One of the first blogs I posted on this site was about John the Baptist. I find myself pondering this fascinating character again, in a different light.
John was, according to Jesus, the greatest prophet Israel had ever known. His role in advancing the kingdom of God in his lifetime was unique and specifically anointed. But there are a few lessons I see from John’s life, ministry, and testimony that are applicable to ours.
John the Baptist responded spiritually and correctly to Jesus Christ. This was true even before he was born. John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in the womb. When Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John. John stirred within Elizabeth in response to the presence of the Christ within Mary. Isn’t that amazing?
When Jesus was grown and ready to begin his earthly ministry, he came to John to be baptized. John responded again and confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah. God had told this prophet of God that he would recognize the Messiah when he saw the Holy Spirit come to rest upon him. That is exactly what happened when Jesus came up from the water. It was John who was there to hear the Father’s proclamation to Jesus from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
John prepared Israel to receive Jesus as Messiah. John determined his mandate from the prophecy of Isaiah, to be “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” He did this in the fashion of an Old Testament prophet, warning the people to repent and to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” He admonished those with extra food and clothing to give generously to those who were without; he instructed the tax collectors to be fair and honest in their duties, and soldiers not to extort money or lie, but rather to be content with their work and wages.
John warned the religious leaders not to be self-satisfied just because they were Jews, the sons of Abraham. John prepared them to consider that entrance to the kingdom of God would not require proper heritage or religious scruples, but a meek, generous, faith-filled and repentant heart.
John humbly deflected honor from himself and projected it upon Jesus. When the Jerusalem Jews asked him if he was the Messiah, John pointed to Jesus, calling him the one “more powerful than I….the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Lk. 3:16). John also pointed Jesus out to his own disciples, urging them to begin following him as their new rabbi and Lord, the “Lamb of god, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn.2:29). Calling himself the friend of the bridegroom, John found his joy in proclaiming Jesus the true bridegroom, the one who must increase, while John would decrease (Jn. 3:30).
When I try to apply these observations of John the Baptist to my own walk with our Lord, I ask, How do I respond to the presence of God? Does my heart leap within me when I feel the manifest presence of his glory? Am I moved with faith and conviction that he is the only true Lord and God?
When I reflect upon my witness to the world, I ask, Am I communicating the gospel to those who need to hear, urging them to repent and be transformed into people fit for the kingdom of God? Am I a discipler, helping others prepare their hearts for his return?
When I consider my calling to ministry, I ask, Am I willing to give all glory and honor to Jesus Christ? Do I pray for his increase in everything, being content to plant seeds and water them, receiving no credit for it?
Maybe you’ve seen the Ronald Reagan quote, “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” John the Baptist seemed to understand this, with one caveat. He cared deeply who got the credit—Jesus the Messiah.
I see John the Baptist as one of the best role models of this who ever lived, next to Jesus himself, who always glorified the Father above himself.
I pray you’d give me this kind of heart O Lord.