St. John the Baptist's life is one of the best-known in history.
St. John was born before sometime before 1 AD. He was the cousin of Jesus Christ, and the son of Zachary and Elizabeth, a descendent of Aaron. John was, therefore, a member of a leading priestly family. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, an angel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit. Zachary was struck dumb, and said no more until his son was born.
John was filled with the Holy Spirit. John began his ministry as a young man. He went into the wilderness around Jerusalem. Here, he wore a leather belt and a shirt made of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey. Soon, people were drawn to this remarkable man. He preached that the people should repent of their sins. John introduced the concept of baptism as a way of cleansing a person of their sins. He attracted many followers, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. Many scholars believe that he influenced his cousin. He baptized Christ in the River Jordan, after which he stepped away and told his disciples to follow Jesus. St. John was perhaps the first to recognize his cousin as the Messiah.
St. John the Baptist was very popular, and this drew him to the attention of King Herod. The King had him imprisoned. On Herod's birthday, Herodias's daughter Salome danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that, in his drunkenness, he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When the daughter asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Salome’s mother hated the saint for denouncing her sins and debauched lifestyle. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.
The remains of St. John the Baptist were buried on the Mount of Olives.
There are many relics of the saint in churches throughout Europe. His relics have helped many of the afflicted down through the centuries. The hand of St. John the Baptist, in the Monastery of Athos, has helped many people recover from illness.
St. John the Baptist was a forerunner of Jesus. He placed a great emphasis on the forgiveness of sins:
“Repent Ye, the kingdom of God is at hand!”