The man who was born in the Old Testament, to unveil the New Testament…
A reading from (Luke 1:57-66)
57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. 59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him.
Over four hundred silent years, separated the final prophecy recorded in the Old Testament, from the New Testament wakeup call. John the Baptist’s birth was more pronounced among the Jews back then, than Jesus’ birth. For they didn’t know then what we know now – but their elders did!
Matthew’s Gospel was always addressing the Jews; for they knew their Book by heart. The following two verses, the last of the Old Testament, were indeed enough to get them discussing John’s birth, throughout all the hill country of Judea. “5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: 6 and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6). The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread, and according to Matthew this expectation was fulfilled in John the Baptist’s ministry: “And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.” (Matthew 11:14), clear and resolute words; but to conclude this testimony we read (Matthew 17:11–13): “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’ 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”
Jesus called him the greatest man who ever lived up until his time: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist;” (Matthew 11:11). John the Baptist could’ve been a priest serving the Jewish temple as his father, yet he lived like a monk; rather like an outcast preaching in the wilderness of Judea, his food was lotus and wild honey, and nothing clothing his body except a camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, a sign of prophetic calling that recalls the austere dress of the prophet Elijah. (2 Kings 1:8).
“What kind of child will this be?” Even before he was born, he was the first believer in the Messiah! He leaped for joy in his mother’s womb when he heard the sound of the Virgin mother of his Lord, who was carrying the blessed fruit in her womb! His own birth was a miracle, for his mother Elizabeth was barren and advanced in years. His father Zechariah an old priest of the priestly division of Abia, remained mute until his barren wife delivered the child who will be called the prophet of the Most High, because he did not believe of the miracle that was about to happen when the angle of God Gabriel announced him with the good news!
Six months older than Christ, was enough to make him the Herald proclaiming the nearing of the Kingdom of God, to fulfil the prophecy that was said of him by the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.’” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist was as a beacon of hope; he attracted all those who were oppressed and hopeless, and sinners who wanted to change, they saw in him the righteous prophet that they have been awaiting for and everyone came out to him from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan, Jews and gentiles alike, baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; the kingdom of God! A cry that made John hated by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the sinner king; a cry that cost him his head. Such great faith and devotion are the perfect example for us; to stay on the right path of John the Baptist, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For it’s said: “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)
The same cry is still echoing for over 2000 years! A cry for a change of heart and conduct, a turning of one’s life from rebellion to obedience towards God. A cry for repentance as a radical turning from sin that certainly became obvious in the fruit of righteousness.
John the Baptist played his role right to the end. He made sure the plan of God stayed on track; John the Baptist had to pass the torch – he had to step aside for Jesus. It wasn’t logical for john to continue his ministry, for the result would be a power struggle, competing teachers and disciples, and a prevention of many disciples from coming to Jesus. John said it load and clear: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
John teaches us humility and to be humble heart, as he also teaches us that we should be strong and prepare the way for the next generation. Help developing leaders in worship and preaching, and build the confidence of young believers. But also we should know when to step aside to pass the torch… he reminds us that the gospel – the Church of Christ is more important than any one person.
Deacon Michel Samuel Massoud May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ