Saint John the Baptist

This Sunday commemorates the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. As you probably know, “the Baptist” was not his last name. “Duh!”, you might say. Nor did he belong to a group called “the Baptists”. Nope. That denomination did not start until the 1630s. They were a group in America that fractured over “free will in conversion”; believing that man, naturally, has a spiritual “spark” of “good” in him. (Yeah, right ☹) Anyway, from the original Greek language (in which the New Testament was written), John’s name was literally “John the Baptizer”.

John, as you may know, was known for baptizing people “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1: 4). He had been called by God in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Mark 1: 2-4 Isaiah 40:3) to “prepare” the “way of the Lord” by “preaching and baptizing”. People seemed to flock to him at the beginning; even though he had a weird dress (camel’s hair, very scratchy) and had a peculiar diet (locusts….yuch). But remember that the Jewish leaders had come up with many extra spiritual “laws”, outside of the Bible. The Jews, undoubtedly, just wanted to hear the basic truth and, especially, be comforted by God’s Word.

But when John (the baptizer) started preaching against King Herod’s living in sin with his sister-in-law things changed. Bad “P.R.” was not taken as lightly by politicians back then and Herod’s sister-in-law’s daughter demanded that they cut John’s head off. This, after Herod had (basically) offered her “anything”. Most of us would have said, “Take a hike, sister!” but not Herod. He bowed to her demand because of the nobles and officers he had invited to the party. Wow….Pride over death.

We, in the Lutheran church, have had many martyrs for the faith. Countless souls chose death rather than deny the faith. Rev. Robert Barnes, an Englishman, was the first Lutheran martyr; burned to death by the Church of England on July 30, 1540. Barnes’ final confession remained true to his Lutheran beliefs: 😊

“There is none other satisfaction unto the Father, but this [Christ’s] death and passion only… That no work of man did deserve anything of God, but only [Christ’s] passion, as touching our justification… For I knowledge the best work that ever I did is unpure and unperfect… Wherefore I trust in no good work that ever I did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ.”  He and John the Baptist were led by the love of God in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. May we find such courage to face every day and, if it is God’s will, to die for the faith one day. May His will be done. In Jesus’ Name,

Rev. William C. Mack
Christ the Rock Lutheran Church