Day 23

Birth of John the Baptist

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.

Post Comments (36)

36 thoughts on "Birth of John the Baptist"

  1. Sylvia Brown says:

    Prayers for your healing and strength in your faithfulness. May you be facing a happy New Year free of pain and fear! I am always amazed at every encounter with these angels, “Do not be afraid!”

  2. Jennifer McElhannon says:

    This devotional is another reflection of Jesus’ love and mercy. When the author of this devotional described how John the Baptist looked—and smelled!—it was just a testament and affirmation that he was the son of God. Jesus didn’t come to help those who were already high on their horses, thinking that strictly following the ways of the Old Testament. Instead, he came for the weak and downtrodden. He came for those who were sinners to bring them the Good News. Jesus also used parables to explain some of the grandeur concepts, making his messages clear to understand and interpret.

    Second to Jesus, John the Baptist is the most revered person in the Bible. Even atheists know who John the Baptist is! While
    he may have been a bit unkempt, he was by far using his God given talents to bring people to know Him. It comes at no surprise that he was beheaded for being so vocal and forward about how he followed Christ. We should all be striving to be as John the Baptist was in his faith. Always follow Christ no matter what the cost—even if the cost is your own life. Never forsake your God. Hold him closely in your heart.

  3. Steph C says:

    “They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years” (Lk 1:6-7). God gave hope to the world with the birth of His Son. But He brought hope to this couple months before Jesus’ birth! They were godly, obedient folk. And they were childless. Their infertility was not judgement or punishment. But God used them. To give birth to and raise the man who would prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah! He could’ve chosen any couple. But He chose a barren couple. Because that would cause all the glory to go to Him!

  4. Tricia Cavanaugh says:

    Continued- cancer in my right femur. I am in a lot of pain, but I know others who have been through worse. Sisters, will you please pray with me that God will be glorified in whatever the outcome? I have three older children who don’t know Him. If this is what it takes for them to come to Him, then His will be done. Please pray that I stay strong with His help, and others can see my Heavenly Father in me.
    Blessings this Christmas to you and yours!

    1. Natasha R says:

      I’m praying for you Tricia. Your faith inspires me!

    2. Jennifer Anapol says:

      I will be praying for you Tricia! That the Lord would fully heal you and bring something good out of this trial.

    3. Brooke Davis says:

      I will be praying for you! You’re strength and faith are a true inspiration. God is going to use you and your trial to do amazing things!

  5. Tricia Cavanaugh says:

    I just this morning got a diagnosis of very high probability of cancer in my

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