Saint John The Baptist

St John The Baptist, the Baptiser or St John the Forerunner, as he is sometimes referred to, is regarded as a great Prophet. He was the Lord's cousin and Herald. His title of “Forerunner” means that he paved the way for the coming of the Lord. St John was born six months before the Lord.

Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 11:7-14 that “never has there appeared on earth a mother's son greater than John The Baptist, and yet the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.”

John's birth is foretold in Isaiah 40:3 : “There is a voice that cries: Prepare a road for the Lord through the wilderness, clear a highway across the desert for our God.”

It is also foretold in Malachi 3:1
“Look I am sending my messenger who will clear a path before me.”

St John was a Nazirite. “When anyone, man or woman, makes a special vow dedicating himself to the Lord as a Nazirite, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink.” . (Numbers 6:2-3).

John's Testimony to the Lord:

John gives testimony to the Lord on many occasions in the Bible

“There is the Lamb of God.”( John 1:36-37)

He also says, when a deputation of Priests and Levites came to ask him who he was:
“I am not the Messiah……I am a voice crying aloud in the wilderness, make the Lord's highway straight.” (John 1, 21-23).
“This is the man I meant when I said, He comes after me ,but takes rank before me , for before I was born he already was .“ (John 1, 15)

And also:

“After me comes one who is mightier than I. I am not fit to unfasten his shoes .I have baptised you with water; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1, 7-8)

The Birth of John:

John's father was Zacharias, a Priest. His mother was called Elizabeth . She was also of priestly descent. Both were devout and upright people. They had no children though and they were both old. Once when Zacharias entered the Sanctuary of the Lord to offer incense, there appeared before him the Angel Gabriel. Gabriel told him that his prayers had been answered. His wife was to bear a son and he shall be called John. He would be great in the eyes of the Lord and he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. When Zacharias questioned Gabriel about this, telling him that he and his wife were well on in years, Gabriel told him that because he had not believed, he would lose his power of speech, until the “day when these things happen to you.” Meanwhile the people were waiting outside the sanctuary wondering why Zacharias was taking so long. When he came out and he could not speak they knew that he had seen a vision. He remained dumb making signs to the people. When his period of duty was over he returned home. His wife conceived and for five months she lived in seclusion, happy.
Mary , the mother of the Lord, was Elizabeth 's cousin. Mary was told of her cousin's pregnancy at her Annunciation.This was when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her and gave her the good news that she would be the Mother of God-“Greetings most favoured one the Lord is with you.” It was then he told her that she would conceive and bear a son and his name will be Jesus.Orthodox Christians celebrate this day on 25th march each year.

Mary visited her cousin when they were both preganant and it was then that Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit said “ God's blessing is on you above all women, and his blessing is on the fruit of your womb. Who am I , that the Mother of My Lord should visit me? I tell you,when your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy.” Luke 1:43-45

Elizabeth gave birth to a son. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child as was the custom. They were going to name him Zachariah after his father, but his mother spoke up and said his name was to be John. They were all astonished at this, as no one in the family was called John. They then asked his father what name was to be given to the child, and to the astonishment of all he wrote down on a tablet that his name would be John. Immediately his lips were opened and he began to praise God. John grew strong and lived in the wilds until the day he appeared before Israel . The full story of St Johns birth is told of in Luke 1:5-25 and Luke 1:57-66.

Zachariah also gives testimony to the greatness of John, his son, in Luke 1:76-78:
“And you, my child, you shall be called Prophet of the Highest, for you will be the Lord's forerunner, to prepare his way and lead his people to salvation, through knowledge of him, by the forgiveness of their sins.”

John's Teaching:

When John started to preach in public, many people repented and went to him to be baptised in the River Jordan, asking for forgiveness of their sins.

The Baptism Of the Lord:

John baptised the Lord. The Lord's Baptism is told to us in Matthew 3:13-17

Here we see John's total humility when he says to the Lord “I need rather to be baptised by you.” When Jesus came up out of the water in the River Jordan, heaven opened and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove to alight upon the Lord. It was then John heard the voice from heaven which said “This is my Son, my Beloved, on whom my favour rests.”

John's arrest:

At the time Herod was King. He had married his brother's wife Herodias. His brother Philip was still alive at the time, and under Jewish law this was not permitted. Herod could only marry his brother's wife if his brother was dead. John warned Herod against this, but Herod would not listen. He imprisoned John but would not harm him, as he went in awe of him. Herodias, however, held a grudge against John and would willingly have killed him.

John's Death:

Herodias found her chance when Herod gave a lavish banquet for his birthday. Her daughter came and danced for the king, and she so pleased Herod that he told her she could have anything she wanted, even up to half of his kingdom. The daughter asked her mother what she should ask for. Her mother told her to ask for the head of John The Baptist. She went back to the king who was greatly distressed at this request, but out of regard for his oath and the respect of his guests he could not refuse her. He sent a soldier down to the cell where John was held and he beheaded John. When John's disciples heard of his death they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb. His death is told of in John 6:17-29.

His name days:

There are many days when we celebrate St John during the Orthodox year.

September 23rd Conception of St John

January 6th Holy Theophany

January 7th Synaxis of St John

February 24th First and second findings of the head of St John

May 25th 3rd finding of the head of St John

June 24th Birth of St John

Aug 29th Beheading of St John



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Last Published:20/2/05
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