The Relationship Between Jesus And John The Baptist Explained

Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist are two of the important figures from the New Testament, and some would argue in all of history. While most of what we know about the life of Jesus can be found in the New Testament, there is little doubt that he existed, per The Guardian. We know less about John the Baptist, but the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Book of Acts give us a little insight into his life. 

Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also wrote about both men in his collection, the "Antiquities of the Jews." Per Christian Classics Ethereal Library, he called Jesus "Christ," adding that he was "a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works," and he wrote that John the Baptist a "good man" who "commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety toward God."

John the Baptist and Jesus were related

There isn't much written about the early life of Jesus or John the Baptist. However, many believe that the men were related. Mary was the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth was John's mother. Per Bible Gateway, the Good Book describes Elizabeth and Mary as relatives, with some versions calling Elizabeth Mary's "cousin," "kinswoman," or simply "relative." The National Catholic Register theorizes that the two women were related by blood, surmising that Jesus and John were likely cousins.

Jesus and John the Baptist share an unusual similarity in that angels foretold their birth. The Gospel of Luke states that an angel told John's father, Zechariah, that his wife would bear him a son, and that the child would be "great in the sight of the Lord." When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, an angel also visited Mary, telling her that her son would be called the Son of the Most High. When Mary told Elizabeth about her visit from the angel, the baby jumped in Elizabeth's womb, according to the Gospel of Luke. From this account, it is estimated that Jesus was around six months older than John.

John was the forerunner to Jesus

Throughout John the Baptist's ministry, many people believed that he might have been the Messiah, but the Gospel of Luke explains that he told his followers that there was one who was more powerful than him, and he was not worthy of untying his sandals. John also told them while he was baptized with water, the Messiah would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire. The Gospel of John also states that John came as a witness "so that through him all might believe."

Many experts believe that John spent his younger years in the Judean desert, and this time prepared him for his ministry. In addition, he probably grew up learning the Jewish religion because his father, Zechariah, was a priest in the Abijah community, according to Learn Religions. He was most likely raised as a Nazarite because Luke writes that he would never drink alcohol. Many experts think he emerged from the wilderness to prepare a way for Jesus, as Matthew recounts.

John baptized Jesus

It is widely accepted that John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. John told the people that Jesus was the son of God and reinforced this message after he baptized him. The Gospel of John states that John the Baptist said he saw the Spirit of God come down from heaven and fall on Jesus before declaring him "God's Chosen One." Matthew writes that a voice came down from heaven and said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

After being baptized, Jesus went into the desert and fasted for 40 days and nights, and after that, he began his public ministry (via Biography). Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin L. Micheal White states that he believes that Jesus' baptism by John was significant because it symbolized an act of purity — or cleansing — that made a person right with God, per PBS.

Both men preached about the kingdom of God

Jesus and John the Baptist preached about the kingdom of God and the importance of repentance. Matthew writes that Jesus went throughout Galilee, "teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom." Luke explains that Jesus told the people that he was sent to proclaim the word of God. Even after John the Baptist was imprisoned, Mark states that while Jesus was in Galilee, he was "proclaiming the good news of God" and urging his followers to repent. 

John the Baptist's name describes what he was most known for — baptizing people. The BBC reports that John was the first Jew to use the act of baptizing as a symbol of forgiveness from sin. But that is not all that he did. He also taught his followers about the final judgment of God and urged them to repent for their sins, according to Britannica

Both men were murdered

Jesus and John the Baptist put many religious leaders on edge. According to the Gospel Of Luke, many people believed Jesus was subverting the nation because he claimed to be the Messiah. Mark writes that Pilate turned Jesus over to be crucified to satisfy the people.

According to the writings of Josephus, John the Baptist was killed shortly after he baptized Jesus (via History). The murder took place at a palace of Machaerus, where Herod Antipas, son of King Herod, lived. Herod had John arrested and taken to prison after he claimed King Herod's marriage to Herodias was illegal because she was once married to King Herod's brother, Philip. Matthew writes that King Herod wanted to kill John because he was popular, but he was afraid of how the people would respond. However, this changed after his stepdaughter (Herodias' daughter) requested John's head on a platter as a birthday gift, according to Matthew.