The New Testament has an interesting lineup of characters as much as the ones in the Old Testament. While it does not have prophetic books and characters like the Old Testament, it does have other unique characters, like John the Baptist, that played a significant role in the completion of the New Testament books and the fulfillment of God’s purpose.
When it comes to the New Testament, the most famous group of people would be the first disciples of Jesus or the Apostles along with Paul. This is followed by the unnamed characters in the ministry of Jesus while He was still on earth. Among all these characters, there is a person who was considered by Jesus Himself as someone who played a crucial role in fulfilling his mission in the world. This man is none other than John the Baptist.
John the Baptist was considered to be the last prophet of the Old Covenant because the coming of Jesus ushered the advent of the New Covenant.
The Life of John the Baptist
Although his name suggests that he only baptized people, John’s life on earth was much more than that. After meeting Jesus Christ in person, John’s adult life was marked by devotion and surrender to Him and His kingdom. As he announced the arrival of the Messiah to a people in desperate need of a Savior, John’s voice was referred to as the “lone voice in the wilderness” (John 1:23). He was the forefather of the modern-day evangelist, openly sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Like Isaac in the Old Testament, John’s birth was miraculous. He was the son of elderly parents who were unable to have children (Luke 1:7). The angel Gabriel informed Zechariah, a Levitical priest, that he would have a son, which he received with skepticism. “He will be great in the sight of the Lord,” Gabriel said of John. Even before he is born, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will return many of Israel’s people to the Lord their God. And he will proceed in the spirit and power of Elijah before the Lord to prepare a people for the Lord”.
People in the New Testament period generally thought of John the Baptist as a prophet of God (Matthew 14:5), and many may have thought he was the Messiah. This was not his intention, as he knew exactly what he was called to do. “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him,'” John said in John 3:28. John warned his disciples that what they had seen and heard from him was only the beginning of the miracle that was to come in the form of Jesus Christ. God sent John as a messenger to proclaim the truth.
Jesus never chastised John; rather, He demonstrated that He was the promised Savior. Jesus then addressed the crowd, stating that John was the prophesied messenger who would come before Messiah. “Truly, I tell you, there has not risen among those born of women anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” Jesus added.
The Death of John the Baptist
John the Baptist had a reputation of someone who is very outspoken about his beliefs. He never hesitated to speak the truth even if it would mean the cost of his own life. It was this characteristic that made him the target of the enemies of the Way.
Later on, King Herod imprisoned John the Baptist. Herod had married his brother Philip’s ex-wife. John boldly spoke out against the marriage, much to the chagrin of Herod’s new wife, Herodias. While John was imprisoned, he heard about everything Jesus was doing.
King Herod had received harsh criticism from John the Baptist on numerous times for divorcing his wife and wed his cousin Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod’s marriage to Herodias was against God’s commandment for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that Philip was still alive and that both Philip and Antipas were Herodias’ uncles. Because John the Baptist dared to speak out, Herodias became furious, and Herod imprisoned the prophet to placate his wife. Herod, a strong Roman emperor, had the authority to put John the Baptist to death, but he decided not to do so because he recognized John as a truth-speaking, upright man. John captivated Herod, and he enjoyed listening to him speak.
John the Baptist was ultimately executed because of Herodias’ hate for him. According to Mark 6:19, Herodias had a vendetta against John and desired to have him killed. Herodias fervently desired John’s demise, according to the original Greek text. Herodias waited patiently for a chance to act, and when King Herod presented it, she eventually made the request that John the Baptist’s head be given to her.
Herodias’s savage rage led to the beheading of John the Baptist. The person who arrived in the might and spirit of Elijah was despised by Queen Herodias, just as Elijah was by Queen Jezebel. She obtained what she wanted from her husband by stimulating his passion and using his need to impress his guests. She did this by humiliating her own daughter and using smart manipulative skills. Queen Herodias was able to silence her critic, at least on the surface. Later, King Herod was troubled by his conscience and frightened that Jesus was really John the Baptist who had risen from the dead when he learned of the miracles performed by Christ.
While it is difficult to know exactly what John was thinking as he sat in prison, he did appear to have reservations. However, in an attempt to discover the truth, John sent a message to Jesus.
Lessons from the Life and Death of John the Baptist
As Christians, we will all have our faith tested, and we will either falter or, like John, cling to Christ, seek truth, and remain firm in our faith until the end. This is one of the major lessons that every believer can learn from John the Baptist’s life. His courageous faith and profound conviction to the Will of God are all worth emulating. He never backed down from anyone even if it meant losing his own life. He was so consumed with the call of God in his life that not being able to fulfill it is like not being able to live purposefully.
Another lesson that all Christians can learn from John the Baptist is that of humility. Despite the size and fame of his ministry, his head never grew in pride and arrogance. He did not fall into the trap of ministry success; instead, it drove him to greater humility and reminded himself that though he was entrusted with such a noble task, he knew that life was not about him but about Jesus Christ – the person whose sandals he is not worthy to untie. This kind of humility is what made John the Baptist stand out as one of the most significant characters in the New Testament.
The death of John the Baptist may have been labeled as mysterious but is proven to be a meaningful death because he was able to fulfill what the Lord has called him to do. May his life be a constant reminder for every believer that our greatest allegiance is to the Lord and not the world.
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