Hall of Faith: John the Baptist, the Forerunner

John the Baptist is listed as the forerunner of Christ. Many compared him to Elijah, whom

Elisabeth named her son John

was taken up to heaven.

In the foretelling of his birth, the angel stated that he would “ turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,” and that he will go forth “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” {Luke 1:16-17}

The Gospel of Luke, tells the story of John’s Baptist. His parents are old and childless. His father, Zecharias is elected as the priest to enter the holy of holies. While there the angel Gabriel arrives to announce his wife, Elizabeth, will have a son. Zecharias does not believe and is left speechless. {Luke 1:1-25}

The account then moves to the angel Gabriel, telling Mary that she is “highly favored among women…and will bear a son.” Gabriel also tells Mary that her “relative Elisabeth in her old age” has conceived a son. We are not told of the relationship, but it is clear they are related. {Luke 1:26-38}

Zecharias and John

Mary goes to visit Elisabeth and Zecharias. “When Eliszabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” {Luke 1:41}

Even before he is born, John the Baptist recognizes the importance of Jesus.

Elsabeth gives birth to a son and names him John, but their friends and family tried to convince her to name him after his father. But, Zechariah writes that his name is John {as the angel Gabriel said} and his voice is restored. {Luke 1:57-66}

Zecharias blesses his son. {Luke 1:67-79}. The only thing we know about John the Baptist childhood after this is that, “The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.” {Luke 1:80}

John the Baptist came from the wilderness

Given the old age of his parents and the fact that John was in the wilderness, it leads to questions about how young he must have been when his parents died.

Matthew 3 begins with “ In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming…”

The Gospel of Mark, begins with the prophecy of Isaiah of a forerunner, and says “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” {Mark 1:4}

The only description we have of John the Baptist is, “Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” {Mark 1:6, Matthew 3:4}

John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah

As told in Isaiah’s prophecy, he prepared the way for the coming Messiah. “He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” {Mark 1:7-8}

“ In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” {Mark 1:9}

The next account we have of John is in Matthew 11. “When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his[b] disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” {Matthew 11:2-6}

John the Baptist baptized Jesus

John is in prison on charges that are not shared in the scriptures. But, given the future events with Jesus and his followers, one can imagine it is for his preachings and teachings.

Jesus tells his believers that “What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” {Matthew 11:7-18}

Jesus recognizes the importance of John the Baptist. He points out that he is the messenger prophesied about and truly great, but no greater than the least of these.

John was foretold about int he Old Testament

Matthew 14:3-4, tells us why John the Baptist is in prison. “For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

The passage goes on to say that Herod wanted to put John to death, but didn’t because he feared the crowd. But, his wife encourages her daughter to ask for John’s head. Herod vows to “to grant her whatever she might ask. “ {Matthew 14:5-7}

“ She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” “ {Mark 6:24}

John angered the Pharisees and Sadducees

“The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.” {Mark 6:26}

Although Matthew reveals that Herod wanted to kill him earlier, Mark states that Herod is greatly grieved to have to fulfill this request.

“ Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s[h] head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. “ {Mark 6:28}

The deed was done. John the Baptist had to lessen himself for Jesus to become greater.

“His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.  Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. “ {Matthew 14:12-13}

John the Baptist was executed

In the passage in Mark, it says the disciples laid him in a tomb. The disciples then told Jesus, who was grieved and saddened. Yet, he also knew for him to raise in power this had to happen.

From Acts 18-19, we know that many of the disciples of John became followers of Jesus.

So, what can we learn from John the Baptist?

  1. He had a purpose

  2. His sole purpose was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah

  3. He spoke without fear

  4. He sustained himself in the wilderness {forsaking all worldly goods}

His disciples took his body

  1. He had to lessen himself for Jesus to become greater

John lived a life fully devoted to the Messiah. As the saying went in the late 1990s/early 2000s, he was completely “sold out to Christ.”

Are you completely sold out to Christ?

 

 

 

 

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*Check out my series of Zecharias and Elisabeth this Christmas season

*Pictures from FreeBibleImages.org

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