e) His teaching is a sign of newness:
One of the teachings of this angelic man is accounted in the gospel according to Matthew as follows: “repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt3:1f). This short and precise Johanean teaching is a new teaching to the people of Israelites. They never heard such a powerful teaching that make the heaven in hand, that is why they surrounded him and get the remission of their sins. This teaching brought the people into newness, for penance is the instrument of the very newness and this makes St. John the Baptist a sign of newness for the producer of this article.
The other well known teaching of him in the gospel according to Luke is very rich in calling the attendants into the life of newness so that telling us the personality of the speaker, St. John, as a sign of newness. Let us see how his words are beautiful to express the becoming of new:
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; (Luk3:7-15).
Thus, through these powerful words, St. John, experiencing himself the life of newness, called all for newness. So, these words too made him not less than a sign for newness.
f) His outlook is a sign of newness:
In this point, the writer is going to contemplate little, as he is very little compared to John, about the new vision of the spirit filled man of the wilderness; who disclosed himself at the right time not as a light but to prepare the way and witness for the True and newest Light Who ever lights the darkness and makes all new out of His eternally luminous and new nature.
One of St. John’s insights is his seeing Jesus as a “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn1:29). This is a new vision different from the vision of the fathers and the prophets, who foretold about the saving Lamb, for he saw the Him in his eyes. What a blessed man he is to see the Lamb and point others to see their savior. This made the writer to see St. john, a man of new insight, as a sign of newness.
For the writer of this article, the second outlook of him goes to his witness that he is not Christ but the baptizer of Him. Did anyone from the prophets before John the Baptist was doubted that he is Christ? The contributor never comes across with such a history before. But St. John, to be taken as a sign of newness, was the first to be asked if he was the messiah whom the people were waiting for though his witness made a turn of the mind of the multitude into the very Christ.
John, about himself, “confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ” and about the true Messiah, he added, “I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (Jn1:19-27). If, as explained earlier, newness is the nature of incomprehensibility, and if St. John is nearer to the incomprehensible, according to his own words, “I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water,… is He” (Jn1:33), One Who comes after him, nobody doubts him being of the sign of newness.
The third outlook of him is his true happiness as a “friend of the bridegroom”. This John’s happiness is very new. You my readers, when do you ever filled with great sense of joy? When you ever get preferred or when ever others preferred? St. John, the sign of newness, filled happy when Christ, Who came after him, was more preferred and said, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn3:29).
The last but not the least insight the writer wants to mention is his new challenge against the old tradition of the people that has to be renewed, i.e. having a wife of a brother. He rebuked Herod for his brother’s wife sake saying, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matt14:4). This truthful approach of the new prophet set him first to prison and then to death.
The Old Testament accounts of the prophets make clear that many of them died for truth, but his is special, for it happened in the new era and for the new truth and proclaiming the eternal Truth. This made the writer, from the point of view of John’s challenge for truth, to confidently acknowledge him of being of the sign of newness. From these and other outlooks of him, St. John is worthy of being called a sign of newness.
To give some concluding words, in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church liturgical calendar, the feast of the New Ethiopian Year, the head of the turn of the year (ርእሰ ዐውዯ ዓመት), is called by the name of this great man “Yohannes ዮሐንስ” though the second day of the Ethiopian year is the day on which the church commemorates his martyrdom. The church rejoices in this day with the psalmist singing, “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness” (Ps64:11).
This implies the significance of John’s symbolism of newness! The new era, the era of mercy, has started symbolizing him as a way preparer for the Renewer (2Cor5:17, Eph2:14f). The new teaching, a teaching that grants the kingdom of God, was first proclaimed by him. The New Year, for we all the Ethiopians and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church members, enters into effect in his name.
Our fathers, in the point of view of the composer of this piece of work, showed us through the holy tradition, by celebrating the year in the name of St. John the Baptist, that he is a sign of newness, and the believers having that in the mind shall sharpen their mind toward newness; to become so spiritual to the eyes of the gospel and lead a very new and holy life the whole year, or the whole 365 and something days, or the whole more than 8766.
When we celebrate a new year we have to think of a newer and holier, prosperous and happier year than the past. The writer again wishes the new Ethiopian year will come with new hope, new spirit, new empowerment, and new attitude that can set all Christians into a new step in over all of their personality, whether carnal or spiritual. Be blessed and renewed in our year 2008 E.C. (It starts in the 12nd of2015 G.C.) following the sign of newness.
Glory be to God in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
• Holy Bible, King James Version
• መጽሐፍ ቅደስ፣ የብሉይና የአዱስ ኪዲን መጻሕፍት፣ 1962 ዓ/ም
• ወንጌል ቅደስ ዘእግዚእነ ወመዴኃኒነ ኢየሱስ ክርስቶስ ንባቡና ትርጓሜው፣ 1997፣ ትንሣኤ ዘጉባኤ ማተሚያ ቤት፣ አዲስ አበባ
• ውዳሴ ማርያም ቅዱስ ኤፍሬምየ ደረሰውን ባቡና ትርጓሜው፣ 1915፣ በኢትዮጵያ መንግሥት አልጋ ወራሽ ራስ ተፈሪ ማተሚያ፣ አዲስ አበባ