Part Five; John the Baptist and the meeting [Baptism of Jesus]
John the Baptist was a man who went through Galilea Baptising people and asking them to change the ways [There, has been many jokes about him. The typical one is a man standing on the street with a placard saying, “ Repent for the end is nigh”. A much maligned and ridiculed character] Then again John the Baptist, not to mention repent etc, goes on to play an important role in Jesus’s life and teachings.
Not to get ahead of myself, what is crucially missed is the fact that Jesus and John’s Mothers were related?
Birth Announcement of John the Baptist Luke ch1 v5 onwards
During the reign of Herod king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and he had a wife named Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron. They were both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they did not have a child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both very old.
Now while Zechariah was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the holy place of the Lord and burn incense. Now the whole crowd of people were praying outside at the hour of the incense offering. An angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar, appeared to him. And Zechariah, visibly shaken when he saw the angel, was seized with fear. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John. Joy and gladness will come to you, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.
He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go as forerunner before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is old as well.” The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will be silent, unable to speak, until the day these things take place.”
Now the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they began to wonder why he was delayed in the holy place. When he came out, he was not able to speak to them. They realized that he had seen a vision in the holy place, because he was making signs to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was over, he went to his home.
After some time his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she kept herself in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me at the time when he has been gracious to me, to take away my disgrace among people.”
When Mary was told that she was to have a child, and that child would be the Messiah, she doubted it, But she was told by the Angel “And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age—although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! For nothing will be impossible with God.” So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth
Mary got up and went hurriedly into the hill country, to a town of Judah, and entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She exclaimed with a loud voice, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child in your womb!
And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me? For the instant the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
As the story goes Mary gives birth to Jesus, in Bethlehem and then for political reasons the family flee to Egypt and eventually return to Nazareth. Now back to John TB’s story.
The Birth of John
Now the time came for Elizabeth to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother replied, “No! He must be named John.” They said to her, “But none of your relatives bears this name.” So they made signs to the baby’s father, inquiring what he wanted to name his son. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they were all amazed. Immediately Zechariah’s mouth was opened and his tongue released, and he spoke, blessing God. All their neighbours were filled with fear, and throughout the entire hill country of Judea all these things were talked about. All who heard these things kept them in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the Lord’s hand was indeed with him.
Zechariah’s Praise and Prediction
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because he has come to help and has redeemed his people. For he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from long ago, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
He has done this to show mercy to our ancestors, and to remember his holy covenant—the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham. This oath grants that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, may serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him for as long as we live.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High. For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of our God’s tender mercy the dawn will break upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
And the child kept growing and becoming strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he was revealed to Israel.
Mathew chapter 3, Luke chapter 3, & John chapter 3. All give a detailed summary of John TB, his life and teachings, much detail but I shall again give my own views on John TB.
As mentioned earlier John BT was born to elderly religious parents. They may have instilled this religious fervour within John TB, so he would have been a good scholar of the Torah and would have been well versed in it’s teachings and prophesies. This sort of lifestyle can usually result in two options [very rarely a third moderate way] either a] a total rejection his parents religious beliefs [or at least just a lip service to it] or b] a total belief in their religious beliefs, but in John TB case whilst he totally believed. He decided to lead a semi hermit lifestyle [at least in his early years] wandering the desert wild places clothed only in goatskins, and living on locusts and honey. If he was an embarrassment to his parents, nothing is written, but he must have been quite a character.
After his self-imposed exile he appeared out of the desert preaching his repentance teachings, telling people to change their ways and live a more religious lifestyle in accordance with the Torah. Also he baptised people who came to him as a symbol of washing away past sins and a sign of a new beginning.
Some examples of John’s preaching’s
So John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance, and don’t begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Even now the axe is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
So the crowds were asking him, “What then should we do?” John answered them, “The person who has two tunics must share with the person who has none, and the person who has food must do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He told them, “Collect no more than you are required to.” Then some soldiers also asked him, “And as for us—what should we do?” He told them, “Take money from no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your pay.”
Certainly a bit of an hellfire and damnation preacher, his preaching which were tolerated to an extent by the establishment [people like a good talker] was to lead to his upsetting King Herod [about his marital status] which would lead to him being flung in Jail and eventual execution and death. [An interesting story in itself but I won’t give the plot away]
Jesus and John BT’s first meeting and the baptism of Jesus; Mathew ch3 v13
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. But John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?” So Jesus replied to him, “Let it happen now, for it is right for us to fulfil all righteous prophecies.” Then John yielded to him. After Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my one dear Son; in him I take great delight.”
Whether or not this was their first meeting and did a dove descend and a voice from heaven was heard? Or whether they were both religious zealots who wanted to put the prophecies into practice? There have been many speculators and opinions. It is the story presented, it his up to you to come to your own conclusions.
Next time Baptism and the Temptation of Jesus