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Biblical People

Biblical Character: John (1) the Baptist

The angel Gabriel says John won’t be just any kid, but a special one. People will celebrate his birth. John’s parents must set him apart for service to God. The Holy Spirit will empower him, and he’ll spark a nationwide revival. In the mold of Elijah, he’ll do amazing things and pave the way for the Savior the Old Testament prophets wrote about. God’s people have waited for this for centuries.

When John the Baptist begins his ministry, he proclaims, “The kingdom of heaven is near.” He preaches repentance and baptizes people who want to show that they’re sorry for the wrong things they’ve done. They desire to make a U-turn with their life.

Even though Jesus is perfect and doesn’t need to repent, he insists John baptize him. Afterward the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus and a voice booms from heaven, proclaiming him as God’s son.

Though the main part of John’s work—preparing the way for Jesus—is over, John continues his ministry. One of the things he does proves fatal. He criticizes Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. Infuriated, Herod arrests John and throws him in jail. Despite this, Herod fears John, and is puzzled by what he says, so Herod protects him.

Yet Herod’s wife, Herodias, holds a grudge against John. She looks for an opportunity to silence him for good.

When Herod throws a lavish birthday party for himself, Herodias has her chance. Her daughter dances at the party and impresses everyone. Herod promises to give her anything she wants. At her mother’s prompting, she asks for the head of John the Baptist, served up on a silver tray.

Though he doesn’t want to do this, Herod won’t back down in front of his guests. He orders the execution of John. 

John faithfully does what God tells him to do. He prepares the way for Jesus. And the people in power kill him for it.

If serving God would result in our execution, would we still obey him?

[Discover more about John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1–17, Mark 6:14–29, and Luke 1:11–17, 57–66.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Zechariah (22)

Elderly Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, have no kids. They’re past their childbearing years. From a human perspective, having a baby is impossible, yet they pray for one anyway. 

They’re a righteous pair, Zechariah and Elizabeth. They obey all God’s commands and follow his rules—all of them. They’re descendants of Aaron. In addition, Zechariah works for God. He’s a priest. 

Did you catch that?

They’re good people. They’re obedient and do the right things. They have the ideal heritage, and Zechariah lives to serve God. 

For all this devotion, shouldn’t God bless them with the child they yearn for? Yet each year passes and no baby. Still they continue to pray for a kid.

Then things change.

One day the angel Gabriel shows up at the temple, right when Zechariah’s supposed to burn the incense for church. How inconvenient. The people are waiting for Zechariah to kick off their religious ceremony. Couldn’t Gabriel have come a few minutes later?

But Gabriel has good news. God will soon answer Zechariah and Elizabeth’s years of prayers. They’ll finally have a baby, a son. “Name him John.”

And how does Zechariah respond? He says, “Really? Elizabeth and I are too old.”

Frankly, I’d say that too.

Gabriel takes this as a sign of unbelief. To make his point, he removes Zechariah’s ability to talk, which makes it difficult for the poor guy to lead worship. He gestures to let the people know he has seen a vision from God. Astonishing.

When his stint in the temple is over, Zechariah goes home, still mute. Take time to imagine what happens when he arrives, what he communicates through gestures, and most importantly, what happens next. Elizabeth gets pregnant. God is good.

How long will we wait for God to answer our prayers and give us what we yearn for? Do we have faith to believe in the improbable? The impossible?

[Discover more about Zechariah in Luke 1:5–25. See Bonus Content 1, “Duplicate Names” for more info about other men in the Bible named Zechariah.]


Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: The Mother of James and John

Two of Jesus’s disciples are James and John. Their mother comes to Jesus, making an audacious request for her boys. She asks that Jesus honor them by letting them sit on his right and his left in his kingdom. 

Jesus is direct. “You don’t realize what you’re asking.” Eventually he says only his Father can grant such a request. The other disciples are peeved at the brothers and their mom for being so pushy.

However, we later see her bravely keeping vigil at the cross as Jesus dies. Matthew notes that she’s one of the women who follows Jesus and cares for him. But we remember her most for being a pushy mom and her shameless promotion of her sons.

How can we know when to advocate for our children and when to let them grow up and fend for themselves?

[Discover more about James and John’s mother in Matthew 20:20–28 and Matthew 27:55–56.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Jezebel (2)

The church in Thyatira has a problem. It’s not a thing but a person. Her name is Jezebel.

Though she calls herself a prophet, she misleads people. That makes her a bad prophet. She encourages the church to engage in immoral behavior and unholy actions. She even advocates Satanism. Not only does Jesus promise a harsh punishment to her and her followers, but he also criticizes those who tolerate her, by allowing her errant teaching to go unchecked.

Tolerance of others is usually a good thing. But sometimes tolerance is unacceptable, such as in the face of wrong teaching that encourages people to sin or leads them away from Jesus. 

This doesn’t apply to differences of opinion or theological disputes. Those instances do demand tolerance. Acceptance is key. Love, in the name of Jesus, is the standard. 

However, we must speak against people who try to pull others away from Jesus, those who cause his followers to stumble in their faith.

May we never discourage others from pursuing God, and may we never tolerate those who would pull Jesus’s followers away from him. 

Are we ever tolerant when we shouldn’t be? Are we ever intolerant when we should love?

[Discover more about Jezebel in Revelation 2:18–29. Also, see Luke 17:1–2.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: The Chosen Lady

John writes a letter to the elect, the chosen lady, along with her kids. Some people assume John uses an intimate metaphor to reference the church (the chosen lady) and its members (her children). But this interpretation falls apart because the New Testament considers the people as the church, not as two separate parts.

Rather, a literal understanding is that the chosen lady is an actual person. John’s note is one of encouragement and instruction to someone he cares for deeply. Because the Bible preserves his letter for us, we can vicariously receive this same reassurance and teaching.

The chosen lady is a faithful follower of Jesus, and she, no doubt, desires to pass this on to her kids. She’s likely a good mom, one who does her best to raise her children well. As a result, some of her kids are living good lives. But not all. Some pick up her legacy. Others do not. 

She has done what she can to raise her kids right, but the decision of how they live their lives is up to them. John affirms her actions, but he doesn’t hold her accountable for results outside of her control.

Whether we are parents of biological children or spiritual children, we need to do our best to raise our offspring well. Though we can’t determine which path our kids take, we can point them in the right direction.

Are we doing all we can to guide those under our influence to follow Jesus?

[Discover more about the chosen lady in 2 John 1:1, 5.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Euodia and Syntyche

Two women who work hard for the cause of Jesus are Euodia and Syntyche. Paul calls them his coworkers, for they struggled at his side to spread the good news about Jesus. Their actions are commendable, and it would be great to celebrate their diligent labor. 

However, another trait—an unfortunate one—supersedes their work in advancing God’s kingdom. They can’t get along. Though they share a common goal, they live in disharmony with each other. They disagree. They argue.

Each one thinks she is right and the other, wrong. Both have too much pride to back down. Their interpersonal struggle affects those around them, hurting the common cause they work so hard to advance. Their bickering hurts Jesus’s church.

Even though he isn’t present, Paul must act. 

He begs them to get along, to push through their spat and put it behind them. Notice that Paul doesn’t take sides or try to mediate their dispute. He just tells them to work together and stop arguing. I hope they listen and do as Paul asks.

The work of God is important. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes get in the way, thwarting the effectiveness of our work through petty squabbles and ungodly behavior.

Will we be commended for our work or criticized for arguing?

[Discover more about Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2–3.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Claudia

As Paul wraps up his second letter to his protégé Timothy, some of Paul’s associates add their greetings to his message. First, there is Eubulus and then Pudens, who is followed by Linus. The fourth person named is Claudia, the only female in the group. But at least she’s listed, for following her name comes to a general greeting from everybody else. This is the only verse any of these four people appear in, so we know nothing else about them.

Why does Paul name four people and only indirectly refer to the rest of his associates? One explanation is that the quartet is simply nearby as he wraps up his letter. However, it’s more likely they play a more critical role in the missionary work he leads. He recognizes their work by including their names in his letter, which is preserved for us to see today.

Claudia could be honored to be listed or she could be disappointed to appear fourth, but even so, she is listed. Others aren’t.

Sometimes, like Claudia, we receive public recognition for the work we do. Other times we are identified only indirectly as part of a team. Sometimes we receive no acknowledgment for our efforts whatsoever. 

From a human perspective, this matters a lot. We could become proud for being listed, annoyed that we weren’t mentioned first, or angry that we received only a generic nod or no acknowledgment at all.

God’s perspective is quite different. He desires that we work for him, not for an earthly reward—be it money, fame, or recognition—but for a heavenly one. Our reward will occur later when he says, “Well done! You’re a good and faithful servant.” And that should be enough. That is enough.

Do we sometimes do godly things for human rewards? Do we feel slighted when no one acknowledges our work?

[Discover more about Claudia in 2 Timothy 4:21. Also, see Matthew 25:21.] 


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Chloe

The Bible tells us nothing about Chloe, and only one verse mentions her by name. The issue is not about what she does as much as what happens in her household, those people under her authority.

Reports come to Paul, chiefly from Chloe’s family, that the folks in the Corinthian church are quarreling with each other. They’re fighting about doctrine. Sound familiar? 

Particularly, the people align themselves with different teachers: Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (Peter), effectively dividing the church into factions and causing disunity. Others attempt to rise above the bickering by stating their focus is on Jesus. Still they mire themselves into the fray. They’re part of the disharmony.

After calling them out, Paul goes into a lengthy teaching about this, ending with the encouragement for them to place their focus on God.

In doing all this, Paul neither commends nor condemns Chloe’s family for taking the lead role in bringing this to his attention. On one hand, their actions are akin to gossip, something Paul repeatedly speaks against. After all, Paul is unlikely the only person who hears their tattling. Surely many other people hear their accusations too. On the other hand, Paul accepts their words as true and takes steps to address their concerns.

How much better it would have been for Chloe’s household to not snitch on their fellow church members and instead seek to restore unity without involving others. Chloe, as the head of the house, could have directed her charges to act better. She should have led them well. Instead, she either makes no effort to guide them, or she lost her influence over them.

Do we seek to be peacemakers, or do we drag others into disagreements? Do we lead our families well or fail to lead them at all?

[Discover more about Chloe in 1 Corinthians 1:11–13.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Nympha

In the letter Paul writes to the church in the city of Colossae, he asks them to pass along his greetings to the followers of Jesus in nearby Laodicea, especially to a woman named Nympha.

Why does Paul single out this lady and mention her by name? It might be because she has a house church. We don’t know if she’s the leader of this church, but we do know they meet in her home. 

This implies she owns a large house—which is needed to accommodate everyone—and that she is generous with the things God has blessed her with. As a result, followers of Jesus have a place to meet.

God blesses each of us in diverse ways. How are we using what he has given us to help others and advance his kingdom?

[Discover more about Nympha in Colossians 4:15.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: The Wife of Cephas (Peter)

In the first letter Paul writes to the church in the city of Corinth, he goes into a bit of a rant about the expectations the Corinthian people place on him and their lack of support. As part of Paul’s tirade, he implies Cephas (Peter) travels with his wife when visiting the various churches. While we know Peter is married, given that Jesus heals his mother-in-law, we know nothing about Mrs. Peter—except that she travels with him on his missionary journeys. 

We don’t know why she does this. 

It may be it isn’t safe for her to stay home alone—her husband’s detractors could go after her. Perhaps she seeks adventure or likes to travel. Possibly the couple gets lonely when they’re apart. 

My preferred understanding is that she helps him in his work, that she’s part of his ministry. Though he receives the recognition while she toils in anonymity, the important thing is that the church Jesus started grows.

How do we react when our spouse or close friend basks in the spotlight while we labor in the background? Are we happy with our role, or do we grow jealous and grumble?

[Discover more about Peter’s wife in John 1:42 and 1 Corinthians 9:5.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.