Today is the festival of the Birth (Nativity) of St John the Baptist. Even APBA has a festival office for the occasion. It is, as a personal note, the liturgical date that I started by journey within the Roman Catholic Church which came to an end almost 12 years later. There is something about that but that is for another post.
John is a hermit-like figure. In iconography, he often has the wings of a messenger and he carries his own decapitated head, a sign of his martyrdom at the hands of Herod. John’s task is to proclaim Jesus knowing that, like Jesus, that will cost his life.
The New Testament illustrates this connection. Mark’s gospel starts with John but quickly moves to Jesus. But there is bridge between the two ministries.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”Mark 1:14-15
The verb which is used for John’s arrest is the same verb that is used during Jesus’ passion. I think Mark wants us to draw the connection: John shares in Jesus’ cross with his own life. From the outset, he is a martyr – a witness of Jesus in his life. For John that becomes a truth – he is killed for Jesus. But there is a vital connection to my life:
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.Mark 1:16-20
The previous passage is followed by the calling of the first disciples in Mark’s gospel. It is interesting that John’s call to martyrdom – call to be a witness in his life – is followed by Jesus saying, “Follow me”. The call of faith is to face Jesus’ cross and my own cross. The call is one to sacrificial living as a witness of Jesus.
So blessed feast to all!!!