly (Lk 1:6).
And that time came that
the group of Abijah will
serve before the Lord
and according to the
practice of the priestly
service, he was chosen
to offer the incense in
the Temple and suddenly
while he is burning the
incense in the time of
the incense offering in
the Temple, the angel
of the Lord appeared
to him in the right of
the altar of incense
but he was afraid. In
Jewish Tradition, if you
have seen an angel,
you will die. But the
Angel told him not to be
afraid for his prayers are
answered (Lk 1:13a).
The angel also told him
to name the child
“John”. In Hebrew , the
name “John” is
“Yohanan”. It means“gift
from God” because John
is the answer to the prayers of His parents.
The Angel of the Lord, who is Gabriel also
told him that Elizabeth must not drink wine
For the child she is going to bear is holy (Lk
1:15bc). The angel also told him the
Mission of John – to turn many of the sons
of Israel to the LORD, their God (Lk 1:16), in
the Spirit of Elijah (Lk 1:17), a prophecy
written by Prophet Malachi (Mal 4:5-6 ).
The Angel Gabriel also told him that he
Will become mute and speechless until
Elizabeth gave birth to their Son (Lk
1:20a), which is their joy and their
gladness and many will rejoice in his
birth (Lk 1:14), because he doubted the
message of the Angel (Lk 1:18). And the
people were waiting for Zechariah (Lk
1:21)but they realized that Zechariah saw
a vision because he is just gesturing and
remained mute (Lk 1:22). And after the
days of ministry, he went home (Lk 1:23)
and when he came, Elizabeth conceived
and she went seclusion for 5 months and
he thank God for having them a son
because “He taken away the shame from
them”(Lk 1:24-25).
THE NATIVITY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
The account of the
Nativity of John the
Baptist is written in
the Gospel of Saint
Luke (Lk 1:57-66,80).
When the time
arrived for Elizabeth
to give birth to her
son,
The neighbours and relatives of the
parents of the newborn baby will come to
their house to rejoice with them like the
Birth of John (Lk 1:58). They believed that
if a barren woman bear a son, the LORD
has shown them His mercy and have
heard their prayers (Lk 1:58). It shows us a
beautiful and a rich Jewish Tradition and
Culture at that time. It anticipates the joy
of the birth of the awaited Messiah
because the LORD has sent his forerunner
to prepare the way of His Son.
THE CIRCUMCISION AND NAMING OF
JOHN THE BAPTIST
And at the
eight day,
they came to
circumcise the
child and to
name Him
Zechariah
after his father’s name (Lk 1:59). In Jewish
Tradition, when the Day of the Circumcision
for a baby came, at that day, they also
name the baby and they name it after its
forefathers’ or his father’s name. But, at
that time, Elizabeth replied “No, for He will
be called John ” and they asked Zechariah
what is the name of child and he asked for
a tablet so that he can write and he wrote
“ His name is John” to obey what the Angel
told him to name His Son and suddenly his
mouth was opened and his tongue was
freed and he praised God (Lk 1:59-66).
Today, his prayer is always prayed in thr
Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours
and this prayer is called Benedictus
(Lk 1:67-79).
HIS MINISTRY AND PREACHING IN
THE DESERT
In the beginning of
Mark’s Gospel, we
can see the Prophecy
of Isaiah (Mk 1:1-3)
and the Life of John
the Baptist in
the Judean Desert
(Mk 1:4-8). It shows
that John baptizes through the water
(Mk 1:8) and is preaching a baptism of
repentance and forgiveness (Mk 1:4) and
many people went out to him to confess
their sins and to be baptized by him in the
Jordan River (Mk 1:5). In the beginning
also of Mark’s Gospel, it reveals us the
desert life and the kind of life the prophets
in the Palestine have which is shown in the
Life of John the Baptist (Mk 1:6).
In the Book of Acts, we find sermons
about Jesus which mention His Baptism
by John as the beginning of His public
ministry (see Acts 10:37; 11:16; 13:24).
We also find accounts (see Acts 18:24;
19:3) of devout men in Greece who had
received the baptism of John, and who
gladly received the full message of the
Gospel of Christ when it was told them.
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS IN THE
JORDAN RIVER
In the New Testament,
there are two accounts
on the Baptism of Jesus
by John the Baptist
(Mt 3:13-17),(Lk 3:21-22).
It tells us that John
refused to baptize Jesus
when he said:
“I need to be baptized by you, and do you
come to me?”but Jesus replied, “Let it be
so now; it is proper for us to do this to
fulfill all righteousness.” Then John
consented (Mt 3:14-15). Then John
baptized Jesus to fulfill the Holy Will of
the Father and so, John become a big part
of God’s Saving Plan to mankind.
JOHN THE BAPTIST’S CAPTIVITY AND
MARTYRDOM
John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod
Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.
Herod Antipas was a son of Herod the
Great, who had been king of Judea and
the surrounding regions during the time
of Jesus' birth. After Herod the Great's
death, his kingdom broke up into smaller
territories over which his sons ruled.
Herod Antipas
received Galilee, and
it was He who
ordered John's
arrest. It was the
plotting of Herod's
wife Herodias,
however, that led
John' execution.
According to the Jewish
historian Josephus (who
wrote after 70 Ad), John
the Baptist was a Jewish
preacher in the time of
Pontius Pilate (Ad 26-
36). He
called the people to
repentance and to a
renewal
of their covenant relation
with God.
He was imprisoned and eventually put to
death by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the
Great, who was king when Jesus was
born) for denouncing Herod's marriage
to Herodias, the wife of his still-living
brother Philip. In order to marry Herodias,
Herod divorced his first wife, the daughter
of King Aretas of Damascus, who
subsequently made war on Herod,
a war which, Josephus tells us, was
regarded by devout Jews as a punishment
for Herod's murder of the prophet John.
While the gospel of John makes only a
passing reference to the imprisonment of
John the Baptist (John 3:24), the other
Gospels all tell us that Herod had John
imprisoned on account of John having
rebuked him over his sin,
particularly over Herod's taking his
brother's wife. Luke's account is the
briefest, simply stating: "But Herod the
tetrarch, being rebuked by him about
Herodias, his brother’s wife, and about all
the evil things Herod had done, added
this to everything else—he locked John up
in prison"(Luke 3:19-20).
Matthew's account (Matt. 14:1-12) and
Mark's (Mark 6:17-29) give us considerably
more detail, explaining that Herod's wife
Herodias wanted John put to death, but
could not do so on her own (Mark 6:19).
Herod personally desired to execute him as
well (Matt. 14:5), but ultimately protected
him. He was afraid to harm John,
knowing that John was a righteous man
(Mark 14:20) and also fearing what the
crowd would do because they regarded
John as a prophet (Matt. 14:5). Beyond
the petty, personal offense of Herod and
his wife at the rebuke of their sins,
Herod's fear of the crowd may also have
been a part what motivated him to arrest
John in the first place. The ancient Jewish
historian Josephus also records the arrest
of John the Baptist. Josephus explains that
Herod was gravely concerned at the
growing crowds gathering to hear John.
They seemed willing to do anything John
said. He feared that John could start a
sudden rebellion with a mere command to
the crowd. Josephus claims that this fear
was why he had John arrested.
If we trust Josephus' account, it would
seem that the same fear of the crowds
that prevented Herod from immediately
executing John are also a part of why he
arrested John in the first place. A free
John may lead a rebellion, but a murdered
John might incite one. Herod was in a
bind. This paranoia may also be what
made John's willingness to rebuke his sin
openly such a big deal.
Beyond personal offense, Herod may have
feared John's rebukes were the early signs
of sedition or at least would lead there
eventually since he had no intention of
repenting of the things for which John
rebuked him. At any rate, Herod's fear and
curiosity drove him to visit John regularly
in prison to hear him (Mark 6:20).
Herod's wife, however, awaited a strategic
opportunity, which came on Herod's
birthday (Mark 6:21). Herodias' daughter
came in and danced for Herod and his
officials at a banquet, which pleased him
so greatly that he promised with an oath
to grant her whatever she requested of
him (Mark 6:21-22).
At Herodias' prompting, her daughter
asked for John's head on a platter (Matt.
14:8). Herod did not want to comply but,
fearing the oath and the witnesses
present, he consented to have John
executed (Mark 6:26).
Today, many
churches and
monasteries
and even museums
claimed that they
have the relics of
Saint John the
Baptist. Others
claimed that they
bear the head of
Saint John the
Baptist.
According to the
Tradition, John the
Baptist was
beheaded
in the Umayyad
Mosque at the
time of
the Public ministry
of Jesus.