ABOUT OUR PATRON SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
According to the Gospel of Luke, the birth of John was prophesied to his father Zachariah, by the angel Gabriel, while the former was performing his functions as a priest, in the temple of Jerusalem. Since Zachariah was a priest of the course of Abijah and his wife Elizabeth was one of the daughters of Aaron, John became a descendant of Aaron from both his paternal and maternal side. The Gospel recounts that Mother Mary came to inform Elizabeth about her pregnancy. At that time, Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy and her unborn baby ‘jumped for joy’ in the womb only.
It is said that, at the age of thirty, John started to preach on the banks of the river Jordan. He preached against the evils of the time and attracted men to penance and baptism. His only message to people was to repent, as the Lord was coming. He baptized many people and, thus, was named John the Baptist. According to the Holy Scriptures, Christ also turned to John to attain baptism. The incident took place when John the Baptist’s ministry was at its close. John instantly recognized the Lord and proclaimed Him to be the Messiah. John baptized Jesus, marking the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In turn, John inspired his followers to follow Christ
After the baptism, Jesus is believed to have left to preach in Galilee, while John continued preaching in the Jordan valley. John’s growing popularity and immense power created fright and fear in the minds of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Perea and Galilee. Following John’s denunciation of his adulterous and incestuous wife Herodias, who was also the wife of his half brother Philip (Herod II), Antipas had him arrested and imprisoned at Machaerus Fortress, on the Dead Sea. On the other hand, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, impressed Antipas with a dance performance. Delighted by the girl’s act, he vowed to grant her any wish. Salome, at the instigation of her mother, demanded the head of John the Baptist.
Prophecies Of John’s Role
According to the Old Testament, John the Baptist was ordained by God to be a forerunner or precursor to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. All the four canonical Gospels also address his role. The need for a forerunner to the Messiah was not exceptional. However, Christians were expecting Elijah, a well-known prophet at the time, to come rather than John the Baptist. As a result, the disciples refused to accept John, only to understand later that Elijah had come through John only, but in a spiritual or allegorical sense.
John & Christian Traditions
According to the Eastern Orthodox, John was the last prophet who was acting as a bridge between the period of revelation and the New Covenant. It is also said that after death, he descended into Hades but kept on preaching about the coming of Jesus the Messiah. As per the Sacred Tradition, John the Baptist emerged at the time of death of people, who have not heard the Gospel of Christ to give them the good news about Christ’s arrival.
Most of the Orthodox churches have an icon of St. John the Baptist on the iconostasis. His name is also mentioned during the Divine Services. All the Tuesdays of the year are dedicated to the memory of St. John the Baptist.
John the Baptist is regarded as the precursor of Jesus Christ. A very well-known preacher, he gave sermons about the proximity of God’s Final Judgment. He asked people to repent for their sins and baptized those who apologized in self-preparation for the Lord to come. According to the Scriptures, it was John only who recognized Jesus and decreed Him as the Messiah of the people. The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the Acts of the Apostles, and the Jewish historian Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews comprise of the only sources of information about the life of John the Baptist.