“John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.” – Matthew 3:4-5
June 24th is a day of celebration! Around the world people celebrate, the feast of John the Baptist on this day. Celebrations can include bonfires, fireworks, and special foods. Food is one of the things that made John the Baptist distinctive.
The scripture says that his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. The locusts part fits with the overall aesthetic of John the Baptist. His clothes seem particularly rough and his salty language comes across as gruff (“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”). Yet locusts are not the only thing he ate. John also feasted on wild honey.
This odd pairing is a clear nod to the famous prophet of the Old Testament, Elijah. It was believed that Elijah would come again and prepare the way for the Messiah. The scripture points out that Elijah also ate locusts and wild honey. The thread connecting the two men, Elijah and John is obvious. But I think there is more to the wild honey than an on-the-nose “call back.”
Feasting on honey in the Bible was often a symbol of God’s blessing. The sweetness of honey was symbol for the sweetness of God (“taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8). When John baptized people, he welcomed them to a new life, to a joyful life, a life of sweet forgiveness. This drew people to him.
Most artistic depictions of John the Baptist show a grumpy, wild-eyed, old man. While I can understand this representation, I also have to wonder what we’re neglecting by missing his sweet tooth. Often Christianity is seen as boring, judgmental, grumpy, and rigid. How many times have you heard non-Christians describe the faith as fun, fluid, creative, and sweet?
It’s almost as if all we are eating are the locusts.
Our faith is a trampoline, a springboard to a larger perspective. Our faith is a passport, encouraging us to leave our comfort zones and explore. Our faith is wild honey, teaching us to enjoy the wonders God has created.
Celebrate this feast day of John the Baptist with a bit of sweetness and revel in the truth that we worship the creator of joy and laughter.