John the Baptist
St John the Baptist was a prophet and the herald of Our Lord Jesus Christ. As Jesus himself said: “This the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’. I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John…“ (NRSV, Luke 7:26-28).
John’s father was Zechariah, a priest in the Temple at Jerusalem. His mother was Elizabeth who was a cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary. John’s birth was foretold by an angel who appeared to Zechariah when he was serving in the Temple: “Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you will name him John”. And the angel went on the describe John’s mission,”…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (NRSV, Luke 1:13,17).
The events surrounding John’s birth are described in Luke 1:37-79 and we learn that the child “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel” (NRSV, Luke 1:80).
John lived an austere life in the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey and wearing a garment made of camel hair and a leather belt (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6). His clothing was similar to an earlier great prophet, Elijah (see 2 Kings 1:8). Then in around 27 AD (1) “the word of God came to John…in the wilderness” and he began his public ministry, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah and the need for repentance. The people flocked to him and he baptised them in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
Following the baptism of Jesus, the sinless Son of God, John later testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’. And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God” (NRSV, John 1:32-34).