John the Baptist was the son of Elizabeth, the elderly cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary who by divine inspiration announced to Mary that she was carrying the Savior in her womb. In AD 27, John began preaching in Judaea the message of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Lord. The believers, Jesus Christ among them, were baptized in the Jordan River. When John learned of King Herod's marriage to his brother's wife, Herodias, he spoke out. The King soon learned of this criticism and immediately had John arrested and thrown into a dungeon where he remained until his death. John the Baptist was beheaded when King Herod granted Herodias' daughter, Salome, a wish after performing a dance - the wish was to have John's head upon a platter. The patronage to lambs comes from John's greeting Jesus as the Lamb of God.
St. John the Baptist's birth was foretold in several passages contained in the Old Testament.
The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that after St. John the Baptist's death (by beheading), he descended into Hell. After his arrival, St. John the Baptist continued to preach that Jesus was the Messiah.