On the 24 June in the Maronite Saints calendar we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, being 9 months after the birth was announced to Elizabeth in our Liturgical calendar.
Who is John the Baptist and why is his role so essential in this season?
John is referred to as the forerunner, a messenger of God and the last Prophet.
All the previous prophets in some way revealed God’s plan. John is the last prophet because he was the one that would finally reveal Jesus’ true identity. Even when him and Christ were both in their mother’s womb. He recognised Christ and leapt for joy (Luke 1:44).
The birth of John the Baptist itself was prophesised. John’s ministry fulfilled a prophecy of the Old Testament. In Isaiah 40 it was prophesised that someone would prepare the way for the Lord.
John prepared the way for Jesus, telling people to repent from their sins.
But why did Jesus need a forerunner? Mary I. Coloe, in her book ‘Dwelling in the Household of God,’ explains that in the Jewish wedding tradition, a friend or witness goes to ‘prepare the way’ for the groom and to announce his coming to the bridal household so they are on notice and can prepare themselves for the groom’s coming.
Similarly, John was sent as friend and witness to arrange things before Jesus’ arrival. The announcement is not for the groom’s sake, rather it for the bridal household’s (the Church’s) sake. The Forerunner was sent so that the community, the household of God, could prepare themselves for Christ’s coming.
John the Baptist was ultimately beheaded for speaking the truth. Mark 6:17-29.
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