Key Verse: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11
John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. Like Jesus, his birth was foretold by an angel, and he was named before his birth. We read in Luke 1:5 that both his parents were descendant of Aaron. This means that John future was already planned out for him. Following the line of Aaron and his father, he would be expected to become a priest of Israel.
If John had followed in his family business, he would have been honoured by the people and financially comfortable. Yet this was not John’s calling. As the angel Gabriel spoke of his birth in Luke 1:17 he says, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John’s calling was not that of a priest but a prophet like Elijah. Consequently, he turns his back on the comfort he could have had and set out for the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord.
Throughout church history, there have been many who were called to leave comfortable lives behind to follow God’s calling. When Jesus called the first disciples to follow Him, they left everything behind. Many a missionary has left the comforts of home to travel to distant lands and preach the gospel. Hudson Taylor for example left would have been a comfortable job in the medical profession, to travel into inland China and proclaim the gospel. I wonder if we respond in the same way? Are we willing to leave the comforts of home for the sake of Christ? This doesn’t always mean travelling to a distant land; it could be helping out in a soup kitchen or children’s ministry. Are you willing to leave your comfort zone for Jesus?
John’s message was simple. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2). It was not a popular message with the religious leaders of the day, but it was the message the people needed to hear. Interestingly, John didn’t go through the city like Jonah preaching repentance. John was alone in the wilderness, but the people went to him because they recognized the power of God in the message he proclaimed. Often in our witnessing, we don’t understand the power of the gospel. We think we need to come up with compelling arguments and understand advanced apologetics before we share the gospel. While there is a place for these things, they don’t affect the power of the gospel message. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, ”For I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” John’s message was simple, but it was anointed, we also should have the same confidence in the message God has given us to proclaim. Historians believe that more than a million people travelled out into the wilderness to hear John preach.
John didn’t fit the mould of a respectable member of society. Matthew 3:4 says “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.” He was also a Nazarite, which means he never shaved or cut his hair. John was one scruffy preacher. Here again, we are reminded that it is not about the man, but the message. Matthew 3:5-6 continues “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”
John also recognized that it was not about him or his ministry. His job was “to prepare the way for the Lord.” John’s whole life and ministry pointed people to Jesus. John summed up his role in John 3:30 ”He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.” The first step of being used powerfully by God is recognizing it is all about His glory and not our own. Our motivation for being used by God should never be for self, but that He is praised.