We completed the summer issue of the PCC Scroll.
Here is the Men of the Bible section.
Name: John the Baptist
Meaning: Jehovah has been gracious
His Character: John was focused, fearless and uncompromising as he preached repentance and announced the coming of Jesus.
His Sorrow: He was beheaded.
His Triumph: Out of all the people John baptized, it must have been amazing to have baptized Jesus.
Key Scriptures: Matthew 3:1-17, 14:1-12; Luke 1:5-25, 3:1-20
I have often wondered how Christians of today would have reacted to John the Baptist during his ministry. He ate strange foods (locusts and wild honey) and wore odd clothes (clothes made from coarse camel hair with a leather belt around his waist). His face was weathered from the desert sun and living in the wilderness. His beard was unkept, and his hair was wild and long.
John’s ministry was foretold by Isaiah (40:3-5) and Malachi (4:5-6), and he is often compared to the prophet Elijah. John prepared the hearts of the people for the coming of Jesus by encouraging them to repent of their sins.
John was born to Elisabeth (who was of the priestly line of Aaron) and Zechariah (who was a member of the priestly order of Abijah). Elisabeth and Zechariah were elderly and childless. While Zechariah was serving in the Temple, he was visited by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel told Zechariah that his wife would conceive. They would have a son, and they would name him John. Gabriel told Zechariah what John’s mission in life would be and instructed Zechariah on how John should be cared for. Zechariah doubted, and he was struck mute. He was told he would not speak again until after the baby was born.
John and Jesus were related. Their mothers were cousins or close kin. John and Jesus’ first encounter occurred when they were in their mothers’ wombs. John jumped for joy in Elisabeth’s womb when she heard Mary’s voice.
When it was time to name the baby, many assumed he would be named Zechariah. Elisabeth named the baby John. Zechariah, who was still mute, wrote down the name Gabriel had given him and was then able to speak again. He made a prophecy over his son, outlining John’s mission to prepare the way by preaching salvation through repentance.
John was raised in an orthodox home where life centered around learning the Torah and religious traditions. He may have been a Nazirite. The Nazarites took a vow to abstain from alcohol and not cut their hair. John may have also lived with the Essenes, a community that was committed to study, prayer, celibacy and work.
John’s role was to announce the coming of the Savior. John spoke like a prophet of old, the first true prophet in 400 years. John challenged the ritualism and legalism of the day, and people were drawn to his message. He preached repentance. He firmly believed that faith must be followed by a change in behavior, always pointing to the One who would come after him. John encouraged his disciplines to follow Jesus. He knew that for Jesus to increase, he must decrease.
John challenged people to turn from their sins and baptized them as an outward sign of their repentance and commitment. As he inspired people, he also gained enemies. He confronted Herod, who was a tetrarch or a sub-king of Galilee under the Roman Empire, to admit his sins (among which was marrying his brother’s wife), and Herod’s wife plotted to have him killed. He was beheaded, but Jesus was already on the move.
John had baptized Jesus, proclaiming, “… Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” John 1:29, at Jesus’ approach. Jesus said that out of all who have ever lived, none was greater than John the Baptist. In John’s own words, “He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias,” John 1:23.