St. John the Baptist
Saint John the Baptist was the son of faithful Jews, Zachariah, a priest, and Elizabeth, who was barren. According to the Gospel of St. Luke, the birth of John was announced by the angel Gabriel who visited Zachariah while he was performing priestly functions in the temple of Jerusalem. When Zachariah denied the angel’s proclamations, he was struck speechless at his un-belief in the power of God.
Not long after his wife, Elizabeth, announced she was with child. When Elizabeth was six months pregnant her young cousin Mary traveled from the neighboring town of Nazareth to help her during the remainder of the pregnancy. Mary had also been visited by the angel Gabriel who said that she also would have a child, who be be called the Messiah. When Elizabeth ran up to greet her cousin, the child in her womb leapt for joy for he had felt the presence of the Son of God in Mary’s womb.
When Zachariah and Elizabeth's baby was born, Zachariah regained his speech on the occasion when they named their baby, John.
Not much is known about the childhood of Saint John but we do now that when he was a young man, he disappeared into the desert to live a life of extreme fasting and prayer. Throughout the years he began to prophesy the coming of the Messiah; the Son of God. He drew many followers to himself through his teachings and converted many, baptizing thousands at the Jordan river.
It was at the Jordan river where Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, came to him and asked to be baptized. Recognizing Jesus as the Messiah he had been preaching about, John refuses saying, “It is not I who should baptize You... but You who should baptize me!” But Jesus persuaded John to baptize him, symbolizing Christ’s humanity. After John baptizes Jesus, the sky opens up and a dove alights on Jesus’ head while a voice says, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”
As Jesus leaves the Jordan, John introduces him to his disciples as the “Lamb of God.”
In another gospel account John is imprisoned for denouncing King Herod’s incestuous marriage to Herodias (who was not only his brother Phillip’s wife but also Herod’s niece) in violation of Old Testament Law. When Herdoias’ daughter Salome dances in front of Herod, he asks her what favor she desires in return. At the request of Herodias, Salome asks for the head of John the Baptist. St. John is then killed in approximately 28-36 CE, and his head is delivered to the princess on a gold platter.
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