John the Baptist presents us with an excellent example of how to direct people to Jesus in words and lifestyle. Although we do not have to be literal in our interpretation we can be similar. There is a cultural context to all the accounts in the bible and our context will differ.
John was a highly focused individual. He knew his role and his message and he kept to it. He did not compromise his message for the sake of his own comfort. His message was twofold, there is a Messiah and the people should prepare for him.
He used scripture, in particular the Old Testament prophets, to point out that Jesus is Lord. To do this he had to be well versed in the scriptures. He was confident of God’s plan and he spoke plainly so that the ordinary people could understand the urgency of his message. He fascinated and disconcerted the religious leaders of his day. He caused offence, especially to the political rulers, when he made clear how they were disobeying God’s will. However, he did not back down, even when he was arrested and his life was threatened. Mark 1.15
His message for people was to repent and confess their sins, because he knew the natural heart of all men and women is to rebel against God. Mark 1.4 It is impossible to make the step to become a Christian, (although the term was not coined until the authorities first used it for followers of Jesus in Antioch, Acts 11.26) without being aware of one’s sins. Communicating this element of the gospel is not intended to be unnecessarily confrontational. At the time large numbers found his message acceptable and convicting. Mark 1.5
John knew that not only was Jesus fulfilling Old Testament prophecies, he was as well. He knew his calling was to fulfill the Isaiah scripture, to be the voice calling in the wilderness. Mark 1.3 Similarly, followers of Jesus now ought to know how it is they are obedient to their calling in scripture. Not only in regards to specific roles or ministries but in terms of life style and their relationship with Christ.
John held a realistic view of his own importance. He was not ego driven. His message was not filled with how clever he was. It solely pointed to the coming of Jesus. He understood that his baptism was a sign of an individual’s repentance but the baptism that people were to receive from Jesus was something of an entirely different order. It was to be baptism with the Holy Spirit. Followers of Jesus were to know the Spirit of God filling them and empowering them. Mark 1.8 John himself knew what he was talking about as God had filled him with the Spirit from his earliest times. Luke 1.15 However, on the accomplishment of Jesus’ ministry that blessing was to be for all his followers. John 16.7
John did not use his ministry for his own material advancement. He lived a materially humble life. He was dressed in coarse clothes and ate food he scavenged. There is a very important and timely lesson in John’s example. Over history there have been many examples of Christian leaders who used their ministry as a means of increasing their personal wealth. Along with this attitude there has also frequently been other accompanying sinful behaviour exploiting in one way or another those they are meant to be spiritual shepherds towards. Jesus later warned of sheep in wolves clothing. There have recently been high profile cases where people in prominent Christian leadership have been exposed for using their position and reputation to misuse money for their own sinful purposes. Paul also had a ministry characterised by personal material humility. There should be a clear distinction between Christian leadership and that normally widely seen in the secular world.
John’s words were affirmed by God the Father himself. As Jesus rose from his own baptism in the Jordon the Trinity were perceptibly present. The Spirit descended upon Jesus and God the Father declared, ‘You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.’ Mark 1.11 God affirmed John’s message to those who are listening. John could not control that, he could only witness it.
How clear are we in our message regarding Jesus?
Are we attracted to Christian leadership because of the worldly glamour associated with it?
I know whom I have believed