Monday, January 13, 2014

Who Was John the Baptist?

Sunday at Hurstbourne Christian Church Pastor Mike preached about the baptism from the Gospel of Matthew chapter three. The sermon was focused on Jesus but my mind went back forty years to my experience in seminary when I was assigned to write a paper on “Who was John the Baptist.”

At first I thought how am I going to come up with enough information about a wild preacher who eats bugs. I didn't think that there was all that much to know about the wondering preacher in the wilderness. But I was wrong! Between the Bible and Jewish history there is a lot of information for even a long paper. I was soon deep in historical research about John, his family and life. I looked at what all the Gospels said about him and was amazed.

According to to Luke, John came from a long line of priest and high priest of the family of Aaron the brother of Moses and the Hebrew's first High Priest. Even his mother was in the family of Aaron and was a cousin of Mary the mother of Jesus. Looking carefully at the story of John's father Zechariah we find him in the temple serving as a priest and conducting a very specific worship service for Israel. He is described as going alone into the sanctuary of the Lord to make in incense offering while all the others waited outside. That description says volumes for that event takes place once a year on the day of atonement and is only preformed by the High Priest in the Holy of Hollies.

It was then that Zechariah had a vision and was informed that he would have a son and would name him John. The boy would be a Nazarite dedicated to God. As son of a priest John would have been raised to be a priest for he was a priest by birth. Though the Bible does not tell us about his service in the Temple it is safe to assume that he took his turn a few times before he traded his priestly clothes for a coat of camel hair and went out of Jerusalem and into the wilderness.

I had always wondered why so many high ranking people went out to the Jordan river to hear him preach. Now I knew that he was a priest and the son of a high priest who could have become a High Priest who was preaching and baptizing people in the wilderness. Of course they went out to hear him preach in droves as they knew he was sent by God.

I am so glad that I was assigned that paper for it deepened my understanding about John the Baptist.

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