Jesus and John the Baptist
Like Jesus, John the Baptist also received death for no fault of him. John’s death was also as a result of the conspiracy between Salome and her Mother like that of Jesus which was the result of the conspiracy between the Pharisees and the High Priests.
By K.L. Joseph
Jesus and John, the Baptist, have striking similarities regarding their birth. Both were born out of miraculous conception and as foretold by God through His Angel Gabriel.
God caused the birth of John happen first in order to bring him to this world as the precursor of His only son Jesus and also to make the bright dawn of salvation rise on the people who lived on the dark shadow of death. God willed that John should go ahead of His son Jesus as forerunner to prepare the way for him so that his son could walk the streets and towns for preaching the good news about the Kingdom of heaven. So, in order to cause the birth of John, God sent his Angel Gabriel to Zechariah to break the good news that his wife Elizabeth will bear him a son. Zechariah and his wife were very old, and they had no children. They lived good lives in God’s sight and obeyed all the Lord’s Laws and Commandments. They too, like Virgin Mary and Joseph, were found by God as the most pious and spiritually refined couple to be the parents of John. Zechariah, a priest by profession and belonging to the priestly order of Abijah, was burning incense at the altar of God’s temple as part of his daily duties. There, the Angel appeared on the right side of the altar and said to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son and that the child should be named John. Zechariah did not believe the message conveyed to him by the Angel Gabriel, because Zechariah knew that his wife being very old had become barren.
God also sent a message for Virgin Mary, the Immaculate, who was living in a town in Galilee named Nazareth, through the same Angel Gabriel. When this message was sent for Mary, her cousin Elizabeth was in her six month’s pregnancy. The Angel said to Mary that she would become pregnant through the power of the Holy spirit and give birth to a son, who would be called Jesus, the son of the Most High God. Hearing this message, Mary too had some confusion in her mind about the feasibility for getting conceived due to her being a virgin. However, her doubt is dispelled at once and she said to the Angel “I am the Lord’s servant”, “may it happen to me as you have said “.
The announcement about the birth of Jesus through the Angel did not gladden the heart of King Herod. He became very much upset. He knew that once Jesus, the promised Messiah, is born he will emerge as the undisputed King to reign over the world. The people of Jerusalem also became upset on hearing the announcement about the birth of Jesus as they feared that emergence of Jesus as Messiah will bring in God’s wrath on their sinful life and the final judgement. In brief announcement about the impending birth of Jesus, the light of the world, sent shock waves to those who lived in darkness like Herod.
John made his entry for the first time in the desert of Judaea when Joseph, the foster father of the child Jesus, finally decided to make his home in the town of Nazareth. John went throughout the whole territory of Jordan preaching to the people “Turn away from your sins because the Kingdom of heaven is near!” (Luke. 3.3). This was the fulfilment of the prophetic words of Isaiah:
“Someone is shouting in the desert:
‘Get the road ready for the Lord;
make a straight path for him to travel!
every valley must be filled up,
every hill and mountain levelled off.
The winding roads must be made straight,
and the rough paths made smooth.
All mankind will see God’s salvation.
Jesus started his ministry of preaching and teaching in Galilee after he was baptised by John in the Jordan River. As Jesus being the son of the living God, there was no original sin in him. Thus, there was no need for Jesus’ purification through baptism. However in order to make Baptism as God’s Law (Sacrament) for the people of this world to follow as a sign of faith in Christ and for their admittance into Church, Jesus was subjected to baptism by his heavenly father. After his baptism, Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert to be tested by the Devil. This was done by the Lord in order to fortify His son with the power of the Holy Spirit to prepare him for starting his ministry of preaching and teaching. His first message to the people when he started preaching was also on the same lines as spoken by John. Jesus also preached, “Turn away from your sins, because the Kingdom of heaven is near!” (Matt.4.17). So, both John and Jesus started their ministry of preaching and teaching with the same message!
Jesus was known for socialising with all types of people, including the outcasts and tax collectors. As testimony to this, Jesus was found eating with them. Though the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees were the enemies of Jesus, Jesus however showed no aversion towards them, but he also remained friendly with them. Jesus was always on the move by foot from one place to another place and from one territory to another territory preaching, teaching and healing the people of all types of sicknesses and deformities.
Compared to Jesus, John was not the type for socialising with the people. It might be due to the reason that he spent most of his years in the desert living in seclusion where socialising with people was impossible. Although John lived in the desert, he too like Jesus grew and developed in body and spirit. He lived a simple life like an ascetic by wearing clothes made of camel’s hair and he always wore a leather belt round his waist. His food did not contain the grains and vegetables but consisted of only the locusts and wild honey. The name ‘Baptist’ was given to him because he started his ministry of preaching by first baptising Jesus in Jordan River. Jesus came to John from Galilee to be baptised by him.
As soon as Jesus was baptised, heaven opened, and the spirit of God came down like a dove on Jesus. Thereafter, John went on baptizing the people right from the Galilee preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God. As in the case of Jesus, many people from the province of Judaea and the city of Jerusalem came to hear John. John baptised these people in the river Jordan only after they repented and confessed their sins. John’s loyalty, submissiveness, humbleness and reverence towards Jesus is evident in his preaching and teaching. John proved himself worthy of the assignment given to him by the Lord as the forerunner of Jesus with these words: “The man who will come after me is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to bend down and untie his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark.1. 7-8).
Among the people who came to be baptized by John were also the enemies of Jesus, the Pharisees, and Sadducees etc. While baptizing them John said to them “You snakes, who told you that you could escape from the punishment God is about to send? Do those things that will show that you have turned from your sins. And don’t start saying among yourselves that Abraham is your ancestor. I tell you that God can take these stones and make descendants for Abraham! The axe is ready to cut down the trees at the roots; every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire”. (Luke. 3.7-9).
Another striking similarity seen in the preaching of Jesus and John is that both of them were very much concerned about the people of Israel and they wanted to save them from their sins. Even in death, John stood in solidarity with Jesus, though the nature of their death differed. Jesus’ death by crucifixion was caused as a result of conspiracy that arose out of hostility and envy from his enemies around him namely the Romans, the Pharisees, the Scribes and the chief Priests. They became jealous of Jesus when his reputation had spread everywhere, and more and more people turned up to become his followers. This was because of his wonderful teaching and miraculous way of healing the people afflicted with various kinds of diseases and deformities. They also saw Jesus bring the dead back to life; give sight to the blind; make the dumb speak and the deaf hear and also heal the people possessed by the demon. As the enemies of Jesus found Jesus’ existence as a serious threat to them, they fabricated false charges against him. One of the false charges levelled by the chief priests against Jesus is that he was starting a riot among the people all through Judaea by his teaching (Luke. 23.5).
Like Jesus, John the Baptist also received death for no fault of him. John’s death was also as a result of the conspiracy between Salome and her Mother like that of Jesus which was the result of the conspiracy between the Pharisees and the High Priests. John questioned and reprimanded Herod for divorcing his wife and unlawfully marrying Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. When John kept on telling Herod of his unlawful marriage with his brother’s wife, he was greatly disturbed every time he heard him. On Herod’s birthday, Salome danced before the guests to entertain them. Herod was highly pleased with it and he made a vow before all the guests present that he would give anything to her if asked. Then Salome consulted with her mother Herodias and asked for John’s head. When Salome demanded the King Herod for the head of John the Baptist on a plate, he could not refuse and retreat from the vow he made in front of all the guests. He therefore ordered beheading of John the Baptist, although he knew that John was a holy man. In the same way, Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, yet to please the crowd he condemned him to death on a cross. The same Jesus has given John the Baptist the greatest compliment: “I assure you that John the Baptist is greater than any man who has ever lived. But he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John”. (Luke. 7.28).
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