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A voice of one calling: "In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God."
- Isaiah 40:3 NIV
Many believe that after Jesus, John the Baptist is considered the next most significant figure in the gospels (the first four books in the New Testament). His public ministry ended nearly 400 years of prophetic silence and his is the voice that calls out in the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus. John’s message and ministry marked the culmination of the law and the prophets while ushering in the kingdom of God. He was the link between the Old and New Testaments.
John’s central theme of ministry was repentance. When someone responded to the call to repent of their sins they were baptized, and this is how he became known as John the Baptist. In the synoptic gospels (the three that share many of the same stories and miracles of Jesus) John points to Jesus when he says, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16, Mark 1:8)
To repent is not merely a change of mind, but a radical change that results in action. Turning from selfish ways to God’s ways are signs of true repentance. In our own lives we must make sure that it is not merely an emotion of remorse. We must turn and run from sin!
Three meaningful things stand out to me regarding John’s life….
The first is that he was not a crowd-pleaser. The religious leaders had strayed from the Truth and John called them out. “Brood of vipers” (Luke 3:7) and other stern words compelled them not to look to their Jewish lineage for salvation but to repent and turn to the Messiah. In the end when John’s boldness exposed King Herod of his immorality, it cost him his life. Rather than compromise his convictions, John died a martyr’s death.
Next, John lived an unconventional lifestyle. Self-discipline and abstention marked an unusual way of living that included eating locusts, living in the wilderness, and wearing camel cloths. John was all in and every aspect of his life reflected a turn to Jesus and the kingdom. God had a plan for John’s life long before he was conceived. Luke 1:15 says, “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” His life is an example of full surrender and obedience to Jesus.
Finally, John accepted his role as subordinate to Jesus. He was very clear to others that he was not the Christ and that he was simply a witness to the Light (John 1:19-23). He was sent to pave the way for Jesus. When He began His ministry (after His baptism by John) the men who had been John’s disciples were encouraged to follow Him. He made it clear that “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). These disciples had prayed and fasted with John, but now it was time to change allegiances. What a wonderful example of selfless faith!
1. As followers of Jesus are we all in, boldly proclaiming the Truth even though it could cost us our reputation, position, friends?
2. Is our repentance genuine and life altering?
Lord God, it is awesome to study and learn about the people You have created throughout history. John the Baptist was prophesied about in the Old Testament and hundreds of years later into the New Testament all that was written has come to pass. His example of selfless devotion to Jesus and boldness in speaking Your Truth implore us to live a life for You, not ourselves. Let our repentance be genuine and life changing as we ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse our hearts and minds. I pray that each day I will grow in my faith and love You more and me less. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
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