John the Baptist
John the Baptist is the NT version of Elijah and the reasons that draw me to Elijah, draw me to John as well. While Elijah suddenly appears on the scene to prophesy a period of drought, John was in action before he was even born, when he leaped in his mother’s womb when she came face to face with Mary, who was herself carrying Jesus. Then before Jesus starts His ministry, being himself baptized by John, we find him as “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” Isaiah 40:3. Like Elijah, he was fully sold out doing the job God had given him to do and living a no frills existence: “John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey” Matthew 3:4. It appears he was effective as many showed their repentance by being baptized. His message was simple, fearless, direct and effectual: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” Matthew 3:2, but it gained him some powerful enemies, such as the religious establishment who he referred to as a generation of vipers and King Herod, who he rebuked for taking his brother’s wife, which led to John’s arrest, a period of self-doubt and finally losing his head. But always he was pointing people to the Christ: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 and away from himself: “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30. There is no greater commendation than that given by Jesus: “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” Matthew 11:11,12. While the vital task of preaching the gospel nowadays requires wisdom and sometimes tact and discretion, we could do with more John the Baptists who say what needs saying, without fear or favour or concern at upsetting those sinners who need to repent. While one may question use of his methods in today’s snowflake culture, his message remains pertinent. We are all grateful John prepared the way for Jesus.