Word On Worship – Sunday – February 5, 2023
This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
Can you imagine Abraham leaving his family and homeland and setting out for an undisclosed place far away from home? Or think of how Moses felt leaving his father-in-law’s flocks in the wilderness and going to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand that he let God’s people go. Think of what it would have been like for the Israelite priests to step into the Red Sea, trusting God to somehow make a path through the sea to the other side.
Now place yourself in the sandals and camel hair suit of John the Baptist. God commands you to go out and to begin calling the nation Israel to repentance, announcing that the Messiah is soon to be revealed. You are not even certain at the time just who the Messiah is—or how He is to be revealed. You are to preach in the wilderness, so that all who want to hear you must come out of the city and into the wilderness. You have never even performed so much as one miracle. Can you imagine faithfully preaching a message of repentance in preparation for Messiah, as John the Baptist did, without even knowing the name of the one about whom you were preaching?
By nearly any standard, one would have to admit that John is “unique.” He dressed strangely, wearing a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt. His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey (Mark 1:6). He kept the Nazarite vow, refraining from wine and strong drink (Luke 1:15; 7:33-34). Filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15, 40-41), he was a man of prayer, who taught his disciples to pray (Luke 5:33; 11:1).
John the Baptist is to Jesus in this Gospel what Barnabas is to Paul in the Book of Acts. Both these men have their time of prominence and visibility. Both prepare the way for the one who comes after them, who surpasses them. Perhaps it is best to say that John is most like his Master, the Lord Jesus, who is the model for all who would serve others in humility. In a day when individualism, competition and success are the guiding principles for life, for work, and even for Christian ministry, we would do well to reflect on the spirit of humility so evident in the life of John the Baptist.