John the Baptist was an intriguing figure in the New Testament, whose ministry and life was brief, yet was considered in the highest esteem.
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. (Luke 3:15)
John had started his public ministry and expectations were high. It wasn’t too long ago that John was born of a miraculous birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their old age. It was foretold about John,
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”(Luke 1:15-17)
What is striking about this prophecy is the sovereignty of God in laying out John’s entire life even before he was born- that he would be great, that he would be a practicing Nazirite, practicing abstinence, that he would be filled with the Spirit and that he would turn people back toward God, preparing them to receive Christ. Often Christians get lost in figuring out what course their lives should take, when all they need to recognize is that God has already laid out a path for their lives. Some will have public ministry like John, others would serve in quieter ways. Some will preach to many, others will witness to a few. A mother who nurtures a child and raises him in the knowledge of the Lord is as important to God as a minister who nurtures many.
While God’s sovereignty is unavoidable, man’s sensitivity to the leading of God helps fulfill man’s destiny. John could have given up his Nazirite vows, he could have pandered to the powerful Pharisees and teachers of the Law (rather, he had the choicest words of condemnation for them) and he could have attempted to build a ministry for himself rather than pointing to Christ. After all, he was turning many toward God in repentance! Instead, being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, he submitted himself to Christ, restricted himself to what was ordained for him- to make way for Christ. Far too many Christians get led astray in their quest for ministry that is modeled not on what God wants them to do, but on what they have been told is the right thing to do.
John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16)
Great ministry comes at a great price. John’s life was a lonely life. Before his ministry, he was in isolation in the desert. His message of repentance and condemnation for the disobedient isolated him from the masses. He was soon incarcerated till his premature execution at the hands of Herod. Yet, he was accorded the greatest recognition by Christ himself in Luke 7:28:
I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
Great expectations need to be tempered by an understanding of God’s purpose. A life becomes great when God’s design for that life is fulfilled by a person’s sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit.
- LIVING IN FEAR
- NO ORDINARY BABY