Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: John The Baptist

Volume 4 No. 251 December 5, 2014

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Desert Scene - Death Valley National Park; Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew
Desert Scene - Death Valley National Park, NV/CA

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a village in the hill country of Judea, along the ridge of coastal mountains south of Jerusalem. The western slope receives most of the rain, but the eastern slope is dry, receiving less than 12 inches of rain per year. Much of it is barren, trackless wilderness described as 'desert,' ('eremos' in Greek). This is where young John roamed as a boy and then lived as a man -- separate, isolated from humankind. A Nazirite (1:15; Numbers 6:2-4), he lives out his vow to God in solitude and listens to God, as God prepared him to prepare a nation for the Messiah.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. John The Baptist - Forerunner of the Messiah

John the Baptist knew his role - to clear the path for the son of God. He did that job very well. He had many opportunities to take the center stage, but he didn't. We see a person with great humility and obedience in John the Baptist. The life of John the Baptist teaches us, "Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else." ....

This Sunday in Church

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (December 7)

Birth of John the Baptist

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_birth-of-john-the-baptist.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (December 7)

Sermons for the Birth of John the Baptist

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_birth-of-John-the-Baptist.htm

This Week's Features

4. Inspiration for Today

5. John the Baptist is Born

On the day of John's circumcision, his father was suddenly able to speak once again, and the first thing he spoke was praise to God. Soon after, the Holy Spirit spoke through him in a beautiful prophecy. If you listened to it closely, you probably noticed that the prophecy was more about Jesus than John. That's because Jesus was a million times more important than John. John was only a man made great by God. Jesus was God. Zechariah's prophecy revealed that it was God's plan for John to prepare the way for Jesus to begin His ministry. ...

6. Featured: Zechariah's Song: The Benedictus

So can we join Zechariah in singing his song of salvation, the blessed Benedictus? Oh yes. You don't have to have a son named John to do that. You just have to know the one whose way John prepared, namely, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In him, through faith in Christ, we can and we do sing, with great joy: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people." ...

7. Who was John the Baptist? (11 things to know)

John the Baptist is a mysterious figure in the New Testament.
He was famous in his own day, even before he became the herald of Christ.
We even know about him from outside the New Testament. ...

8. John The Baptist - Preparing the Way

Advent signals more than the coming of Jesus Christ. Advent is the coming of John the Baptist. This strange prophet calls out from the desert. He is a throw-back to the Old Testament, one more demanding desert preacher. God gives him a Word to speak that differs from the emperor, governor, and rulers of the day. John works the region on both sides of the river, out beyond the cities and the towns. He speaks a Holy Word when the official religious leaders apparently had little to say. ...

9. John The Baptist - A Prophet Who Prepares

Who is "John the Baptist" for us? Surely it is the Church, which Christ founded to prepare a people for him and draw us from darkness to light. But of course we experience the Church, not as an abstraction, but more locally in our Bishop, priests and deacons. Further we experience the Church in our parents and catechists. Through them all, the Church fulfills her mission to be a Prophet who prepares us. ...

10. Family Special: Rearing Good Kids

Maybe David was too busy. Maybe he didn't feel like his own sinful past gave him the right to enforce morality. For whatever reason, David didn't train his son Adonijah to become a man. He didn't correct him but instead spoiled him. And it cost them both dearly. ...

11. Recipe: Grilled Turkey Breast with Cranberry-Honey Mustard Pan Sauce

A great holiday entrée alternative for the smaller family.

12. About Malankara World

John The Baptist - Forerunner of the Messiah

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

Jesus Christ said of John the Baptist:

"Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist." - Matt. 11:11a (NIV)

That is the greatest complement from the second person of the Trinity - the Messiah. It shows the respect Jesus had for John the Baptist. St. John appears first in the bible in the infant narratives in St. Luke's Gospel and disappears from the scene quickly. In the church, we read about him twice during the advent - when the angel of God announce to Zechariah about his wife Elizabeth having a baby. We then read about him on his birth and circumcision. He fades from memory during the Christmas season. Then suddenly he reappears on the scene at the banks of Jordan River baptizing Jesus on January 6 (Denaha feast). On the following day (January 7), we read about the beheading and murder of St. John. He appears like lightening; but makes a big contribution and then swiftly disappears from the scene. St. John knew exactly what his role was. In fact he made it clear, "He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) What a life and what a person!! It reminds me of a quote by Tim Keller:

"Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else."

We never associate St. John with humility. But think about it. He led a model life, serving His master and disappearing from the scene so that the true God can take over without having Him overshadowed. Jesus Christ later said, "Whoever is the least of you will be the greatest in Heaven." Jesus also said, "If you want to be my disciple, you must take your cross and follow me." Yes, Christian life is not a bed of roses. It is a bed of thorns. St. John knew it and he gladly accepted his faith without compromising his principles, or his standards. So, he was not just the forerunner to Messiah, he was also the forerunner to the disciples and telling all of us what being a true disciple means.

We know that John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah. Our church recognize the importance of the mission of John the Baptist by the alter assistant (in charge of censoring) carrying a lit candle ahead of the priest at the opening of the public service of Qurbana representing the birth of Jesus Christ. (The candle ahead of the priest shows that St. John came ahead of Jesus,) The light disappears before the Gospel Reading symbolically showing the death (decrease) of John the Baptist when Jesus starts his public ministry.

Though his life was relatively short, St. John had a key role in the redemption plan. St. John fulfilled the prophesies and covenants about the forerunner to Messiah described in the Old Testament.

Prophet Isaiah had prophesied:

"A voice of one calling:
'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.'"

(Isaiah 40:3-5)

Then at the end of the Old Testament, Malachi prophesies the arrival of the forerunner to prepare the way:

"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the Lord Almighty."
(Malachi 3:1)

When the Gospel of Luke opens with all the infant narratives in Chapter 1, we note that 450 years had passed since the prophesy by Malachi about the arrival of the forerunner to Messiah. During this time, there hadn't been a word from God, there hadn't been any appearance of an angel, there hadn't even been a miracle. The people of Israel had almost lost hope for any salvation.

Suddenly things started happening at lightening speed - two miracle conceptions, two visits from the angel Gabriel right out of the throne room of heaven, messages from God. God is invading, God is visiting. The silence is broken.

The forerunner of Messiah is coming; his mission was to announce the arrival of Messiah and to prepare the way for him. Of course, the birth of John the Baptist, fulfills the prophesy of Malachi. Zechariah, the father of St. John, a scholar of Old Testament, understood the role of his son in the redemption plan of God. Looking at the seven day old son, Zechariah recognize that this baby is the one who will be like Elijah. He will come in the spirit and power of Elijah, as Gabriel told Zacharias back in Luke 1:17 (annunciation to Zechariah).

The people who came to witness the circumcision of the child experienced a miracle unfolding in front of their eyes. As soon as the baby is named John, as commanded by the angel before his conception, (The name John means 'Yahweh has shown favor' - a name which symbolizes the role of Saint John in the redemptive plans of God.), Zechariah, who had lost his power of speech 9 months ago when he questioned the angel at the annunciation, suddenly got his power of speech back. (His punishment was lifted when he obeyed God in naming the child.)

Luke 1:65-66 describes this scene beautifully:

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?"

"What, then, will this child be?" The people's question prepares the reader for the future - a common stylistic device of Saint Luke. Zechariah, inspired by Holy Spirit, prophesied:

"And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins."

(Luke 1:76-77)

Yes this child's role would be "to make ready (hetoimazo) a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). He will teach them about salvation through the forgiveness of sins. What an awesome role!!

Later, when John the Baptist enters his ministry, he is asked who he is. His answer:

"I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'"
- John 1:23

Notice the connection with Isaiah 40:3.

Luke's description of John the Baptist in the infant narratives concludes with one sentence which covers John's life from birth until he began his ministry:

"And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel"
(Luke 1:80).

We know what John the Baptist chose to do. Can we take a moment and imagine what he could have selected instead?

John was the son of a senior priest for whom one would have thought the religious establishment was central and essential. As Luke tells us, John "grew and became strong in the spirit." As the son of a priest, it would have been expected that he would become a priest. The priesthood in Ancient Judaism was hereditary. It was a great privilege to be a priest and only a privileged few could become one. John had a clear path to becoming a priest. Like his father, he would be expected to learn the rituals and to take his regular place in the rotation of priests serving in the sanctuary of the Jerusalem Temple. He had an opportunity to be at the very center of power in the Jewish religion. Instead, John retreated into "the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel."

While he was alive, John was recognized more than Jesus was. So, it would have been easy for John to take the center stage, or to steal the limelight. But he didn't. He knew Jesus was the God and it is his (John's) mission to clear the path for him (Jesus) to increase even if that means John must decrease. When his disciples asked John who Jesus was when he passed by, John said, "He is the lamb of God" and encouraged his disciples to follow Jesus instead of staying with him. When Jesus went to John to be baptized, John protested saying, he (John) must be baptized by Jesus, instead. What we see is a pattern of action by John to clear the way for Jesus. He had all the opportunity to take the limelight; but he didn't. That is humility and obedience. We see that in all advent stories. When Mary was told that she will be bearing the son of God, she was amazed by the great almighty coming to a handmaiden (slave girl) like her. When God raised her, she became more humble and lowered herself. James 4:10 states:

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

So, as we reflect on the story of John the Baptist and the lessons we learn from his life, let us remember the big lesson of this advent season:

"Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else. .. Salvation comes to those who admit how weak they are."
(From Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus by Tim Keller.)

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (December 7)
Sermons for This Sunday (December 7)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
"All we like have gone astray; and we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)

"Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." (Jeremiah 33:3)

"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleaneth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

John the Baptist is Born
Gospel: Luke 1:57-80

When new babies are born, people always make a fuss over them. If you've ever had a baby brother or sister born into your family, you may have felt like your mom and dad forgot about you for a little while. However, the fuss that was made over your baby brother or sister was nothing compared to the one that was made over John the Baptist when he was born. Everybody was talking about it for miles around---a baby had been born to an old woman! Plus, an angel had appeared to the baby's father, who had been unable to speak for nine months! Everyone who heard about it knew that Zechariah and Elizabeth had a special son for whom God had a special plan.

The people of Israel had been given many laws by God, one of which concerned baby boys. All of them were supposed to be circumcised on the eighth day of their lives. To be circumcised means to have a little piece of skin removed from a boy's private parts. It hurts for a little while, but quickly heals like any other cut. All the Israelite boys were supposed to be circumcised in order to mark them as being God's people. It showed that they belonged to God.

Like all other baby boys in Israel, John the Baptist was circumcised on the eighth day of his life, and that is when he was given the name John according to the instructions of the angel who appeared to his father. John means "God is very kind."

On the day of John's circumcision, his father was suddenly able to speak once again, and the first thing he spoke was praise to God. Soon after, the Holy Spirit spoke through him in a beautiful prophecy. If you listened to it closely, you probably noticed that the prophecy was more about Jesus than John. That's because Jesus was a million times more important than John. John was only a man made great by God. Jesus was God. Zechariah's prophecy revealed that it was God's plan for John to prepare the way for Jesus to begin His ministry.

What did Zechariah's prophecy say regarding Jesus? It revealed that Jesus was God. It said that God would visit His people (see Luke 1:68).

When He visited, God would redeem His people (see Luke 1:68). In the New Testament, the word redeem means to purchase someone's freedom from being a slave. Before we were born again, we were slaves to selfishness, sin and Satan.

Zechariah's prophecy also revealed that Jesus would be a mighty Savior (see Luke 1:69). We needed someone to save us from the penalty for our sins: eternal separation from God in hell. Through our Savior, our sins have been forgiven because of God's wonderful mercy (see Luke 1:77-78).

That Savior would be a descendant of King David, just as God had promised David a thousand years before (see Luke 1:69b-70).

Jesus would also save God's people from their enemies. Through Jesus, we've already been saved from our spiritual enemies: Satan and his evil spirits. They can't control us as they used to. Now, as Zechariah said, we can serve God without fear of them (see Luke 1:74). And one day, all of God's people will be saved from their physical enemies, when we live in God's eternal kingdom. There won't be anyone there who hates us.

The truth that Jesus would bring to the people of the earth would be like light coming down from heaven. No longer would we have to stumble around in darkness, not knowing where we are going. His truth would guide us into peace (see Luke 1:79). Aren't you glad that Jesus came?


Q. Is there any evidence in today's reading that Zechariah was not only temporarily mute, but also temporarily deaf?

A. Yes. Read Luke 1:62 closely. If Zechariah had been able to hear, his friends and relatives wouldn't have needed to communicate to him "by making gestures."

Q. If you were unable to speak for nine months, what would be the first words out of your mouth when your speech was restored? Why?

Application: Isn't it amazing that God had a plan for John's life even before he was born? Did you know that, according to Ephesians 2:10, God also had a plan for our lives even before we were born? All of God's children are somewhat like John the Baptist. Like John, our main job is to get people ready to meet the Lord.

Source: Family Style Devotions

Featured: Zechariah's Song: The Benedictus

by Charles Henrickson

Gospel: Luke 1:57-80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, "No; he shall be called John." And they said to her, "None of your relatives is called by this name." And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him.

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."

And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
Luke 1:57-80 (ESV)

We continue our Advent journey, heading toward Christmas. Today we see John preparing the way for Jesus even in his birth.

And John's father, Zechariah, has a song to sing about this, a song of praise to God for the birth of his son. This poetic piece is called the "Benedictus," "Benedictus" being the Latin word for "Blessed," which is how the canticle begins: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel," etc. Today we want to find out why Zechariah is praising the Lord God of Israel so, what his song is saying, and how Zechariah's song can be our song, too.

First, though, let's back up a bit. Who is this guy Zechariah, and what's the big deal about his being the father of John? Well, this fellow Zechariah was a priest serving in the temple in Jerusalem. One day he was in there, doing his priest thing, when all of a sudden an angel appears to him. "Whoa! This is different!" thinks Zechariah. People in the Bible generally are scared a bit when they encounter an angel, so the angel says, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah. I've got some good news for you. You know how you and your wife have always wanted to have a child, and you couldn't, because she wasn't able to have kids, and now you two are too old anyway? Well, guess what? Now you can, and you will! It's going to be a boy, and you're going to name him John. And God's going to have a special assignment for him."

The angel continues and tells Zechariah more about what God's calling will be on his son John's life: "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

Now this is a tall order for a little baby who hasn't even been born yet. Zechariah is having a little trouble taking all this in. Well, to be honest, he even doubts the angel's words. And so the angel, whose name is Gabriel, tells Zechariah he's going to be unable to speak for a while, until the child is born. Which is what happens.

Now we fast-forward nine months, and John indeed is born. God's word to Zechariah has been fulfilled. And now Zechariah's mouth is opened, his tongue is loosed, and he begins to praise God with this song we call the Benedictus. Zechariah has not been able to speak for nine months, but now he's got a mouthful to say, and it's all good. Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit, and he prophesies about what the birth of this child John means.

But the first half of the Benedictus does not deal with John per se. Instead, it deals with the broader picture, with God's overall plan. Zechariah starts out like this: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people." Well, that's good. When the Lord "visits" his people, that means he comes down and gets personally involved in their welfare. And when he "redeems" his people, that means he takes action to set them free. That the Lord has visited and redeemed his people is certainly something to praise God for.

Can we say that, too, what Zechariah said, that God has visited and redeemed us? Yes, I believe we can. As we shall see.

Zechariah continues: "and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us." A "horn" of salvation is a very biblical way to talk. The horn was a symbol of strength, like a ram's horn--although our Rams, the football team with the horn on the helmet, don't always seem so powerful. But a horn of salvation, as here, would be a very powerful instrument that the Lord has raised up to come to the rescue of his people.

And Zechariah says that the Lord has raised up such a horn now "in the house of his servant David." The house of David was the royal line of that old king, the line from which Israel's kings were to come, as prophesied so long ago. That royal line had been dormant for some centuries now. No Davidic king had actively reigned in Israel for hundreds of years. But the genealogical line was still producing descendants from the house of David--plenty of descendants, just no kings coming up. But now Zechariah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says that has changed now. He can't be referring to his own son, John. Since Zechariah was a priest, that means he was from the tribe of Levi, not the tribe of Judah, from which the royal house of David came. But somehow Zechariah is connecting the birth of his son John with the arrival of the great Davidic king, prophesied to be the Messiah who would be that mighty horn of salvation. What's the connection? Well, after the birth of John, about six months later, there would be another baby boy born, and that one would be from the house of David.

Zechariah continues: "to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days." Zechariah moves from the prophecy about David to God's promise to Abraham. Abraham came first, of course. The whole nation of Israel descends from him. The Lord God had made a covenant with Abraham. This covenant was a solemn promise God made when he chose Abraham and promised to make of him a great nation. The Lord promised to bless Abraham and to make him a blessing. And the Lord told Abraham that in him--that is, in his seed, in his offspring--all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And now that promise is coming to fruition. Again, not in the birth of John himself, but insofar as John would prepare the way of the one coming after him, the next baby to be born, Jesus.

Now after this first half of the Benedictus, which deals with the big picture of what God is doing, starting with the birth of John but going on to bigger things--now in the second half of the Benedictus, father Zechariah turns to his infant son and has some words specifically directed to him. He says: "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Parents may have certain hopes and dreams for their children when they are born, that they would grow up to do this or that, to take up a certain profession, to take over the family business, etc. But in baby John's case, father Zechariah had already received from the Lord a specific job description that his son would carry out. And what a special job it is! To be the forerunner of the Lord. To go before him to prepare his way. This is exactly what the adult John the Baptist would do. He came preaching salvation and the forgiveness of sins. He brought the tender mercy of God to his people by pointing people to the one coming after him, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Christ himself is the one bringing light into our darkness, the light that dispels the shadow of death.

What is that darkness, that deep dark shadow? It is the darkness of sin and death--the deadly, willful ignorance that we sinners have according to our fallen nature, that we do not know God aright or do his will as we ought. And that's where we would be stuck, were it not for the coming of Christ, whose way John prepared and whose arrival John announced.

But now Christ has come, and with him all of these wonderful things spoken of by Zechariah in the Benedictus, all the things John the Baptist heralded--all these have come to us in the person of Christ: redemption, salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the tender mercy of our God, the light that conquers darkness and death, and our feet being guided in the way of peace. What a marvelous treasure trove of blessing and God's gifts are packed into this Benedictus! Zechariah foresaw it and sang about it, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who revealed this to him. Baby John grew up and carried out his mission, to set the stage for the coming of the Christ.

And Jesus of course fulfilled it. He has redeemed us with his holy precious blood, setting us free from our bondage to sin and death. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. God has had mercy upon us and has given his only Son to die for us and for his sake forgives us all our sins. We have the light of the knowledge of God shining in our hearts, the Holy Spirit giving us the gift of faith through the preaching of the gospel. This is the light that dispels our darkness. This is the light of life that conquers death. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead--Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.

So can we join Zechariah in singing his song of salvation, the blessed Benedictus? Oh yes. You don't have to have a son named John to do that. You just have to know the one whose way John prepared, namely, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In him, through faith in Christ, we can and we do sing, with great joy: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people."

Who was John the Baptist? (11 things to know)

by Jimmy Akin

John the Baptist is a mysterious figure in the New Testament.

He was famous in his own day, even before he became the herald of Christ.

We even know about him from outside the New Testament.

His memorial is on August 29th.

Here are 11 things to know and share . . .

1) How was John the Baptist related to Jesus?

John was related to Jesus through their mothers. In Luke 1:36, Elizabeth is described as Mary's "kinswoman," meaning that they were related in some way through marriage or blood.

Most likely, it was a blood relationship, but neither a particularly close or distant one.

Elizabeth, being elderly, may have been an aunt, great-aunt, or one of the many types of "cousin." The precise relationship cannot be determined.

This means that Jesus and John were cousins in one or another senses of the term.

2) When did John the Baptist's ministry begin?

Luke gives us an extraordinarily precise date for the beginning of John's ministry. He writes:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar . . . the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins [Luke 3:1-3].

"The fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar" is most naturally understood as a reference to A.D. 29.

This is important also because Luke suggests that Jesus' ministry began shortly after John's did, which places the likely date of Jesus' baptism in A.D. 29 or early A.D. 30.

3) Why did John come baptizing?

Scripture presents us with several reasons.

He served as the forerunner or herald of the Messiah and was to prepare for him by fulfilling an Elijah-like role by calling the nation to repentance.

In keeping with that, he baptized people as a sign of their repentance.

He also came to identify and announce the Messiah. According to John the Baptist: "I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel" (John 1:31).

This identification was made when he baptized Jesus:

"I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
- John 1:32-34.

4) How did John's arrest affect Jesus?

The gospels indicate that the early ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus both took place in Judea, in the southern portion of Israel, near Jerusalem.

But John was arrested by Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Perea, which included part of the wilderness near Jerusalem.

This led Jesus to begin his ministry in Galilee:

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee [Mt. 4:12].

5) What does John have to teach us about on the job morals?

Quite a bit! He was quizzed by both tax-collectors and soldiers about what they needed to do to be right with God.

Both of these positions required cooperation with the Roman Empire, and they were wondering if they had to quit their jobs.

John tells them no, but to do their jobs in a righteous manner. This is important for us today as so many are required to cooperate with employers, states, and corporations that are—in part—engaged in immoral actions.

We read:

Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?"

And he said to them, "Collect no more than is appointed you."

Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?"

And he said to them, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages"
[Lk. 3:12-14].

6) Was John the Baptist Elijah reincarnated?

No. In Jesus' day, the scribes predicted that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah.

At one point Jesus was discussing John the Baptist and said, "if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come" (Matt. 11:14).

This has led some New Agers to assert that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah.

There are several problems with this. Not the least of them is that Elijah never died.

If you read 2 Kings 2:11, you'll see that—instead of dying—Elijah was assumed into heaven by a whirlwind (biblical text here).

Since Elijah never died, he could not be reincarnated.

By identifying John the Baptist as the "Elijah" who was to come, Jesus indicated that the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy was not meant to be taken in the literalistic way that the scribes of his day took it.

Elijah himself was not to return and go about Judaea, ministering to people. Instead, someone like Elijah was to appear and do this, and that person was John the Baptist.

7) How famous was John the Baptist in his own day?

It's easy for us to think of John the Baptist as simply the forerunner and herald of Christ, but he was quite famous in his own right.

Two points make this very clear:

1. The movement he began ended up having followers in distant lands.

2. We have information about him from outside the New Testament.

8) How did he get followers outside of Israel?

Apparently through the preaching of individuals who spread his message elsewhere.

One of these seems to have been Apollos, who later became a Christian evangelist.

According to Acts:

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures.

He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John
[Acts 18:24-25].

Apparently, Apollos had some knowledge of the connection between John the Baptist and the Messiah, but only limited knowledge. He did not know about Christian baptism and the difference between it and John's baptism.

Aquila and Priscilla gave him supplementary knowledge to complete his understanding of the Christian message (Acts 18:26-28), but word apparently did not get to all of his followers at first.

When St. Paul returned to Ephesus, he found about a dozen of his apparent disciples in Ephesus, who had heard of John's baptism but not Christian baptism and the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). These were apparently converts made by Apollos based on his knowledge of John the Baptist's movement, before he learned the full message of Christ.

9) Who killed John the Baptist?

That would be Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great, who inherited the regions of Galilee and Perea as his territories.

The gospels portray him as a complex man. For a start, he has an unlawful marriage. At some point, he apparently stole Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip.

That put him in opposition to John the Baptist, who opposed the union (Mark 6:18), leading Herod to arrest John (Matt. 14:3).

Although he had John in custody, and although his wife hated John and wanted him dead, Herod Antipas served as John's protector and had an unusual fascination with the fiery preacher: "Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly" (Mark 6:20).

Even John's death did not end Antipas's fascination with him. When he began to hear reports about Jesus, he thought Jesus might be John raised from the dead (Mark 6:14), and he sought to see Jesus for himself (Luke 9:9).

10) Why was John killed?

Herod Antipas's wife, Herodias, hated John with a passion. (Presumably for publicly criticizing her betrayal of her former husband—Herod Philip—and her marrying his brother.)

Eventually, after her daughter Salome delighted Antipas with a special dance at his birthday party, Herodias was able to manipulate him into giving the order for John's death by beheading (Mark 6:21-28).

11) Where do we learn of John the Baptist outside the New Testament?

In the Jewish historian Josephus. He records that one of Herod's armies was destroyed the A.D. 36 and states:

Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.

Now, when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late.

Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death.

Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure against him
[Antiquities 18:5:2].

The details of Josephus's account differ from the gospels'. He apparently was not aware of the role of Herodias and her daughter in the matter, or Herod's complex relationship with John, and attributes to him the standard suspicion of a prophetic leader that any ruler of the time might have.

The Christian community's awareness of more of the details likely came through a woman named Joanna, who was the wife of a man named Chuza, who was a steward of Herod Antipas and thus a court insider.

Joanna was one of the followers of Jesus (Luke 8:1-3), and it may well have been through her that the more detailed information comes through her.

About the Author:

Jimmy Akin is the author of "A Triumph and a Tragedy," published in 'Surprised by Truth'. He is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to This Rock magazine, and a weekly guest on "Catholic Answers Live."

Source: www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/

John The Baptist - Preparing the Way

by William G. Carter

Gospel: Luke 3:1-9

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
-
Luke 3:1-9

Advent signals more than the coming of Jesus Christ. Advent is the coming of John the Baptist. This strange prophet calls out from the desert. He is a throw-back to the Old Testament, one more demanding desert preacher. God gives him a Word to speak that differs from the emperor, governor, and rulers of the day. John works the region on both sides of the river, out beyond the cities and the towns. He speaks a Holy Word when the official religious leaders apparently had little to say.

All the Gospels say the people were ready for him. Of course, they were ready. When John the Baptist opened his mouth, God came out. God was on his lips. God was in his voice. And what people want more than anything else is to be in the presence of God.

I remember when my parents were invited by some neighbors to go and hear a traveling preacher. My sister and I were taken along, as I recall. We squeezed into the neighbors' car, all six of us, and went over the hills to the country church that our neighbors attended. I don't know where it was. I was little. From what I can piece together from that night, it must have been a revival. The old country folk in that church needed to be revived.

And when the preacher came out in a black suit and a glistening brow, he revived as many of those folk as he could. He worked pretty hard at it. I can't remember what he said, but I remember he was loud. He blew our hair straight back. He raised the temperature in the room. I was just a child, but I remember it was loud and scary – and I didn't want to leave.

Luke says there were crowds. Large numbers of people! They came to be washed by John. He didn't care who they were. He didn't waste any time reading their resumes. John yelled at whoever showed up. 'Who do you think you are, to show your face or tout your credentials?" he screamed. "Do you think God is going to give you a free pass to glory? Oh no, it's not free. It's going to cost you everything!"

And with that, the people came. They wanted to be in the presence of somebody who took God seriously. They wanted somebody who could cut through the nonsense and talk about something real. They came out to experience John the Baptist because it was just like experiencing God.

Now, I hesitate to say much about this. We are a long way from John. We sit on cushioned seats in a temperature-controlled room. Our music is well rehearsed. Everybody looks so respectable. This is such a contrast from John's sanctuary! In the desert there are no seats and certainly no thermostats. There was no music other than the scream of animals and the cry of human hearts. John spoke in such a situation of extremity. We can speak of him only from a distance. We are a long way from his desert.

But maybe not. Advent invites us to close the gap, to reflect on the same human hunger to experience God. When I consider John the Baptist and his habitat, I remember a few lines from poet T.S. Eliot. He knew there are many sorts of deserts in life, and some of them have nothing to do with sandy wastes and scorching sun. The poet says,

You neglect and belittle the desert.
The desert is not remote in southern tropics
The desert is not only around the corner,
The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,
The desert is in the heart of your brother. [1]

The barrenness is just that close. The howling wind, the wild exposure, the rawness of the elements – it is all right here, so close to so many of us. Every human heart knows the desert.

A few years ago, I felt the tug to spend a little desert time. A plane ticket took me to Albuquerque, a bus took me to Santa Fe, and a borrowed car took me to a red rock canyon. There is a monastery in the canyon, thirteen miles from nowhere. I wanted to know: what does it mean to go to the desert? To confront the barren wasteland that is all too familiar? I asked the brothers in the monastery; they smiled and kept their vow of silence. They waited a week before any of them said a word. They watched to see if I was serious – or if I was merely a tourist passing through.

On my final day, they told me what they gave up to go to the desert. One of them had been an engineer. He gave up a job researching solar energy in a laboratory. Another left behind a career as the development director of a major arts organization. A third didn't really have a job, he said, just drifted from one employment to another, and the impulse to join the desert monastery seemed to set him free from years of fumbling from one meaningless job to another. The engineer spoke up and said, "I was very good at my job, but the stress was killing me." The development officer said, "I raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for my organization, but it left me empty and hollow."

All of them gave up lives that had become numb, empty, and suffocating. Each one moved away from a life that paying very well but killing them in the process. They walked away – to seek life togethehttp://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/r in the desert. They pray, they share the chores, and they contribute their skills for the life of their small community.

That's what came to mind as I reflected on the words of John the Baptist, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." It is a real picture from first century agriculture. A vineyard owner would cull the grapevines that were not producing fruit by killing them. On the day when vines were to be dressed, the farmer would visit the field with a sharp axe. He would hack up the vine that produced nothing, that took up space and soil. It was smothering the other vines, taking away valuable resources, so it needed to go.

And when I recount the story of those three monks, they were confessing there was some part of their lives that was unproductive. It didn't amount to anything. It was dragging them down. It needed to go. And that gives me some insight into a very practical way for us to prepare the way of God to come to us.

For Advent, I suggest that we spend a little time doing an inventory of our souls. Is there a part of our lives that is dead and has no use? Maybe it's an ability that once we had, but we have let it wither, and all that remains is a faint trace. Or we encounter the young person who does it far better than we ever could; it may be time to let it go.

Or perhaps it is a memory that lingers with us. Say, for instance, a picture is fixed in our heads: "This is how Christmas is supposed to look. This is who should be there. This is how we are going to decorate. This is how we are going to dress. This is what we are going to do." But if we are truthful, Christmas has not been like that for a number of years. We are hanging onto a memory that does not work anymore; it may be time to let it go.

Or it might be an opinion that we hold of ourselves. We look into the mirror to say, "This is who I am, this is what I am about." But if we are completely honest, that is not who we are or what we are about. And it hasn't been, for a while. A small distortion has grown to be a delusion, and our reinforced messages are only holding us hostage. It may be time to let this go.

Or maybe, just maybe, there is some voice, a tempting voice, that repeats that we are now worthy of the love of God or the love of anybody else. The desert is a place of testing, of sorting through the voices that bombard us. Sometimes we may hear the parent or the teacher or the critic denouncing us, restricting us, reducing us, declaring, "You are nothing. Nobody loves you. You are a cosmic mistake." And if you give into that voice long enough, you will start to believe it. The voice of self-negation needs to be cut off. We have to let it go.

If Advent calls us to prepare a way for God to come, it calls us to the honesty of the desert. Is there some deadness in our branches, some withering piece of our spirit that we simply need to let go?

Maybe it's time to let go of the manufactured holiday. You know, the heavy burden of having to do all the shopping, go to all the parties, put up all the lights, bake up all the goodies, hang all the ornaments, send all the cards, get in touch with all the friends, and maintain all the traditions. Is there some part of this that doesn't give us any joy anymore? The old Christmas train carries a lot of freight, doesn't it? And if some part of this is smothering us, John the Baptist says, "Let me get my axe and bring it to that old dead vine."

Or maybe it's time to let go of the incessant spending. I'm the first one to get caught up in it. On Friday afternoon, I found myself with the first free hours of my week, so I swung into the parking lot of the Junk Emporium. That's the name of the store: the Junk Emporium. It has aisles and aisles of Christmas stuff. I piled my shopping cart full of stuff that I didn't want and do not need but planned to give to other people. I picked up gifts for some friends, a goofy gift for my dad, an even more ridiculous gift for my mother, and some very special gifts for my household that do not appear on their wish lists.

I labored to push my laden shopping cart out the door. It was so full that it was hard to push, and a man had to help me get the cart over the door frame. Then I realized who he was: he was the bell ringer from the Salvation Army that I had ignored on my way into the Junk Emporium. He, in turn, gazed into my loaded shopping cart, and looked up with disappointed eyes, as if to silently say, "Do you really need all this stuff? I'm ringing the bell for hungry people here. Do you really need all this stuff?"

Well, I pushed by him without saying a word, loaded up my sleigh, and flew home. And as I am carrying the bags into my house, I looked at what I bought, and asked, "Do I really need all this stuff?"

That's a good question for the desert. Having a shopping cart full of unnecessary stuff is not the same thing as being a tree with good fruit. Not at all.

John the Baptist runs the checkpoint on the road to God. He will not let any casual travelers pass. In fact, he directs us to the weighing station to check if we are carrying any unnecessary burdens that we need to drop. God sends John to make us pare down, to push us to focus, to claim the life that really is life. If there is something that holds us back from experiencing the simple joy of God, we have to let it go.

I'm thinking of my friend Carlos. He lives in the desert of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, a town damaged greatly by the hurricane. The Presbyterian Church that he serves as pastor will be housing up to thirty-six volunteers a day for the next four years. The volunteers will be helping that community to rebuild its life.

Carlos is well read. He suggests that Henry David Thoreau is a helpful guide for understanding John the Baptist and the call of the desert. Thoreau wrote a book called Walden, to reflect on some time he spent living in the Massachusetts desert. Here's what Thoreau says of his journey:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.[2]

Don't be afraid of the desert. That is where God meets us.

(c) William G. Carter. All rights reserved.

References:

[1] T.S. Eliot, "Choruses from 'The Rock,'" The Complete Poems and Plays (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1952), p. 98.

[2] Henry David Thoreau, Walden (Houghton Mifflin, 1854), p. 257.

John The Baptist - A Prophet Who Prepares

By: Msgr. Charles Pope

St. John the Baptist was the Prophet who fulfilled the Office of Elijah of whom it was said: See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction (Mal 4:4-6).

Therefore St. John is a prophet who prepared the people of his time for the coming of Jesus, by summoning them to repentance and opening them to the Kingdom of God in its fullness.

But of course the coming of Jesus for which St. John prepared them has been fulfilled. And thus, for us who ponder John's office, we need to realize that the coming of Christ for which we must be ready is his Second Coming.

Who is "John the Baptist" for us? Surely it is the Church, which Christ founded to prepare a people for him and draw us from darkness to light. But of course we experience the Church, not as an abstraction, but more locally in our Bishop, priests and deacons. Further we experience the Church in our parents and catechists. Through them all, the Church fulfills her mission to be a Prophet who prepares us.

And further, if you are prepared to accept it, YOU are also called to be a prophet who prepares others for the coming of Christ as judge. You do not work independent of the Church (at least you better not!). Rather the Church works through you.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of our prophetic office in the following way:

[the baptized] must profess before men the faith they have received from God through the Church" and participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the People of God. (CCC, 1270)

So, we have an obligation to evangelize and to be prophets in this world who prepare others for judgement day. We are called to go before the Judge who is to follow and prepare the hearts of people we know.

But how can we do this effectively? What are the some of the essential ingredients of being a prophet who prepares? The ministry of St. John the Baptist in today's Gospel provides four principles for prophets who prepare. Let's look at the elements that are displayed

I. Poise

Poise here refers to balance. The text says, John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Note the content of John's preaching is twofold. He first says, "Repent!" And then adds, "For the Kingdom of God is at hand."

Here is a balance to get right. The preacher and the prophet must speak frankly of sin and call people to repentance. But the prophet must also speak of the grace available to conquer that sin and the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven is now open and available. Hence John the Baptist is willing and able to declare the reality of sin and the necessity of repenting from it. But he is also able to declare the availability of the Kingdom wherein one is able to find the grace to overcome sin.

Too many preachers, catechists and even parents lack this balance. In the past, some argue, that sermons were all fire and brimstone. Today it is too often, the steady diet "God is love" with little reference to the need to repent. This is one explanation of why our Churches have emptied in the past 40 years.

This is because the good news only has relevance and significance if the bad news is first understood. If you don't know the bad news, the good news is no news. To illustrate, suppose you are looking at a newspaper and see a headline that announces a cure for a deadly disease has been found. But what if you have never heard of this disease and don't even know you have it? It is not likely you will read the article, it will be only of passing interest. But, now suppose you know of this disease, and that you have it, and you know others who have it. Suddenly this headline jumps out, is very relevant, causes joy and is an article to read very carefully by you! Because you know very personally the bad news of the disease, the good news of the cure now means everything to you.

It is the same with the Kingdom. We have to know the bad news of sin in a very personal and profound way if the Good News of Salvation is going to be appreciated. But in the Church we have lately soft-pedaled the bad news. Thus the Good News is irrelevant to people and the medicine of the cure is pointless. Why pray, receive sacraments or read scripture if everything is really fine? Why bother coming to Church for all that stuff? Hence our Churches have emptied, in part, due to a lack of the proper balance of repent and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

If we are going to be powerful and effective prophet we are going to have to be able to speak frankly to others about the reality of sin and balance it with the joyful announcement of the Kingdom with its grace and mercy now being available. Prophecy must be proper by having the right balance.

Notice the St. John the Baptist wasn't messing around and sugar-coating things. He was explicit, we need to repent or else. He spoke of a coming day of wrath and judgement for those who did not do so. He spoke of the axe being laid to the root of the tree. He spoke of fiery judgment, and unquenchable fire. And to the self-righteous he was not afraid to equate their pride with that of the ancient serpent, calling them vipers.

Too many are afraid to speak like this today, and therefore lack the balance necessary for a true preparing prophet. St. John joyfully announced the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God and the coming of the Messiah, but he spoke of repentance as the door of access. Do we have this balance, or do we preach mercy without repentance?

II. Product

The text says, At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

Here is the desired product of powerful prophecy: repentance unto salvation for all who believe. Prophets want to save people by drawing them to God's grace, this is goal, the salvation of souls! Preparing prophets do not seek merely to scare people, they seek to prepare people.

To repent, to come to a new mind and heart by God's grace, is to be prepared. This is the central work of the prophet who prepares and thus works to save others: repentance is unto salvation.

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this aspect of prophecy and preaching. He is aware that he grieved some of them due to a strong rebuke he gave the community (cf 1 Cor 5) but he is glad that it produced a godly sorrow which in turn produced repentance and holiness. He also distinguishes between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow:

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation [at sin], what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done…..By all this we are encouraged.
- 2 Cor 7:8-13

An old priest once told me, "Never think you have preached well unless the line to the confessional is long." Good preaching, among other things produces repentance unto salvation. It may cause some to be mad or sad, but if it is proper prophecy, it will produce a godly sorrow and the madness and sadness gives way to gladness. Here is the expected product of proper preaching: repentance unto salvation.

III. Purity

The text says: When [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

John the Baptist had no fear of people's opinion and would not compromise the message based on his audience. All the credentials of the temple leaders did not impress him. Neither did the status of the Jews as the chosen people cause him to soften his message. John had no fear of human opinion, no need for the good favor of others, especially the rich and powerful.

Because of this his preaching had purity. He did not compromise the message out of fear or the need to flatter others. He spoke boldly, plainly and with love and desire for the ultimate salvation of all. If that called for strong medicine he was willing to do it.

The ancient martyrs went to their death proclaiming Christ but many of us moderns are afraid even of someone raising their eyebrows at us. Fear is a great enemy of powerful prophecy for by it many remain silent when they should speak. The fear of what other people may think causes many to compromise the truth and even sin against it. This sort of fear has to go if our prophecy is going to have the purity necessary to reach the goal.

IV. Person

The text says, I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

John's audience and disciples were fascinated by him, and drawn by his charisma. But as they want to know more about him, John talks instead about Jesus. That's the message, "Jesus, not me." If we are going to be powerful prophets the message has got to be about Jesus, not about me and what I think. We are not out to win an argument and boost our own egos. We are not out to become famous. We are about Jesus Christ and his gospel, his message, his truth. John said of Jesus, "He must increase, I must decrease" (John 3:30). A prophet speaks for the Lord, not himself. A prophet announces God's agenda not his own. A prophet is about Jesus.

Here then are four Principles of Powerful Prophecy: Poise, Product, Purity, Person.

You are now a preparing prophet whom the Lord seeks. Someone was John the Baptist for you. Someone brought you to Christ. Thank God for that individual or those individuals. But you too are to be John the Baptist for others. Learn from John, apply his principles and make disciples for Jesus Christ.

Family Special: Rearing Good Kids

by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Stepping on Toes

His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, "Why have you done so?"
- 1 KINGS 1:6

Maybe he was too busy. Maybe he didn't feel like his own sinful past gave him the right to enforce morality. For whatever reason, the verse above tells us that David didn't train his son Adonijah to become a man. He didn't correct him but instead spoiled him. And it cost them both dearly.

Barbara and I learned a lot of lessons with our own six kids. These action points will serve you well along the way:

1. Ask questions.

Ask who they've been talking to on the phone. Find out who their friends are. When they are teenagers, make them tell you
where they went on their dates and who they hung out with. Don't be bashful about checking up on them.

2. Avoid isolation.

As children grow older, they start wanting more space, which is fine within limits. But they'll push you away altogether if you let them. What they need is not distance but a relationship with wise counselors—their parents.

3. Believe in them.

The teenage years are especially clouded with self-doubt and insecurities, and the social pecking order in junior high and high school can be brutal. Express your belief and confidence in your children as often as you can.

4. Establish boundaries.

Determine where they can go. When they need to be home. What movies they can watch. What they can wear. God has given you the assignment of drawing lines and boxes—and to inspect what you expect.

5. Confront sin.

Kids need parents who will restrain them from evil, loving them enough to watch carefully and discipline faithfully.

David lost his son because he refused to make him face the consequences of his choices. Don't let it happen in your house.

DISCUSS

In your family, which of the five action points is a strength? A weakness? Talk about how you are going to team up to do a better job as a couple.

PRAY

Ask for the courage to keep pressing in, even when your kids push back. Pray for consistency to correct and train, even when they don't appear to be listening.

Source: Moments with You

Recipe: Grilled Turkey Breast with Cranberry-Honey Mustard Pan Sauce

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

A great holiday entrée alternative for the smaller family.

Grilled Turkey Breast with Cranberry-Honey Mustard Pan Sauce

by Chef Jonathan

Ingredients:

Turkey Breast:

½ teaspoon Iodized Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ teaspoon Onion Powder
½ teaspoon Paprika
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
48 ounces Boneless Turkey Breast, thawed

Cranberry-Honey Mustard:

2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
1 cup cranberries, frozen
¼ cup Honey
¼ cup Dijon Mustard
2 cups Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Preheat oven to 350°.

For turkey breast:

In a medium bowl, combine salt, pepper, 2 teaspoons sage, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and oil.

Place turkey breast skin side down on a cutting board. Remove netting. Using a boning knife or sharp knife, butterfly turkey breast if thickness is over ½-inch. Apply spice mixture to both sides of turkey breast pieces.

Grill turkey breast for 2 minutes, rotate 90 degrees. Flip turkey breast over and repeat. Transfer turkey breast to a sheet pan and finish cooking in oven for 40 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°.

For cranberry-honey mustard:

In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, cook the 2 teaspoons sage, cranberries, honey and Dijon mustard until the cranberry skins pop, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half or coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes.

Remove turkey from oven and place on a carving board. Lightly tent with foil for 10 minutes. Slice turkey breast on a bias and serve with pan sauce.

Yield: Servings: 4

Recipe Courtesy of Chef Jonathan, ALDI Test Kitchen

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