Jesus had a cousin called John and he was just a few months older than Jesus; John was also specially provided by God. John's mother Elizabeth and father Zechariah didn't have any children as they were too old.
One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the temple, and suddenly an angel came to him, and told him that Elizabeth was going to have a son, and they were to call him John. The angel made a promise to Zechariah,
"He will make you very happy, and he will be very important to God. He will have an important job to do, trying to get the Jewish people to turn back to God, and he will have special power from God. He is going to get the people ready to welcome the Lord Jesus."Zechariah had a job believing what the angel told him, because he knew that he and Elizabeth were too old to have children. He said to the angel,
"How can I be sure about this?"
The angel replied,
"I am God's angel Gabriel. Because you don't believe me, you aren't going to be able to talk until it happens." And he couldn't say another word.
Some time later, Elizabeth did have a baby boy as the angel had promised. When she said that the new baby would be called John, all their family and friends couldn't understand it. So they asked Zechariah what he thought, and he asked for something to write on, and wrote, "His name is John". And straight away he could talk again! Everyone was amazed.
When John was grown up, he worked very hard trying to get the people to obey God again. Jesus said that John was the most important man there had been up till then. He worked hard to prepare the people for the time when Jesus would start preaching to them himself.
John wasn't afraid to tell anyone that they were disobeying God's commands, and one day he told Herod (the king) that he should not have married his brother's wife. Herod put John in prison even though he knew he was a good man, but Herod's wife didn't like being criticized, and looked for a way to get back at John. One day it was Herod's birthday and he had a big feast; when his wife's daughter danced well, he promised her she could have anything she wanted. Here was her mother's opportunity, and she told her daughter to ask for John's head on a plate. Herod was very upset but he couldn't go back on his promise so he sent one of his soldiers to the prison to cut off John's head. Wasn't that a horrible thing to do!
You can read the story for yourself in Luke 1 verses 5- 23, 57- 80, and Mark 6 verses 17 to 26.
See if you can answer these questions:
1.Who promised that Elizabeth and Zechariah would have a son?
2. What happened to Zechariah when he did believe what he was told?
3. Why was John an important man?
4. What happened to John?