Growing up I remember bible stories about John the Baptist as a crazy Jewish wild man wandering in the desert. So strange was this preacher dressed in camel hair cinched with a leather belt eating locust and honey. So many people came to hear him preach and I often wondered why they would do that. Well we have a lot of crazy preacher that people flock to today so we have not changed all that much.
As a student of bible history I later discovered the real reason that so many people, including the elite, went out to the
John preach and be baptized. It was unusual for ordinary people to be baptized
as the ceremony was mostly for the ritual cleansing of the priest and for
converts to Judaism. Here was John baptizing lots of people every day and not
for ritual cleansing but for forgiveness of sins. Jordan
The Gospel According to Luke gives us some clues in the first chapter when we are introduced to the father of John the Baptist who was Zechariah a Priest who worked in the
His wife Elizabeth is also a descendant of the tribe of Aaron the first high
priest of Temple .
That by itself makes John the Baptist a priest of Israel by birth so he was not just
any wild man preaching in the desert. Israel
As if that is not enough Luke’s description of what Zechariah was doing is most intriguing for the student of bible history who pays close attention. It puts Zechariah in the sanctuary of the Lord alone while all the others are out side. You may read that as the Holy of Holies where he offers an incense offering. WE note that because of his encounter with the angel his stay in the Holy of Holies was a lot longer than usual and the other priest outside were wondering what was going on. They could not go in to find out because only the High Priest was allowed in there.
This tells us that John was the son of a high priest and would have been inline to become a high priest him self. Truly he was no ordinary man preaching to the people. John likely spent time as a priest serving in the temple so one can imagine the talk of the people when the son of a former high priest shucks his priestly garb and puts on camel hair to go preach in the wilderness. No wonder they went out to hear him and be baptized.
On a side note we also learn that Mary the mother of Jesus was relative of Elizabeth perhaps a second cousin so that she also was of the house of Aaron and Jesus would be too. Very interesting!