All of the Old Testament led up to John the Baptist’s proclamation that Jesus Christ was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah. Amen!
I love the story of John the Baptist, but it also gives me pause. He did everything God called him to do, and it required his very life.
John the Baptist was eccentric, to say the least (Matthew 3:4). Are you willing to appear a little odd, if that’s what God calls you to do?
Between the Old Testament book of Malachi and the gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), there were no prophets in Israel for about 400 years. To put that gap into perspective, let’s imagine what the last 400 years would have been like without hearing from the Lord since the early 1600s. That would mean no Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom, C.S. Lewis, Amy Carmichael, Oswald Chambers, John or Charles Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, or John Bunyan, to name a few.
Malachi 3:1 referred to a new prophet who would pave the way for the Lord; chapter 4 described this individual as someone who would turn the hearts of the people back to God. When John the Baptist finally entered the scene as the first prophet in several generations, some were confused about who he really was. Jesus confirmed that John the Baptist was the long-awaited prophet in Luke 7:27. John preached that the kingdom of God was near, went about baptized people, and gained quite a following. Yet, even John’s disciples wondered if he was in competition with that Jesus guy who had just begun his own ministry (John 3:26).
John responded to his disciples by likening himself to the best man at a wedding – happy to stand by and support the groom. He went on to say in verse 30, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (NLT). John the Baptist directed attention toward Jesus, rather than himself. We would do well to follow in his footsteps, because it’s not about me, and it’s not about you!
It’s not my job to point fingers, but we don’t have to look far to see prominent Christians today who are drawing attention to themselves and/or their ministries, and not necessarily to Jesus. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with popularity, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with material success, but our lives (and certainly our ministries) should be purposeful in pointing people to Christ, not devised for worldly pleasure or gain.
John the Baptist was the last word, the final prophet leading up to the big reveal of Jesus Christ as the much anticipated Messiah. John accepted his role humbly and went about his calling not only dutifully, but also passionately and without compromise. May we honor his memory and his service to the kingdom by ministering to those around us in a way that draws them closer to Christ.
Just when I thought I was caught up, I realized I missed an entire week’s worth of posts. Here ya go …
Matthew 11 gives us a beautiful picture of the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. (Unfortunately, John the Baptist is tragically killed three chapters later by the order of a drunken king and his vindictive wife, but that’s a story for another day.) We know from the account in Luke 1 that Mary (Jesus’ mom) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mom) were related, but the Bible isn’t very clear about their exact relationship. I’ve always heard that Jesus and John were cousins, but perhaps that’s my southern upbringing where “cousin” can be a catch-all term for extended relatives. At any rate, they were related, to some extent or another.
I find it interesting that even though John probably grew up being around Jesus at family gatherings, annual Passover festivities, etc., and he had the distinct honor of baptizing Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry (Matthew 3), John the Baptist still had to come to terms with his own understanding of Jesus as Messiah.
In Matthew 11, we read that John the Baptist is in prison, but he has been receiving word about Jesus’ activities. In verses 2-3, John sends messengers to ask Jesus flat-out: Are you the One? Let that sink in a moment. John the Baptist needed clarification about whether or not Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
There are no shortcuts to salvation, even for insiders. Jesus’ own family had to decide for themselves whether to accept him as Lord and Savior, and so do we. It doesn’t matter if your daddy and your granddaddy and your great-granddaddy were pastors; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if your mom’s best friend’s sister-in-law knows Billy Graham personally; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you attended a private, religious school and memorized prayers and creeds; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you were baptized as a baby or dedicated in a church as a child; you still have to decide for yourself. There are no shortcuts.
Faith is not inherited. Of course, we should pass down our testimonies, teach our children, involve them in church, and encourage them to develop their own relationships with the Lord, but that last step is not something that we can do FOR them. They have to decide for themselves, just as John the Baptist had to reconcile his own beliefs about Jesus. So, who is Jesus to you? Is he the Messiah, the long-awaited One?
(Sunday) I like shortcuts and avoiding traffic as much as any other driver, but when it comes to our faith-journeys, there is only one way via Jesus.
(Monday) Read Matthew 11:11 and let it sink deep into your heart. John the Baptist was a rock star of the faith, yet we can be also!
(Tuesday) You know the cliché about riding an influential person’s coattails to get ahead in life, but faith doesn’t work that way. You alone decide.
(Wednesday) Matt. 11:10 says that John the Baptist was the prophet mentioned in the Old Testament (Malachi), yet even he had to opt in & believe Jesus.
(Thursday) How do we convince ourselves that somehow we could ever be good enough (or at least not too bad) to win God’s approval? It’s all his grace!
(Friday) Whether you’re the first Christian in your family or you come from a long line of faith, the decision to follow Christ was yours to make.
(Saturday) It’s usually a passage reserved for Christmastime, but read Luke 1 and marvel at God’s strategic plan for Jesus & John the Baptist.