Jesus’s Stinky Cousin

Back in December, I asked my children to describe Mary for me. It went so well that I thought we’d try it again, this time with John the Baptist. Once again, my questions/comments are in blue. The rest is all them. Heaven help me.

St John by Titian, via Wikimedia Commons


How would you describe John the Baptist to someone who’d never heard of him?

“He was stinky.” Lots of head nods.

Do you really think that’s the important part about him? He was stinky?

“It might not be the important part, but I bet it’s what people noticed first. Like they’d walk past him and say ‘Who was that stinky guy and why doesn’t he take a bath?’ and then his followers could be all ‘it’s cool because he’s the Voice in the Desert.’ It could be his thing like Katy Perry with her blue hair.”

“I’m not sure John the Baptist is working for him. He should totally go with that Voice in the Desert thing. He needs better marketing…and a bath.”

I think maybe you’re a little off track. Who was he? Why was he important?

“Oh. That’s easy. He was Jesus’s cousin, but not like a close cousin. He was like a wedding and funeral cousin, except not really because you can’t go to weddings and funerals….when you’re stinky.”

“His mom was cousins with Mary, but I don’t think they knew each other other than meeting up before they were born.”

“He got all excited and jumped when Mary came in the room, but not like too big because she didn’t explode.”

“Moms can explode if the baby jumps too big? I’m never having a baby.”

“Duh. You’re a boy.”

“Oh, yeah…”

“John was this holy guy who gave his life to God and told people to get baptized so that they’d be ready for Jesus.”

“It’s irony that he told people to bathe when he didn’t. Because he was stinky.” (snickers) “That’s irony, right, Mom?”

Yes. That’s irony. Very good.

“I don’t know that he was very fun though. I mean Jesus went to parties and joked around with people and all that, but John was like the un-fun guy who only talks about the Bible all the time. I mean, I know it’s important, but would it kill you to talk about sports or the weather or like movies or something?”

“I don’t think they had movies in Palestine. I don’t even think they had showers….which is why..”

Stinky. We get it.

“But you know those people and they’re all holy and you want to like them, but they just don’t stop. Ever. That’s what John sounds like. He sounds like a guy who like loses his head over it.” (laughter)

“But, yeah, he like gave up everything to be THE VOICE. He lived in the desert, and ate bugs, and wore camel hair. How do you even get camel hair? Do they like brush it off the camels and then weave it into clothes, or is it a camel skin that he had to y’know kill the camel for?”

“How would you wash woven camel hair? Their hair is short. Wouldn’t it fall apart in water?”

“That’s why he had a belt to hold it together.”

“Oh…yeah…I forgot the belt. Was it like a Bat Belt and it held stuff?”

“Oh my gosh! He totally needs a Bat Belt!”

“I think he was hairy. Like a Sasquatch. Like that guy from the pool with the wire hair shoulders and furry back. I’ll bet he had a beard like a CrossFit guy. ‘FEAR THE BEARD!’ Because he gave up hygiene.”

This is our friend Chuck with Ella. This is what my kids call a “CrossFit Beard.” For the record, he’s not furry or stinky, just bearded.

“What’s hygiene?”

“Bathing and stuff. It’s why he stunk.”


“But God doesn’t care about stinky. He just wanted him out there like warning people and telling them to behave so that Jesus could come.”

“I thought Jesus had already come. They were babies together. How long was Mary pregnant?”

“No, like start preaching and stuff. He was warning them to listen.”

“Oh, that’s why he had to be stinky and not bathe.”


“Because if someone is going to be the Voice of God, you don’t want him to look just like everyone else. You want him to look weird and different so that people are already staring at him anyway. It’s easier to get people to shut up when a weirdo starts talking than a normal guy. People want to hear what the weird guy has to say and then they talk about it with all of their friends forever.”

“Like when there’s a tornado and the news people find the toothless guy with the big accent to talk to because crazy people are funny and get ratings.”

“Yeah. Like that. Then he had a celebrity death. Celebrity deaths are big for getting people to remember you. That’s why people know who Michael Jackson is.”

I think Michael Jackson is known for more than how he died.

“Not really, Mom. Old people know him for other stuff. He died weird. Think about it though, would people really still be talking about John if that girl hadn’t done a dance and asked for his head on a plate? No. Freaky deaths make people remember you, and that’s good because we still talk about John and get Baptized and know what he said and stuff.”

“It’s like God knows how people work and what we’re thinking.”

“He does. Duh. He made us.”

“Oh. Yeah….That totally explains John.”

“It does?”

“Yes. Weren’t you listening?”




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