Herald of the King

Isaiah 40:3–11, Malachi 3:1–2, Luke 1:39–44, Luke 1:59–80 (read online ⧉)

It has been said (by Christians, of course) that John the Baptist was the last Old Testament prophet. By that, they meant that Jesus (and his life, death, resurrection, and the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit) was the New Testament. In some ways, they are correct. The New Testament is about the life and work of Jesus Christ, and the new work of the Holy Spirit (through the church). John the Baptist was the last one (though not really) to say that God was coming before God actually came. John the Baptist sounded like many of the prophets of old.

It seems peculiar to call John the Baptist, well, the Baptist. According to the Scriptures, perhaps he should be John the Herald. It would certainly be appropriate. It would also call to mind John’s purpose, heralding the coming of God, rather than focusing on his acts of baptism. It’s not that the baptisms he performed were bad, but ultimately they were a witness to the coming of Jesus.

That John, in the womb (!), “leaped” at the voice of Mary is startling (though babies do recognize voices in the womb). Even in the womb, John was heralding the coming king. It is sad, in some ways, that John’s place seems to have been decided from a young age, yet he could have made a different decision.

Ultimately, John’s purpose was fulfilled by heralding Jesus’ arrival. Like so many do, he could have opposed Jesus, and many would have listened. He didn’t. By his actions, he fulfilled the words of his father. John guided the people to the only one whose way is the path of peace.

1) John’s place was definitely one of number 2. Have you ever been a number 2 or lower? How did you feel? Did you just spiritualize your answer?

2) Why do you think “the Baptist” became John’s title rather than “the Herald” or something else?

3) What do you think about John going to the wilderness when he grew up? Why do you think he did that? Do you think he was alone?

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