Monday, January 9, 2012

J = John

Sometimes it is interesting to look deeper into a person, their purpose, and they journey. Today I am sharing a bit more about John the Baptist. Lisa and Mikel guessed that my "J" blog entry would be about Jesus, and they are partly correct. What I want to discuss today is John's role in the birth and the life of Jesus. To some of you, this will probably be review, yet I hope that some of my readers will learn even a small new thing about John the Baptist.

Elizabeth was a socially respectable, Jewish woman from a family of priests. Elizabeth and her husband, Zachariah (or Zacharias) prayed for years for a son or daughter, yet it seemed that Elizabeth was barren, and they grew old without being blessed with a child.

Zachariah, being a descendant of Aaron, spent his life in the priesthood. The two loved God and lived to please him. Even though they did not have any children, Elizabeth and Zachariah served God faithfully because they believed that He knew best.

How do you feel when you beg God for something for so long, and you do not seem to get what you want no matter how much you ask?

They thought often of the promise that God had given to the Jews died many years before that someday God would send a Savior to the world, a son of David.

At that place and time, the priests did not always work in the temple. They took turns, so to speak. When it was Zachariah’s time to serve, he left his home in Judah and went to Jerusalem. His duty at the time we are discussing now was to burn incense on the golden altar, in the holy place. This was the first room in the temple where only priests might enter.

One day while Zachariah was offering the incense, there appeared an angel on the right side of the altar. The angel was watching Zachariah, and he had never seen an angel before. Zacharaiah was afraid.

How would you feel if an angel was suddenly there with you? Do you think that you would know it was an angel?

Luke 1: 13-24
13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.

Elizabeth had a young cousin named Mary. During Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, Mary came to visit her and shared her own news of pregnancy.

Luke 1:39-45
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

It was to Elizabeth that Mary sang her song of praise. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months.

Have you ever been so grateful to God for Him including you in His plan that you actually sang out your praises?

Around the time that Mary returned to her home, Elizabeth, in her old age, gave birth to a son.

During the time of Zachariah’s silence, he wrote on a tablet to tell people things that he could not speak. His writing tablet may have been a small slate which could be erased and reused, or it may have been wooden. As far as I can find, we do not know for sure.

Luke 1:59-60
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child*, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

The townspeople would not take Elizabeth’s word for it.

Why do you think they did not believe her?

Luke 1:61-66
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

*Genesis 17:11, Leviticus 12:3

John grew up and became strong in spirit. He lived in the wilderness until the word of God came to him. Then he went into all of the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 3 refers us back to the words of Isaiah, the prophet (Isaiah 40):
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

Malachi 3:1 also foretells of the coming of John the Baptist:
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

John preached to many people. Even tax collectors and soldiers came to be baptized and asked him what they should do. His teachers were so good, and people wondered if John might be the Messiah.

Luke 3:16
John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Matthew 3:13-15
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:9-11
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

John 1:32-34
32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Why was Jesus baptized? Why was Jesus’ baptism important?

The story of John the Baptist continues, leading up to his imprisonment and beheading by King Herod. My intention for today was to focus on the story leading up to his birth and how he paved the way for Jesus, his own kin, which was the incredible purpose for which God gave him to Zachariah and Elizabeth, who so loved the Lord themselves.


  1. John! The one "J" that slipped my mind. ;-)

    "How do you feel when you beg God for something for so long, and you do not seem to get what you want no matter how much you ask?" This is a serious question and it can get a lot of Christians depressed. Does God not care? Doesn't He hear me?

    In hindsight, there are somethings I've begged God for that I now know wouldn't been good for me and my family. He always knows best.

  2. I love to consider the role that John the Baptist had as the heralder of Christ's coming. What I also found interesting is how you can compare the way Zachariah and Mary both were given seemingly impossible news by an angel. Yet, they reacted so differently. (I wrote a bit about it during Advent at this post: )

    As for asking God for something and not receiving it, I almost think our reaction shows more about our faith than anything else we could do. Sometimes we desire what we should not have and sometimes we might be asking for the wrong thing. But, for someone with lukewarm faith, they can be discouraged and take it as a sign of rejection. I am so thankful that God loves us more than we can imagine and knows our needs even if we don't.

  3. Great thoughts. My reading this morning was about Abraham (Genesis 17) when the Lord comes to visit. What was THAT like? And how did Abraham (then Abram) recognize him?

    As to the question of begging God for something so long...we are instructed to pray according to His will, and we can know His will from His Word. Once we know that our request lines up with His desires for our lives, I believe it's often a matter of waiting. (The fun part, right?) And sometimes the waiting takes so long you may be tempted to think He never heard. Our family is just now seeing answers to prayers we have prayed for years. What if we had given up?

  4. Great thoughts and questions...especially about begging God for something and He seems to turn a deaf ear. Of course this is not the case, but I've learned He answers in one of three ways: Yes, No, and Not Yet....