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Who Was St. John the Baptist? 11 Things to Know and Share

John the Baptist is a mysterious figure in the New Testament.

He was famous in his own day, even before he became the herald of Christ.

We even know about him from outside the New Testament.

The Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is June 24, and the Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist is Aug. 29, so it’s an excellent time to catch up on him.

Here are 11 things to know and share…

1) How was John the Baptist related to Jesus?

John was related to Jesus through their mothers. In Luke 1:36, Elizabeth is described as Mary’s “kinswoman,” meaning that they were related in some way through marriage or blood.

Most likely, it was a blood relationship, but neither a particularly close or distant one.

Elizabeth, being elderly, may have been an aunt, great-aunt, or one of the many types of “cousin.” The precise relationship cannot be determined.

This means that Jesus and John were cousins in one or another senses of the term.

2) When did John the Baptist’s ministry begin?

Luke gives us an extraordinarily precise date for the beginning of John’s ministry. He writes:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar . . . the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins [Luke 3:1-3].

“The fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar” is most naturally understood as a reference to A.D. 29.

This is important also because Luke suggests that Jesus’ ministry began shortly after John’s did, which places the likely date of Jesus’ baptism in A.D. 29 or early A.D. 30.

3) Why did John come baptizing?

Scripture presents us with several reasons.

He served as the forerunner or herald of the Messiah and was to prepare for him by fulfilling an Elijah-like role by calling the nation to repentance.

In keeping with that, he baptized people as a sign of their repentance.

He also came to identify and announce the Messiah. According to John the Baptist: “I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:31).

This identification was made when he baptized Jesus: “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. 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.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (1:32-34).

4) How did John’s arrest affect Jesus?

The gospels indicate that the early ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus both took place in Judea, in the southern portion of Israel, near Jerusalem.

But John was arrested by Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Perea, which included part of the wilderness near Jerusalem.

This led Jesus to begin his ministry in Galilee:

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee [Matthew 4:12].

5) What does John have to teach us about on the job morals?

Quite a bit! He was quizzed by both tax-collectors and soldiers about what they needed to do to be right with God.

Both of these positions required cooperation with the Roman Empire, and they were wondering if they had to quit their jobs.

John tells them no, but to do their jobs in a righteous manner. This is important for us today as so many are required to cooperate with employers, states, and corporations that are—in part—engaged in immoral actions.

We read:

Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”

And he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.”

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?”

And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” [Luke 3:12-14].

Read more at National Catholic Register

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