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John the Baptist We are given the story of the ministry of John the Baptist called the Precursor or Forerunner of the Lord with some variation of detail in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew Mark and Luke as well as in the Book of John Luke tells us of the birth of John the Baptist in a town of Judaea about six months before the birth of the Saviour The attendant circumstances which we have already recounted under the headings of St Elizabeth and St Zachary his parents suggest the miraculous and wonderful The New Testament tells us nothing of Johns early years but we know that his pious virtuous parents must have reared the boy with care conscious always of the important work to which he was appointed and imbuing him with a sense of his destiny When John began final preparations for his mission he was probably in his thirty-second year He withdrew into the harsh rocky desert beyond the Jordan to fast and pray as was the ancient custom of holy men We are told that he kept himself alive by eating locusts and wild honey and wore a rough garment of camels hair tied with a leathern girdle When he came back to start preaching in the villages of Judaea he was haggard and uncouth but his eyes burned with zeal and his voice carried deep conviction The Jews were accustomed to preachers and prophets who gave no thought to outward appearances and they accepted John at once the times were troubled and the people yearned for reassurance and comfort So transcendant was the power emanating from the holy man that after hearing him many believed he was indeed the long-awaited Messiah John quickly put them right saying he had come only to prepare the way and that he was not worthy to unloose the Masters sandals Although his preaching and baptizing continued for some months during
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