John the Baptist
John was more than a Baptist as we are accustomed to his identity today. As for more details concerning him; His family relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, such would be today's terminology, cousins, this does not validate him as the greatest prophet ever born, simply because his mother Elizabeth and Mary shared a family ties. Nevertheless, his greatness lies in the reason for his being and to whom that orchestrated it all. He was sent forth from God, meaning he represented God as an ambassador to perform a certain task with a message from God. To understand the greatness of a messenger, one have to know to whom the messenger represent and what cause is the message. In this case, the messenger is John the Baptist, representing God to proclaim the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John - Hebrew, meaning the Lord graciously gave
The picture of John the Baptist is the clasp between two dispensations; meaning, a bridge between the time frame of The Law, and the time of Grace. Both periods ordained by God.
Under the Law, men saw their lack of Holiness. Therefore, a stopgap measure was set in place by God, the Sacrificial System. Whereas the period of Grace, which is now, differ from the Law. In that no longer is Righteousness temporarily obtain by the Law, but Righteousness is imputed by faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Between the period of the Law and the period of Grace, lie the silent years. For about 400 years there are no records of God speaking to His people. During this time, the Earth saw a drastic transformation through military conquest. The rise and fall of nations. Oppositions on the international level, to national level as well as conflicts, struggle between families. Without God, the people lose hold of morality. God’s conscience replaced with superstitious beliefs. Hope of freedom among God’s people was replaced with an animosity toward their oppressor; from this time frame rose the Roman Empire.
The silence was at last replaced with the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. The voice of John was as a light piercing through darkness. For 400 years the mind of the people was hardened, and their conscience was blinded. The work of John was to make the people ready for the Messiah, The Lord Jesus Christ. His message was that of repentance. To repent is the change of mind, to turn, with the idea of a change in one's attitude toward sin and God. He who repents must turn around, or change direction.
The direction of most of the nation at that time was geared toward political power. This was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. The influence of the Roman Empire was felt throughout the known world. Even for the people of God, politics were their focus. The spiritual leaders who once led the people and served as the mediator between God and His people, these were the religious leaders who look to Rome for their empowerment for the control of their people. Religious leaders were generally appointed, rather than anointed to serve. Consequently, those who had the most wealth, were those who ruled.
The rich got richer and the poor were forgotten. Even for those who retain the awareness of God, their commonality was their animosity toward Rome. So great was their bitterness for Rome; their focus of true fellowship with God was replaced with anticipation for the overthrown of Rome.
Regardless of our situation, our focus must always be on the Lord and not the problem, less we become that which we seek to destroy.
Such was the world stage for the message of John. His message of repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, was in essence saying; look away from your vain political aspiration. Look away from your bitterness for Rome. Look away from your self-righteousness. Look away from the kingdom of men. The kingdom of God is near, but the heart that has enmity, is a heart that is not at peace with God. Where there is no peace, there is no fellowship with God. Therefore, turn away from your sins, and look to God.
Unlike many of us, we spent most of our adult lives, changing careers, while contemplating our lives. John, had one reason for living and that was his message of preparation, his message was his life. For those who came to see and hear him, the scene was like none ever. With energy and passion, he spoke. The wilderness was his pulpit, his altar call was the river of Jordan, baptizing those who came, while confessing their sins.
Though he shook the nation, but his message was for the individuals within. Grace is freely given, and Grace must be individually received. (Romans 10:13. Revelation 22-17) He spoke with passion, but beneath the yelling was a sound structural doctrine.
He called out the sinners and questioned the motive of the hypocrites
He said to the multitude that came forth to be baptized by him, O generation of , who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? As vipers, they appear very beautiful outwardly, but filled with poison
True repentance must bring forth the right conduct in the individual
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance? (Matthew 3:8)
Righteousness is not based on heredity, it is God who calls the individual through faith.
…think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
Being a Christian is not the receiving of a plaque, to set up and forget. Repentance is not enough. The life that has been changed must increase and bring forth fruit or else it is of no use in the kingdom.
… now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3:10)
As a preacher, what I give you (Water Baptism) is an outward ordinance, a preparation for the inward works by the Holy Spirit.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He (Jesus Christ) that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3:11)
The judgment of God is carried out by the Lord, He will separate the good from the bad, the useful from the useless.
Whose , and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
(Matthew 3:12) , is an illustration of an agricultural method, with a tool also known as winnowing-shovel, for separating grain from chaff. The grain is kept, but the chaff is burned. (Which are you?)
Do not cheat for your gain
Great were the sermons of the Baptist, but the greater of his sermon is summarized in these words:
Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
This was the introduction of the Lord Jesus to Israel and ultimately the world. The end of the Law and the beginning of the dispensation of Grace. (Romans 10:4)
John the Baptist spoke bold and unwavering, an exuberant display. Yet, within, he was a humble soul. He shouted when need be, but he was quiet to listen and take questions from the crowd to further teach them. A message inspired by God, will convict the heart of the hearer and stir up curiosity for more … the people asked him, saying, what shall we do then? He taught them the nature of being a good believer, toward one another, self-denial, but not asceticism. He was the example of what he preached. The Scriptures described John as one with raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
The image of John we perceive today should be a primary example for the believer and the preacher of the Word of God. As the ministry of Jesus widens, the ministry of John wanes. The crowds that once follow John, now follow Jesus. Whatsoever we do, let us do it for the Lord, not to bring glory to ourselves. In the words of John, he said, He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease. This ought to be the primary example for the believer and the preacher of the Word of God. As we grow in the knowledge of the Lord and point man to God. Let them see more of God and less of us. Sadly so, today's preachers for the most part are not willing to make Jesus the head, but rather use Him as a platform to exalt themselves. Let us not forget the words of the Lord; For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. (Luke 14:11)
John the Baptist, was the equivalent of today’s Trailblazer. He was born for one reason, to prepare the way of our Lord. Even in his last hours before his martyrdom, his allegiance was to his calling. He sent his disciples to Jesus, having them ask; Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Like the true servant he is, he asked this question that his disciples might receive directly from the mouth of His Master.
Jesus speaking of him said, Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.