Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond
John the Baptist: Behind the Scenes
John the Baptist was born in the hilly country of Judah. His birth was considered a miracle, because his parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah, were quite elderly when an angel advised that they would have a son and he was to be named “John” (Lk. 1:5-25). The angel also declared John would be a Nazarite (Mt. 11:18; Lk. 1:15; Lk. 7:33), one who takes vows to consecrate themselves to God's service, refraining from alcohol, letting their hair grow long, and not be near a dead body.” (See Num. 6) In addition, Elizabeth and Zachariah were the aunt and uncle of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Thus, John was Jesus' cousin, and he was appoximately six months older.
John was probably one of the most unique, non-conformist, character in the New Testament. He lived in the dessert and survivied on wild honey and locusts (short-horned grasshoppers). His wardrobe consited of a garment made of camel's hair with a leather strap to cinch the waist.
John spoke with authority, and people flocked to hear him preach. His message was, “Change your life. God's Kingdom is here!” (Mt. 3: 1-2, MSG). He challenged people to prepare for Messiah. Those who confessed their sins were baptized into a new, changed life (Mt. 3: 6, MSG). But he also saw through the superficiality of the Pharisees and Saducees, who wished to be baptized. John spoke to them clearly, making sure they knew that baptism was more than 'the popular thing to do': it required commitment, change, a decision to do right. (Mt. 3: 7-10). As we noted in the devotional for Lent, Day 6, John also baptized Jesus.
John was asked if he was the One the Israelites were waiting for, but he replied tht he was not the Christ (Messiah), nor was he a prophet, like Elijah. When pressed, John revealed his Personal Mission Statement (PMS): "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord," (Jn. 1: 20-23). He never lost his sense of purpose nor his mission, both of which stemmed from his PMS.
John was known for his penchant for confronting wrong-doing/sin in others, which eventually landed him in prison, because he challenged King Herod, who had unlawfully married his brother, Phillips's ex-wife, Herodias. The king was infatuated with a dance that his step-daughter performed for him and offered her whatever she desired. After discussing the offer with her mother, the step-daughter requested John's head on a platter. Herod reluctantly agreed. (See Mk. 6:17-29)
Jesus' commentary on John reveals how extraordinary John was: “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,” (NIV),
Blessings & Peace
Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)