John the Baptist was the son of Zachary, a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Elizabeth, a kinswoman of Mary who visited her. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, the angel Gabriel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. Zachary doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.
John was born 6 months before Jesus Christ. Thirty years later, John began a ministry of baptism. He was a priest, wearing a leather belt and a tunic of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey, and preaching a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He was in wilderness area on the Jordan river. People came from all over, especially from Judah and Jerusalem, to hear John preach and heed his call to repent of their sins and be baptized. John converted many, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus.
Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah wrote how the Messiah would be “led like a lamb to the slaughter” as a sacrifice to take away our sins (Isa.53:7). That’s why, when John saw Jesus coming toward him, he pointed to Him and said to his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” He baptized Jesus in the Jordan river, after which he stepped away and said to the people who was gathering around the Jordan river: “I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the holy spirit.”
John had publicity reprimanded King Herod for taking his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias as his own, so Herod had him imprisoned. Herodias held a grudge against John for this and greatly desired to kill him. Herod too wanted to kill him but he also considered John to be a just and holy man and the people considered him a prophet so he was afraid to kill him.
About a year passed after John’s imprisonment, when Herod celebrating his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers, and officers, and a thousand leading men of Galilee. Salome, the daughter of Herodias and stepdaughter of Herod, also came to this banquet. She danced for Herod, which pleased him and his guests. The dance so delighted Herod that he swore he would reward her with anything she asked—up to half of his kingdom. Salome didn’t know what to ask so she went out and asked her mother. Herodias told her to ask for John’s head on a platter. So she went back in to the party and demanded John the Baptist’s head. And so Herod sent a soldier of his guard to behead the Saint in prison. The soldier fulfilled the order of the king, brought the head of John the Baptist on a platter and gave it to Salome, and Salome gave it to her mother Herodias.