A Voice on the Jordan
“The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,who will prepare your way—A voice of one calling in the wilderness,‘Prepare the way for the Lord,make straight paths for him.’ ”
Mark 1:1-3 NIV
John the Baptist is so deeply engrained in the gospel message that he is the first person mentioned other than Jesus Himself in three of out of the four Gospels. Luke’s gospel goes so far as to speak of the circumstances of John’s birth prior to even that of Jesus. While obviously, John is not more important than Jesus, it is incredibly interesting to note the words of Christ about John:
“I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John…“
Luke 7:28a ESV
When asked who is the greatest man to ever walk the earth was, I doubt very many peoples’ minds move immediately in the direction of John. We might go to the great men of history—Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Alexander the Great—or maybe the stories of the Bible—Moses, Elijah, or Abraham—but not John the Baptist. He takes up so little real estate in the Bible, a page or two at most, and all He does is speak. No miracles, no stories of draw dropping faith. Just a simple message and a simple man.
That anomaly raises a question? Why him? Why was a man—without any eloquence of speech, power from on high, or years of training in the Law—who eats locus for food and wears camel hair for clothing, the greatest man to ever live? The answer is just as simple as the man himself was. John was the greatest among men because he got it:
“He must increase, I must decrease.”
John 3:30 HCSB
John understood that his life had no significance whatsoever except to point people to Christ, and, once they had found Him, to fade into the distance in comparison with the unsurpassable glory of the Author of Life taken on human flesh. John was born with one purpose, and he lived it out with every breath that he breathed.
In the proper time, John retreated into the wilderness where he proclaimed the message of the coming Messiah. He waited for God to bring Jesus to him and when He did, John came before the living Christ in humility, realizing that there were far larger things going on here then himself—his ministry, his ego. As a result, God blessed him deeply, allowing John to see the very heavens themselves open, hear the voice of God, and baptize the Savior of the world.
Even when He was struggling with doubts about Jesus while in prison, Christ did not rebuke him, but encouraged him with a reminder of who He was and what He was here to do: give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, words to the mute, freedom to the slave, and strength to the weak. Then in His next breath, Christ went on to praise John saying,
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes, Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, but I tell you, and far more than a prophet. This is the one it is written about:
‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of You; He will prepare Your way before You.’“
Matthew 11:7-10 HCSB
My messenger. How much would we all love to be known by Jesus as His messenger, to be called the Herald of the Most High and the Greatest Among Men?
John began the ministry of Christ of turning the world away from itself and pulling it towards the kingdom of heaven. He lived a life contrary to society and that reflected his message, that the last would come first and the first would come last. He showed no concern for the rich and powerful, no concern for who he offended, no concern even for his personal comfort. He simply pointed the world to Jesus and instructed them to prepare their hearts for His coming. And for that reason, John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived.
A life—no matter how short and no matter how seemingly insignificant—that is wholly dedicated to making Christ known is the best life that can possibly be lived. When we come to understand God’s will for our lives, it should consume us. We should lead a life that constantly recognizes that we are only supporting characters in a much greater narrative that points towards Jesus Christ. A life that seeks to be the least. That is how John lived and that is why Jesus follows the statement “I tell you, among those born of women, none is greater than John… ” with:
“Yet, the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.“
Matthew 11:11 ESV
In loving submission to Christ,
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Matthew 3:11 NIV