The Baptist 


THE Bible tells us of two very noted men by the name of John, who lived in the time of Christ. One was called "the beloved disciple," because his disposition was so gentle and yet so noble that Jesus had a special love for him; the other was called "the Baptist," because he baptized so many people.

John the Baptist was born in what was called the Hill Country of Judea. This country lies south and southwest of Jerusalem, and, although hilly and quite broken, it was, in many parts at least beautiful and productive. The plains were rich with grain, and the hillsides were terraced, watered, and planted with vines, figs, olives, and pomegranates.

Somewhere in this country, lived Zachariah, and his wife Elizabeth. Zachariah was one of the priests, whose duty it was to serve a part of the time in the temple. 

The priests were divided into sets, called courses, and when one course had served a few days, another set took their place, and so on throughout the year.

At one time, when Zachariah was ministering in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, and told him that he should have a son. Now Zachariah and Elizabeth were old people, and had never had any children; so, although Zachariah probably desired a son more than anything else, he could not believe that what the angel promised would come to pass. Then the angel "answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God, and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings; and behold thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words."

Now what the angel had to say was not called glad tidings just because Zachariah and Elizabeth would be glad to have a son, but because that son was to do a special work for the Lord. He was to proclaim that the coming of Jesus as the Redeemer of the world was nigh at hand, and, by teaching the people, to prepare them to receive Jesus as their Saviour when he should come.

Gabriel told Zachariah all these things. 

He said, "Thou shalt call his name John, and thou shalt have joy and gladness; . . .for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, . . .and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost."

"And the people waited for Zachariah, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless."

The angel's words all proved true; and when John grew to be a man, he went out to preach. As we go east and southeast from Jerusalem, we soon come to a barren, rocky region that extends all the way to the Dead Sea. There is hardly a tree to be seen, and scarcely any bushes, except on the steep, rugged sides of the wild ravines, which are frightfully deep, and afford a passage for torrents and small streams. During the rainy season these streams are turbulent, and as we stand on the rocks above, we can look down, down, hundreds of feet, into the chasm below, and see the water roaring and dashing among the ragged rocks at the bottom. 

But these streams are not generally fed by springs, and when the dry season comes on, they grow smaller and smaller until most of them entirely disappear, leaving nothing but a gravelly torrent-bed where they once rushed on so furiously.

On the sides of these ravines, and from the crevices of the rocks, grow bushes and many wild flowers. From the flowers, bees make honey, and since they can find no better place, they lay it up on the sides of the rock.

This wild region is called the Wilderness of Judea, and here John went to preach. There were no houses, villages, or cities; but the people left the towns, and went out to hear him. At night he slept on the ground. He was dressed in a garment woven from camel's hair, and his food was wild honey, and such fruits as could be found growing along the ravines.