John the Baptist - who was he?
His name is divinely given. It was to be John which derives from the Hebrew term signifying “Jehovah is gracious”
John was born in the late 1st century BC to Jewish parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth, and both of them came from a priestly family.
An interest point here is that Elizabeth was related to Mary, Jesus’s mothers.
This devout, righteous couple lived in the hill country of Judea, perhaps Hebron, a priestly city of the region.
One day whilst Zacharias was attending to his duty of burning incense in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to the elderly gentleman, telling him that the couples prayer had been heard and that his wife would bear a son, one can only imagine the amount of soul searching and heartache that they must have gone through, considering that they were both advanced in age and then to be told this divine news.
It was foretold that John would be filled with the Spirit of God, even whilst Elizabeth was pregnant with him, and he would be raised under the strict code of a Nazarite, (gives themselves to God and obeys strict laws, hair isn’t cut, no alcohol etc.) which shows you how he was prepared for the role for the worlds redeemer.
It seems his early years were spent as a recluse in the deserted area from Jerusalem and Bethlehem and some 20 miles down to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea.
Johns description is very brief and stark, it seems to have been noted that he dressed in a camel coat tied with a belt, whether the coat was from the hair or skin we don’t know and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey, and this was in direct contrast to the wealth and indulgent Jews of the day, he was for all intense and purposes a walking sermon, Jesus once said of John he was somewhat of a recluse.
Johns idea that eating and drinking stood for socialising, he wanted his lifestyle to be disciplined strict and regimented almost obsessively so, he did not seek out people, rather somehow, he attracted them.
The people of Jerusalem and Judea sort him out as he moved about the Jordan Valley, gravitating to the rough looking prophet.
His influence was phenomenal.
Hundreds if not thousands were immersed by him and it was solely based on the message he spoke about.
He didn’t perform any signs or miracles as Jesus did, just conveyed his message concerning Christ, which the multitudes would regrade as being true.
It is certainly the case that his messaged was from God.
The power of Johns preaching, together with the void in people’s hearts was a winning combination.
John’s life and mission can be summed up in one word, ‘preparer,'it was his mission to make people ready for the coming of the Messiah, even as far back to before his birth, Gabriel informed his father that his son would be the one turning the many unto the Lord.
If you think about the echoing phenomenon, the marvel that resounds down the many centuries just show you how well John accomplished this/his mission, and that was to all, rich and poor alike of Jewish society, and this was never clearer than when be baptised Jesus himself, at his request, in the River Jordan.
John continued to preach to the political and religious leaders of his day, spoke out with clarity and with great passion for the need for the forgiveness of sin.
It was because of this outspokenness that finally imprisoned him by Herod, one of the four rulers over Palestine.
He wanted to kill him, bit was afraid of the people who considered him a great prophet, but on his birthday celebrations in response to a promise he had given to the daughter of Herodias, Johns life was tragically ended.
Prompted by her mother who said, ‘Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist’
John the Baptist died 28-36 CE
John was canonised by Pope Alexander Vlll on 16th October 1690.
He is the patron saint of hospitals, the sick, nurses, firefighters, alcoholics, and booksellers.
His feast day is celebrated on the 24th June