Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today we remember the birth of John the Baptist as a preview of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. John, Jesus' cousin, was born six months earlier, so six months before December 24 is June 24.
There are parallels between the stories of John and Jesus. The birth of both were announced by an angel. The archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that she is going to conceive a child by the Holy Spirit. Also Zecharailah, the father of Juan and a priest in the temple, was doing his duties as a priest when the angel appeared.
"But the angel said unto him, Zacharias, fear not; for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call his name John. And you shall have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. "
But, it was difficult for Zechariah to believe, no matter the appearance of a powerful angel in the temple. "And Zacharias said to the angel: How will I know this? Because I am old, and my wife is elderly. And the angel answered and said to him, I am Gabriel, who am before God; and I am sent to speak to you and give you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and you will not be able to speak, until the day this is done, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time. "
Note the difference. When Gabriel announced her pregnancy to Maria, she answered, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word. " But Zechariah did not believe, so he was made mute. But, it seems that he communicated with his wife with a tablet, because in our text for today, they were in agreement about the name of their son. The angel commanded Mary and Joseph to name the child Jesus and Zechariah to name his son John.
"And to Elisabeth the time of her delivery was fulfilled, and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbors and her relatives heard that God had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him by the name of his father, Zechariah. And answering his mother, said: No; but John he will be called. And they said to her: There is no one in your family that is called by that name. Then they signaled to his father, asking him how he wanted to call him. And asking for a tablet, he wrote, saying: Juan is his name. And everyone was amazed. "
Jesus is a name that in Hebrew means "The Lord is my Savior" or "The Lord saves me." John means, "The Lord has shown His favor." At that time, as today, John was a common name, however, no other in the family had the name Juan.
It is true, with these parallels, Juan was someone important. With one foot in the old covenant and another foot in the new covenant, John prepared the way for Jesus. He was the last of the prophets of the Old Testament, of whom Malachi prophesied: "Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes" (Malachi 4: 4-6). Then, when Jesus began His public ministry, John turned over to Jesus his ministry, which was fulfilled and extended in the ministry of Jesus.
There are parallels between the life of John and those of the other Old Testament prophets as well. Juan was born to a sterile woman. Also Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was barren before receiving the announcement of a son from the Lord. Even more pertinent, the mothers of Samson and Samuel prayed to God for a son and promised that their children would be dedicated to the service of the Lord. Therefore, they were Nazarites, men dedicated to the Lord from their conception and John also. The Nazarites did not touch alcohol, nor cut their hair, and lived in a simple way. So with John of whom the Pharisees complained, this man does not mix with others, neither eats nor drinks. Then, they criticized Jesus for eating and drinking with sinners. Then, Jesus asked them, What do you want?
The Pharisees did not like John because he called all the people to repentance and baptism in the Jordan River as a rite of purification. The Jews practiced a type of baptism for the purification of sins they knew they had done. But, the baptism of all means all have sinned and are by nature sinful. This idea the Pharisees rejected.
Jesus continued the call to repentance with something else. John preached the Law of God and the need for repentance, but also, like the other prophets, pointed to the Messiah, the Savior who would win forgiveness for all. The baptism of John was a symbol of repentance, but it did not guarantee God's forgiveness. Therefore, when Jesus came to John to be baptized in the Jordan River, John told Him, "I deserve to be baptized by you." Never mind, Jesus commanded him to do so to fulfill God's will. When the voice of the Father spoke of heaven, and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, the public ministry of Jesus began. This ministry ended in His death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day. After the resurrection Jesus authorized His disciples to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in the baptism of Jesus we have the guarantee of forgiveness and eternal life.
Like all the prophets of the Old Testament, John had part of the Word of God, including the promise of the Savior, but an unknown Savior. To John this Savior came in His very person, the person of Jesus Christ. So, in the baptism of Jesus we have not only simple water, but water linked with the complete Word of God, the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Then John was imprisoned and murdered by King Herod, because John preached the Law of God against Herod. The death of John made way for his disciples to be converted to disciples of Jesus to receive all the gifts of God in the baptism of Jesus.
Now, we must repent and confess our sins before receiving the baptism and the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper. There is no forgiveness without repentance, because that does not make sense. However, with repentance, we have everything, because Christ has done everything for us. Then, repentance does not prepare us to receive the Savior. When we recognize our sins, we receive the gifts of God with joy and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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