Birth of John the Baptist
Open Your Bible
Luke 1:5-25, Luke 1:57-80, 1 Samuel 2:1-2
BY Guest Writer
Although John the Baptist was Jesus’s second cousin and likely His friend from childhood on (he did gymnastics in utero when Jesus showed up, according to Luke 1:41), they were very different people. While Jesus grew up in Nazareth with a gaggle of brothers and sisters, John appears to have been an only child, and his elderly parents likely died while he was still young. As a grown man, Jesus conversed with rabbis and celebrated religious festivals, while John stayed out in the wilderness. By the time Jesus’s ministry had begun, John had taken to wearing animal skins, eating bugs and honey, and preaching fiery sermons that made audiences squirm. Yet this was the man God used to prepare the way for His Son’s arrival.
Rationally speaking, it would’ve made sense for Jesus to avoid John the Baptist. Hanging out with a smelly fanatic could definitely have harmed His reputation. But of course, our compassionate Savior did just the opposite. Not only did He slip off His sandals and wade into the muddy waters of the Jordan so that John could baptize Him (Matthew 3:13–14)—thereby endorsing His hairy hermit of a cousin’s ministry—but Jesus praised John immediately after His cousin publicly doubted Him:
Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come,
or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2–3).
In other words, “Are You really the Messiah? I mean, I thought You were supposed to come swinging a winnowing fork and spewing fire. But You’re out there spending time with drunks and prostitutes, and telling people to love their enemies” (definitely, my paraphrase).
Most friendships would’ve been irreparably damaged by such blatant disregard. However, instead of condemning John, the Lamb of God gently propped up His dear friend’s flagging faith by reminding him that He was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecies (vv.4–6). Then Jesus picked up a megaphone and bellowed a hearty “Johnny B” cheer:
As these men were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? See, those who wear soft clothes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:
See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (vv.7–11).
This Advent season, may we not only be encouraged by the miraculous fact that Immanuel came but also that He stays. Even on our worst days, when our hearts fail and our faith wanes, Jesus is the one who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Lisa Harper is a master storyteller with a masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary. She’s lauded as an engaging, hilarious communicator as well as an authentic and substantive Bible teacher. She’s been in vocational ministry for 30 years and has written 15 books (her latest being The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World) and Bible study curriculums but says her greatest accomplishment by far is that of becoming Missy’s (her adopted daughter from Haiti) mama! They live on a hilly farmette south of Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy eating copious amounts of chips, queso, and guacamole.