Monday, July 30, 2007

Matthew 3:1. John the Baptist-The Lord’s Herald

I recently taught Vacation Bible School at my church. I was assigned the 3rd and 4th grade boys and girls. One of the lessons I taught was on John the Baptist. To me, he is one of the most interesting characters in the Bible. As the Scripture records, he knew that he wasn’t “the man” and he was willing to play his role. There is certainly something for the Christian to learn from the life of this greatest of the Old Testament prophets. His humility, integrity, and tenacity shine as an example to all of the body of Christ.

First of all, we should notice who this man was. John the Baptist was the son of a priest, Zacharias, and his wife Elizabeth. An angel of the Lord, in Luke chapter 1, announced his birth to his father. The angel told him that he would be great in the sight of the Lord (Luke 1:15). John’s father did not believe the angel and was struck mute until the child was born. His surname, as it were, was the Baptist or baptizer. As Albert Barnes notes in his commentary, Jews had practiced baptism of proselytes so the practice was not unheard of in Israel. However, the reason for John’s baptism was not to convert Gentiles to Judaism. We shall observe the spiritual significance of it in a moment. We should note that the word Baptist is a transliteration of the Greek word baptistes. The root of this Greek word is probably bapto which means to fully immerse in liquid. John came to baptize people in order to use a physical act to demonstrate a spiritual reality.

Furthermore, let us observe what this man was doing. The scripture records that he was preaching. The word translated preaching is the Greek word kerusso which means “to proclaim as a herald”. This isn’t the sort of preaching where a preacher today is expounding upon the word of God and teaching it to his church. This is more like a newspaper person years ago in a large city crying out “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” John came to proclaim the message of the Lord and bring that message to those that would hear it. He wasn’t engaged in apologetics nor was he looking to garner for himself the praise of men. His message was uncompromising and so was his delivery. He proclaimed the message. Here it is. Take it or leave it.

In addition to these observations, we should also take note of where he was preaching. He was in the wilderness of Judea. This land was located east of Jerusalem along the Dead Sea. This wilderness was actually more of mountainous, sparsely populated land. Probably it was used as much for pasture as it was for anything else. This was not the place you would go if you were trying to draw a crowd. The Willow Creek association would probably saw this was not a sound church planting strategy. Our ideas about church growth and evangelism tend to be people oriented rather than God oriented. We go where the people are with the message we think people want to hear. However, here we see God’s messenger in the last place anyone would expect proclaiming as a herald the message of God.

John the Baptist was a unique man who delivered an uncompromising message in an equally uncompromising way. Let us pray for the same kind of tenacity as John had as we carry God’s word into this world that wants nothing more than to rebel against it.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc Used by permission All rights reserved

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