John the Baptist was aware the Messiah was coming after him, and His identity was revealed (or rather, confirmed) to him in the Jordan though a voice from Heaven.

And yet, it seems John the Baptist did not became one of Jesus's many disciples, nor was he chosen by Jesus as one of the Twelve (whereas two of John's disciples did follow Jesus, one being identified as Andrew). It seemed like they had different tasks altogether and could not mix. I am not aware of an instance where they are preaching together or sharing other moments.

Why John the Baptist did not "follow" Jesus and became one of his disciples? He remained having disciples of himself, which you would imagine being a "less perfect way" than following Jesus.

PD: If needed as per site rules, a Catholic perspective is preferred.

  • 1
    Just a guess but being imprisoned and beheaded might have had something to do with it
    – Kris
    Dec 12 '20 at 15:42
  • An interesting perspective is found here
    – Kris
    Dec 12 '20 at 15:51
  • 2
    See Malachi 3:1-3 and Mark 1:1-2 as to the reasons. John is the Messenger of Preparation, sent before the Messenger of the Covenant. He does not follow the Messenger of the Covenant (who is the Lord himself). He precedes him.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 13 '20 at 1:32

You ask preferably from a Catholic perspective. Sorry I cannot meet your preference, I am (Reformed) Baptist.

John the Baptist had a very important Commission from God, so important it was prophecied at least 400 years earlier in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:1 & 4:5-6). And the Father did not want him to leave his task, and neither did our Lord Jesus.

Jesus humbly allowed John's ministry to come to an end before taking up the same message as John (cf Matt 4:17 with Matt 3:2). In waiting for the end of John's ministry Jesus did not try to out-shine John or compete against him; and in taking up the same message after the end of John's ministry Jesus endorsed John.

He praised John in Matt 11:1-19 despite John's uncertainty (Matt 11:3) which probably arose because John did not observe Christ's ministry. God did not call John to observe Christ's ministry, but called him to fulfil his own.

Though the religious leaders & pharisees rejected John, very many of the common people believed he was from God (Luke 20:4-6).

It was doubtless easier for them to believe that John was a prophet of God than that Jesus was the Messiah. John was the sort of man who they recognised as being a man of God, and "Old Testament religious", being ascetic, similar in lifestyle and clothing to Elijah.

And the people had wrong views of what the Messiah would be like - expecting a military ruler (another like King David) to deliver them from the Romans and conquer the Gentiles.

Jesus, on the contrary, was meek, a "glutton" and a wine-drinker, and a friend of tax collectors (who were working for the Romans) & sinners (Matthew 11:19). Probably, none of these were recognised by the people as the kind of attributes the Messiah would have.

So those who heard John's endorsment of Jesus were helped to believe in Jesus, (& Jesus's endorsment of John also helped the people to be more positive about Jesus (Luke7:29,30)).

Another evidence of John's great influence on the common people can be seen in Josephus's history "Antiquities 18.5.2" which was published about 93 AD :-

But some of the Jews believed that Herod’s [Herod Antipas] army was destroyed by God, God punishing him very justly for John called the Baptist, whom Herod had put to death. For John was a pious man, and he was bidding the Jews who practiced virtue and exercised righteousness toward each other and piety toward God, to come together for baptism.

For thus, it seemed to him, would baptismal ablution be acceptable, if it were not used to beg off from sins committed, but for the purification of the body when the soul had previously been cleansed by righteous conduct. And when everybody turned to John—for they were profoundly stirred by what he said—Herod feared that John’s so extensive influence over the people might lead to an uprising (for the people seemed likely to do everything he might counsel). He thought it much better, under the circumstances, to get John out of the way in advance, before any insurrection might develop, than for himself to get into trouble and be sorry not to have acted, once an insurrection had begun. So because of Herod’s suspicion, John was sent as a prisoner to Machaerus, the fortress already mentioned, and there put to death. But the Jews believed that the destruction which overtook the army came as a punishment for Herod, God wishing to do him harm.

"The testimony of Josephus reminds us that the memory of John lasted a long time after his death."

( See https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/john-the-baptist )

John must have been famous and must have had a very big influence upon the people for this to be written more than sixty years after his death.

The ministry of John the Baptist was rejected by the Pharisees and religious leaders who of course also rejected Christ. This proves that their rejection of Jesus was inexcusible. Their rejection was not because they had trivial prejudices concerning the style of Christ's ministry, they didn't reject him because they couldn't see how his non-ascetic ways could be of God: they rejected him because they didn't want God. This is proven because the one who was ascetic they also rejected (Luke 7:28-35).

  • Nicely composed answer! Dec 13 '20 at 20:13

Why John the Baptist did not follow Jesus?

First of all, it was St. John the Baptist’s vocation to be the Precursor of the Messiah. He prepared the way of the Lord, but God did not desire that he follow Jesus. He must increase, but I must decrease!

It was also in order to fulfill the Scriptures.

1The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, a the Son of God, b 2as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” c — 3“a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” d

4And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with e water, but he will baptize you with f the Holy Spirit.” - Mark 1:1-8

John the Baptist had a unique role to fulfill in the salvation of mankind.

The principal sources of information concerning the life and ministry of St. John the Baptist are the canonical Gospels. Of these St. Luke is the most complete, giving as he does the wonderful circumstances accompanying the birth of the Precursor and items on his ministry and death. St. Matthew's Gospel stands in close relation with that of St. Luke, as far as John's public ministry is concerned, but contains nothing in reference to his early life. From St. Mark, whose account of the Precursor's life is very meagre, no new detail can be gathered. Finally, the fourth Gospel has this special feature, that it gives the testimony of St. John after the Saviour's baptism. Besides the indications supplied by these writings, passing allusions occur in such passages as Acts 13:24; 19:1-6; but these are few and bear on the subject only indirectly. To the above should be added that Josephus relates in his Jewish Antiquities (XVIII, v, 2), but it should be remembered that he is woefully erratic in his dates, mistaken in proper names, and seems to arrange facts according to his own political views; however, his judgment of John, also what he tells us regarding the Precursor's popularity, together with a few details of minor importance, are worthy of the historian's attention. The same cannot be said of the apocryphal gospels, because the scant information they give of the Precursor is either copied from the canonical Gospels (and to these they can add no authority), or else is a mass of idle vagaries.

Passing, then, with St. Luke, over a period of some thirty years, we reach what may be considered the beginning of the public ministry of St. John (see BIBLICAL CHRONOLOGY). Up to this he had led in the desert the life of an anchorite; now he comes forth to deliver his message to the world. "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. . .the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching" (Luke 3:1-3), clothed not in the soft garments of a courtier (Matthew 11:8; Luke 7:24), but in those "of camel's hair, and a leather girdle about his loins"; and "his meat" — he looked as if he came neither eating nor drinking (Matthew 11:18; Luke 7:33) — "was locusts and wild honey" (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6); his whole countenance, far from suggesting the idea of a reed shaken by the wind (Matthew 11:7; Luke 7:24), manifested undaunted constancy. A few incredulous scoffers feigned to be scandalized: "He hath a devil" (Matthew 11:18). Nevertheless, "Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about Jordan" (Matthew 3:5), drawn by his strong and winning personality, went out to him; the austerity of his life added immensely to the weight of his words; for the simple folk, he was truly a prophet (Matthew 11:9; cf. Luke 1:76, 77). "Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2), such was the burden of his teaching. Men of all conditions flocked round him.

Pharisees and Sadducees were there; the latter attracted perhaps by curiosity and scepticism, the former expecting possibly a word of praise for their multitudinous customs and practices, and all, probably, more anxious to see which of the rival sects the new prophet would commend than to seek instruction. But John laid bare their hypocrisy. Drawing his similes from the surrounding scenery, and even, after the Oriental fashion, making use of a play on words (abanimbanium), he lashed their pride with this well-deserved rebuke: "Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of penance. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire" (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-9). It was clear something had to be done. The men of good will among the listeners asked: "What shall we do?" (Probably some were wealthy and, according to the custom of people in such circumstances, were clad in two tunics. - Josephus, "Antiq.", XVIII, v, 7). "And he answering, said to them: He that hath two coats, let him give to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do in like manner" (Luke 3:11). Some were publicans; on them he enjoined not to exact more than the rate of taxes fixed by law (Luke 3:13). To the soldiers (probably Jewish police officers) he recommended not to do violence to any man, nor falsely to denounce anyone, and to be content with their pay (Luke 3:14). In other words, he cautioned them against trusting in their national privileges, he did not countenance the tenets of any sect, nor did he advocate the forsaking of one's ordinary state of life, but faithfulness and honesty in the fulfillment of one's duties, and the humble confession of one's sins.

The Precursor had been preaching and baptizing for some time (just how long is not known), when Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan, to be baptized by him. Why, it might be asked, should He "who did no sin" (1 Peter 2:22) seek John's "baptism of penance for the remission of sins" (Luke 3:3)? The Fathers of the Church answer very appropriately that this was the occasion preordained by the Father when Jesus should be manifested to the world as the Son of God; then again, by submitting to it, Jesus sanctioned the baptism of John. "But John stayed him, saying: I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?" (Matthew 3:14). These words, implying, as they do, that John knew Jesus, are in seeming conflict with a later declaration of John recorded in the Fourth Gospel: "I knew him not" (John 1:33). Most interpreters take it that the Precursor had some intimation of Jesus being the Messias: they assign this as the reason why John at first refused to baptize him; but the heavenly manifestation had, a few moments later, changed this intimation into perfect knowledge. "And Jesus answering, said to him: Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfil all justice. Then he suffered him. And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him. . .And, behold, a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:15-17). - St. John the Baptist (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Salome and the Apparition of the Baptist's Head

Salome and the Apparition of the Baptist's Head

As the Precursor of Christ, St. John paid with his life in preparing the way of the Lord.

The liturgical commemoration of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist is almost as old as that commemorating his birth, which is one of the oldest feasts, if not the oldest, introduced into both the Eastern and Western liturgies to honour a saint.

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast on 29 August, as does the Lutheran Church. Many other churches of the Anglican Communion do so as well, including the Church of England, though some designate it a commemoration rather than a feast day.4

The Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches also celebrate this feast on 29 August. This date in the Julian Calendar, used by the Russian, Macedonian, Serbian and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches, corresponds in the twenty-first century to 11 September in the Gregorian Calendar. The day is always observed with strict fasting, and in some cultures, the pious will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat round food on this day.

The Armenian Apostolic Church commemorates the Decollation of St. John on the Saturday of Easter Week, while the Syriac Orthodox, Indian Orthodox, and Syro-Malankara Catholic Churches commemorate his death on 7 January. - Beheading of John the Baptist

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