2021-11-02
Public Domain

John the Baptist was an ascetic Jewish prophet known in Christianity as the forerunner of Jesus. John preached about God’s final judgment and baptized repentant followers in preparation for it. Jesus was among the recipients of his rite of baptism. John was the son of Zechariah, a Jewish priest of the order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth. According to the New Testament, Elizabeth was a relative of Mary the mother of Jesus. After baptizing Jesus, John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod Antipas for denouncing his marriage, which was illegal under Jewish Law. According to Scripture, Herod’s stepdaughter Salome requested John’s head to make her mother happy, Herodias, and Herod was obliged to fulfill the request. John was a major religious figure, but here are five awesome facts you may not know about the great John the Baptist.

Awesome Fact #1: Jesus declared that there was no one greater than John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:11 recounts Jesus’ words, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” This probably sounds like an odd statement, particularly because Jesus was a man himself. Some scholars and theologists believe Jesus were honoring John the Baptist by offering a compliment. Some people believe that Jesus was referring to John’s position and assignment in history, or referencing the fact that John was anointed to preach with the power of Elijah.

Awesome Fact #2: John the Baptist took a Nazirite vow.

If someone refused to get a haircut and snacked on locusts in the wilderness, people would categorize that individual as a little crazy maybe even institutional. During John’s time, he was called a Nazirite. A Nazarite was a person who gave up certain things to commune with God in a state of holiness. Nazirites would sometimes separate themselves from other people in order to eliminate distractions.

The root word of Nazirite, Nazir, means holy or set apart, and a Nazirite’s actions did indeed separate them from the rest of the world. Most Jews only took a Nazirite vow for 30 to 100 days. However, there were at least three Nazirites in Scripture who were dedicated from birth – Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. Although some might have still called him nuts, John the Baptist set his life aside for Jesus and remains inspirational.

Awesome Fact #3: Before John was even born, John knew when Jesus was nearby.

In Luke 1:36, while telling Mary about her future son, the angel Gabriel said, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.” Later in Luke 1:41, Mary left to see Elizabeth soon after receiving Gabriel’s message, and when Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, “the baby leaped in her womb.”

You might be wondering, how did John, still in his mother’s womb, recognize Jesus? John was filled with the Holy Spirit, even before he was born, and the Holy Spirit in John bore witness to the fact that the Messiah was nearby. It is astounding that John could recognize Him before ever being born.

Awesome Fact #4: Herod Antipas, who executed John the Baptist, liked listening to him and actually tried to protect him.

Herod’s motives for trying to protect John are influenced by fear, since John was so loved by his followers that Herod feared an uprising (Matthew 14:5). But after imprisoning John, it’s possible that something shifted in Herod.

“For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested . . . . He did this because of Herodias. So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him” (Mark 6:17-20).

Then in Mark 6:26, Herodias tricked her husband into murdering John the Baptist, “the king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her”. If he wasn’t so afraid of what his dinner guests would think, would Herod have embraced the message of John the Baptist—and ultimately the message of Jesus the Messiah?

Awesome Fact #5: John’s head is said to be in four different locations around the globe.

As odd as it may sound, John the Baptist’s head is considered to be a relic. The first location is the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. The mosque was built on the remains of an ancient Christian church, and John the Baptist’s head is claimed to be buried there in a shrine. The second location is the Residenz Museum in Munich, Germany claims to have John’s head among other relics collected by Duke Wilhelm V in the 16th century. The third location is in Rome at the Church of San Silvestro in Capite. The fourth location is the 13th century cathedral in Amiens, France which was built for the sole purpose of housing John’s head. A Crusader is rumored to have carried it from Constantinople in 1206.

John the Baptist is more than the patron saint of Jordan – without him, history would drastically need to be rewritten.

more from beliefnet and our partners