John the Baptist is one of the most significant and well known figures in the Bible.While John was known as “the Baptist,” he was in fact the first prophet called by God since Malachi some 400 years earlier. John’s coming was foretold over 700 years previously by another prophet: “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). This passage illustrates God’s master plan in action as God selected John to be His special ambassador to proclaim His own coming.
Although his name implies that he baptised people (which he did), John’s life on earth was more than just baptising. John’s adult life was characterised by devotion and surrender to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. John’s voice was a “lone voice in the wilderness” (John 1:23) as he proclaimed the coming of the Messiah to a people who desperately needed a Saviour. He was the precursor for the modern day evangelist as he unashamedly shared the good news of Jesus Christ. He was a man filled with faith and a role model to those of us who wish to share our faith with others.
John’s birth was miraculous. He was born of elderly parents who had never been able to have children (Luke 1:7). The angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah that he would have a son and true to the word of the Lord, Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to John. At the circumcision ceremony, Zechariah said about his son, “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” (Luke1:76).
John was related to Jesus, as their mothers were cousins (Luke 1:36). In fact, when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, he also told her about John. When Mary was carrying Jesus in her womb, she visited Elizabeth, and John leapt in his mother’s womb for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice (Luke 1:39-45).
As an adult John lived a rugged life in the mountainous area of Judea, between the city of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. He wore clothes made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, the typical garb of a prophet. His diet was a simple one, locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). John lived a simple life as he focused on the kingdom work set before him.
John the Baptist’s ministry grew in popularity, as recounted in Matthew 3:5–6: “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River.” To be baptised by John was to admit your sin and repent of it, to be prepared for the Saviour’s coming. The repentance associated with John’s baptism also kept the self righteous out of the water, as they did not see themselves as sinners. For the self righteous, John had stern words, calling them a “brood of vipers” and warning them not to rely on their Jewish lineage for salvation, but to repent and “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7–10). People of that day simply did not address leaders, religious or otherwise, in this manner for fear of punishment. But John’s faith made him fearless in the face of opposition.
John the Baptist was thought to be a prophet of God (Matthew 14:5), and many people thought that he was the Messiah. However, he had a clear vision for what he was called to do. In John 3:28, John says, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.'” John cautioned his disciples that what they had seen and heard from him was just the beginning of the miracle that was to come in the form of Jesus Christ. John was merely a messenger sent by God to proclaim the truth. His message was simple and direct: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). He knew that, once Jesus appeared on the scene, John’s work would be all but finished. He willingly gave up the spotlight to Jesus, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).
Perhaps there is no greater example of humility than what is seen in both Jesus and John in Matthew 3:13–15. Jesus came from Galilee to be baptised by John in the River Jordan. John rightly recognised that the sinless Son of God needed no baptism of repentance and that he was certainly not worthy to baptise his own Saviour. However Jesus answered John’s concern by requesting baptism “to fulfill all righteousness,” meaning that He was identifying Himself with sinners for whom He would ultimately sacrifice Himself, thereby securing all righteousness for them (2 Corinthians 5:21). In humility, John obeyed and consented to baptise Jesus (Matthew 3:13–15). As Jesus came up out of the water, “heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (verses 16–17).
John the Baptist’s ministry, and his life, came to an abrupt end at the hand of King Herod. He was tricked into beheading John by the daughter off Herodias. It was a sad and ignoble end to the life of such a faithful man.
The life of Job demonstrates that humans are often unaware of the many ways God is at work in the life of each believer. Job’s life is also one that prompts the common question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It is the age old question, and difficult to answer, but believers know that God is always in control, and, no matter what happens, there are no coincidences; nothing happens by chance. Job was a believer. He knew that God was on the throne and in total control, though he had no way of knowing why so many terrible tragedies were occurring in his life.
Job was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). He had ten children and was a man of great wealth. The Bible tells us that one day Satan presented himself before God and God asked Satan what he thought of Job. Satan accused Job of honouring God only because God had blessed him. So, God allowed Satan to take away Job’s wealth and his children. Later, God allowed Satan to afflict Job physically. Job grieved deeply but did not charge God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22; 42:7–8).
Job’s friends were certain that Job must have sinned in order to deserve punishment and argued with him about it. But Job maintained his innocence, though he confessed that he wanted to die and did ask questions of God. A younger man, Elihu, attempted to speak on God’s behalf before God, Himself, answered Job. Job 38—42 contains some of the most stunning poetry about the magnitude and might of God. Job responded to God’s discourse in humility and repentance, saying he had spoken of things he did not know (Job 40:3–5; 42:1–6). God told Job’s friends that He was angry with them for speaking falsehoods about Him, unlike Job who had spoken truth (Job 42:7–8). God told them to offer sacrifices and that Job would pray on their behalf and God would accept Job’s prayer. Job did so, likely forgiving his friends for their harshness himself. God restored Job’s fortunes two fold (Job 42:10) and “blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (Job 42:12). Job lived 140 years after his suffering.
Job never lost his faith in God, even under the most heartbreaking circumstances that tested him to his core. Though depressed enough to curse the day of his birth (Job 3:1–26), Job never cursed God (Job 2:9–10) nor did he waver in his understanding that God was still in control. Job’s three friends, on the other hand, instead of comforting him, gave him bad advice and even accused him of committing sins so grievous that God was punishing him with misery. Job knew God well enough to know that He did not work that way; in fact, he had such an intimate, personal relationship with Him that he was able to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” (Job 13:15). When Job’s wife suggested he curse God and die, Job replied “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).
Job knew who his Redeemer was, he knew that He was a living Saviour, and he knew that someday He would physically stand on the earth (Job 19:25). He understood that man’s days are ordained (numbered) and they cannot be changed (Job 14:5). The spiritual depth of Job shows throughout the book. James refers to Job as an example of perseverance, writing, “Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10–11).
Our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will, whether we understand it or not. When we do, we will find God in the midst of our trials—possibly even because of our trials. We will see more clearly the magnificence of our God, and we will say, with Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).
The Armenian Church celebrates the feast day of these two unlikely pairings on the same day. One comes from the Old Testament, the other from the New. One was a comfortable man of the world who was stripped of every blessing he had. The other was a man who rejected the world, who voluntarily cast off the material comforts of life.
John and Job are opposites in so many ways. Yet what they held in common was vastly more important.
Each was a voice crying out in a wilderness. Each stood in a desert of material poverty: comfortless and even friendless; stripped of all worldly pretension. Yet even in such a state, John and Job testified with all their heart that they were not alone. God was with them, and in the end, that was the only thing that mattered.