Jesse Tree Day 20: The Birth of Saint John the Baptist

If you’ve been grumpy at me for illustrating the Old Testament so much for our Jesse Tree Advent devotional… fear not! Because now we’re in the New Testament. And so today, we take a look at the miraculous circumstances in which St. John the Baptist was born.

The Birth of Saint John the Baptist

A Reading from the Book of Luke (Luke 1:5-25, 1:57-64)

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zachary, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth.

And they were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame.

And they had no son, for that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years.

Portrait of Zacharias and Elizabeth, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.
Portrait of Zacharias and Elizabeth, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.

And it came to pass, when he executed the priestly function in the order of his course before God,

According to the custom of the priestly office, it was his lot to offer incense, going into the temple of the Lord.

Panel with the Angel Appearing to Zacharias, by Domingo Ram, c. 1464–1507.
Panel with the Angel Appearing to Zacharias, by Domingo Ram, c. 1464–1507.

And all the multitude of the people was praying without, at the hour of incense.

And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the alter of incense.

And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

The Annunciation to Zacharias, by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1455–60. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.
The Annunciation to Zacharias, by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1455–60. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.

But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John:

And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity.

For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.

And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.

The Angel Appearing to Zacharias, by William Blake, c. 1799-1800. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.
The Angel Appearing to Zacharias, by William Blake, c. 1799-1800. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.

And Zachary said to the angel: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.

The Angel Appears to Zacharias, by Alexander Ivanov, c. 1850s. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
The Angel Appears to Zacharias, by Alexander Ivanov, c. 1850s. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

And the angel answering, said to him: I am Gabriel, who stand before God: and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings.

And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time.

The Vision of Zacharias, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.
The Vision of Zacharias, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.

And the people were waiting for Zachary; and they wondered that he tarried so long in the temple.

And when he came out, he could not speak to them: and they understood that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he made signs to them, and remained dumb.

Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1490. Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence, Italy.
Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1490. Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence, Italy.

And it came to pass, after the days of his office were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

And after those days, Elizabeth his wife conceived, and hid herself five months, saying:

Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he hath had regard to take away my reproach among men.

The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, c. 19th century. Museum of National History, Frederiksborg Slot, Hillerød, Denmark. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, c. 19th century. Museum of National History, Frederiksborg Slot, Hillerød, Denmark.

Now Elizabeth’s full time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son.

And her neighbours and kinsfolks heard that the Lord had shewed his great mercy towards her, and they congratulated with her.

And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called him by his father’s name Zachary.

The Birth, Naming, and Circumcision of Saint John the Baptist, by Giovanni Baronzio, c. 1335. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States.
The Birth, Naming, and Circumcision of Saint John the Baptist, by Giovanni Baronzio, c. 1335. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States.

And his mother answering, said: Not so; but he shall be called John.

And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.

The Birth and Naming of St. John the Baptist, by Barent Fabritius, c. 1660-69. Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.
The Birth and Naming of St. John the Baptist, by Barent Fabritius, c. 1660-69. Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.

And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.

And demanding a writing table, he wrote, saying: John is his name. And they all wondered.

And immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.

Zechariah Writes Down the Name of His Son, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1490. Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence, Italy.
Zechariah Writes Down the Name of His Son, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1490. Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence, Italy.

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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