Posted by: genelnicholsblog | July 9, 2015

did you know?

After her graduation from a music conservatory, our daughter landed a coveted position at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  She wasn’t allowed to sing yet, but she was on the big stage and that was all that mattered.  Now, to say I don’t know much about opera is an understatement, but nothing was going to keep me from seeing my child on the stage in NYC.  One of the earliest operas I saw was entitled “Salome.”  I didn’t have any idea who Salome was or why they would write an opera about her … and was it a her? My daughter patiently explained to me that Salome was the daughter of Herodias, a woman who was out to get John the Baptist.  She used her daughter Salome to dance for King Herod, and Herod was so pleased he told her she could have anything she wanted.  Coached by her mother, the young Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist.  King Herod ordered it done.

So, as our reading takes us to passages regarding John the Baptist, I got to thinking.  If I didn’t even know who the pivotal character of Salome was, what else had I missed about this remarkable man, John the Baptist?!  Let’s take a look at some of the facts.

Did you know?

  • Some scholars believe his father, Zacharias, was murdered by Herod the Great, forcing him and his mother to flee into the wilderness.  That could explain this verse in Luke 1:80 … And the child kept growing and becoming strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he was revealed to Israel.
  • His diet of locust and wild honey was typical of the poor in that Jewish society.
  • He was quite a recluse, generally choosing to stay in more desolate areas.
  • His influence was widespread.  The people flocked to hear him preach.  He may have baptized thousands.
  • He never performed a miracle.  He just preached.
  • The designation “the Baptist” has nothing to do with the modern-day denomination.
  • John was a relative of Jesus Christ.
  • He had a single mission: to prepare the way for Christ. On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  John  1:29
  • Herod Antipas was now the ruler and he had listened to John’s preaching on more than one occasion.  He feared him; he feared his popularity so he threw him in prison.
  • Herod’s wife, Herodias, hated John because he had spoken out against their “marriage;” She was actually still married to Herod’s brother.
  • Herod was tricked into promising Salome anything.  He had to save face in front of all of his guests (it was his birthday party), so he ordered John beheaded.
  • Although it grieved the king deeply, he did not want to reject her request because of his oath and his guests.  So the king sent an executioner at once to bring John’s head, and he went and beheaded John in prison.  He brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.  When John’s disciples heard this, they came and took his body and placed it in a tomb.

The life of John the Baptist (brief as it was) was pivotal to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.  His preaching paved the way for the message of salvation that Jesus would bring.  His importance to the divine plan can be best explained in the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 11:11:

I tell you the truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist.

His story was extraordinary, yet he could be one of those Bible characters which you just can’t relate to in your own life.  He was a bold preacher who roamed the wild and woolly wilderness, surviving on bugs and organic, locally harvested, sustainable honey.  I’m guessing that doesn’t much resemble your everyday.  But if you look more closely, you can always find resonance with our shared human experience.  Knowing the Bible and its characters more deeply speaks into our right-now joys and struggles.  It leads to knowing God more, and in the words of “the other John,” that is “the real and eternal life.” (John 17:3 MSG)

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