Jesus…not another like him, number four.
Long before Extreme sports and Ironman Competitions, this guy broke the mold. Jesus said about him, ‘of those born of women, there was no one greater’! Wait, I would think that would be Paul?! Like Jesus, this guy did not suddenly appear - no, two Old Testament prophets said there would be a voice crying in the wilderness … a messenger who would prepare the way.1.
We refer to him as John the Baptist. His birth was kind of reminiscent of Isaac’s birth to Sarah and Abraham--in that he was born to older parents who were past child-bearing years, Zechariah and Elizabeth. Listen to this-- the Bible says John was filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he was in his mother’s womb!2 Wow. And from the time John was a toddler, Zechariah taught him he was to live a different kind of life—a life fully devoted to God.
John knew what it was to exercise discipline to live a holy life before God—vowing that he would never drink wine, cut his beard, or touch a dead body (which would defile him).3 He ate a meager diet and wore the garb of the Old Testament prophet Elijah—camel hair and a leather belt. When he was about 30 years old, John began preaching a message of repentance out in the wilderness of Judea. There is no desert like the wilderness of Judea.
Keep in mind that God had been speaking to the Jewish people through prophets throughout their history, but just before John, God had been quiet--400 hundred years of silence. His message impacted people - as even the religious, ultra-pious Jews went out to hear John.
John told them 'Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones,. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God.
But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am
—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”4
And then John baptized them, signifying a cleansing, a purification, and a getting ready for the Messiah who was coming down the road toward them.
Most peculiar, wasn’t it? I ask myself ‘why in the world would John do what he did?’ He left everything and went out into the austere, barren Judean desert, depriving himself of everything normal and familiar…food and family--taking the garb of the wild prophet living off the land?
What would John say to you and me today?
->Stay humble, hungry for God. God comes to the humble. The fault of the religious Jews was their righteous arrogance - thinking their practices and adherence to rules made them right with God. In actuality, the distance between them and God became greater as their perceived need for him diminished. They were too easily satisfied with religion and missed the intimacy with a loving God who was about to cross their paths in the form of Jesus the Messiah. I wonder, ‘would I have missed Jesus? Would you?’
What else would wild John say?
->When you feel the call of God, do whatever it takes to follow it--even if you are called a zealot, even if you are lonely, even if the odds are against you, or even if ‘the thing’ seems small.
->Whatever it costs you, living all out for Jesus is worth it - for eternity.
Friend, ask God to put you in the game. Ask him where he could use you. After all, you are the only one in your sphere of influence--family, neighborhood, workplace, gym, school. Oh the joy of being used of God to point another to him! John lived for it--ultimately, he would die for it as well.
Look! Here comes Jesus!
He makes All Things New, the song by Big Daddy Weave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_2aX_i4qpM
1 – Isaiah 40.3-5, Malachi 3.1, Malachi 4.5
2 – Luke 1.15
3 – The Nazirite vow ~ Numbers 6.1-8
4 - from Matthew 3, New Living Translation