I wrote the below for a brief article in my church bulletin. The bulleted points thereafter were what I wrote for myself thereafter. It’s nothing special, but it’s a quick overview of John the Baptist and some thoughts to learn from his example.
“I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). Jesus said these amazing words about John the Baptist, someone “more than a prophet” (Luke 7:26), the mighty messenger who prepared the way for Jesus to come shortly thereafter. His point was that, as amazing as a prophet as John was, it would be much greater to be in the kingdom to come than to be John the Baptist in the present. Nonetheless, John still had an amazing role. “All the prophets and the Law prophesied until John” (Matt 11:13), and the New Testament era then came in the coming of Jesus Christ.
In fulfillment to Isaiah’s prophecy, he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Mark 1:3; cf. Isa 40:3; John 1:23). In fulfillment to Malachi’s prophecy, he was God’s “messenger,” of whom it was said, “he will prepare the way before me” (Mal 3:1). Also in fulfillment to Malachi’s prophecy, he was “Elijah the prophet” would God sent to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” so that God would not “strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Mal 4:5–6). Speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus stated, “he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt 11:14; cf. Mark 9:13), which, clarified by Luke, means that John would preach “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” that is, according to the Spirit of God that so mightily empowered His prophets to preach (cf. Luke 1:15).
His message was simple. He spoke of Christ: “he who is coming after me is mightier than I . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11). The baptism by Spirit would come in time (Acts 2:1–3; cf. 11:15–16), and the baptism by fire would as well (cf. 2 Pet 3:10–12). In preparation for Christ’s first coming, John spoke a message that is just as important for you and I who watch for Christ to come again: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2) and “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8).
Learning from John’s example, several characteristics and actions are worthy of repeating:
- He faithfully cries for Christ in the loneliest of places (Mark 1:3).
- His message was to prepare people for the coming of Christ (Mark 1:3).
- He mentions himself only to contrast himself with Christ (Mark 1:7, 8).
- His message is faithful and attracts the people of God (Mark 1:5).
- Location was not an issue for the people of God to hear the truth (Mark 1:5).
- He was faithful to his calling down to the smallest of details (Mark 1:6).
- His demeanor and speech were noticeably humble (Mark 1:7).