Read: John 1:19-34
We are sure that John the Baptist is not the Apostle John, he’s not the one who wrote the Gospel of John, but the religious powers of his day couldn’t figure out who he was. John the Baptist was baptizing people at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan River and apparently attracting quite a lot of attention, or perhaps from the Jewish leadership’s perspective, distracting a lot of people. One thing is sure. John knew his calling. He understood what his life was all about and was relentlessly pursuing Jesus.
John the Baptist:
- was not the Messiah: John 1:19-20
- was not Elijah: John 1:21, see Malachi 4:5 and 1 Kings 17-19 and 2 Kings 2:1-11
- was not the Prophet: John 1:21 and reference by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:14-19
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” John 1:22-23
John’s mission was not to impress anyone with his importance. I don’t even think he was on a mission to gather disciples except where it would help promote the message of repentance and preparation for Jesus. John knows Jesus is among them. This is a truly overwhelming thought:
“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:26-27
“But among you…” is an audacious statement that has slipped by me in the past. He’s right here in front of you. And He will be revealed very soon. In fact, the way John (the Gospel writer) puts it, the very next day he has an encounter with Jesus.
John Testifies About Jesus.
Finally, after years of obedience with no guarantee of success, John the Baptist sees Jesus.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ John 1:29-30
John is speaking to his disciples, and he is speaking to us. This is the One, the Lamb of God, the One who was and is, the One who was before and is now. There’s a lot of doctrine wrapped up in this short phrase. I imagine they talked about the concept more than once. The prologue suggests this was something they thought about a lot.
John the Baptist didn’t know Jesus in this way as they grew up. They were cousins in an earthly sense, but their heavenly mission transformed both from ordinary men to extraordinary people from God.
John Knew His Mission on Earth.
I don’t know about you, but I often find myself praying for clarity, a clear mission statement. John had no doubt.
- I came that he might be revealed to Israel: John 1:31
- God sent me to baptize with water: John 1:33
- I would see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ John 1:33
John knew his mission and he went about it zealously, day after day, with complete confidence holding nothing back.
Then it happened.
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One. John 1:32, 34
I think John was sure he would eventually see Jesus, but he had no idea of when. Day after day John was committed to his work. Each day he woke up, ate some honey and locusts, fluffed his wild hairdo, and then began preaching repentance and baptizing people. How many did he baptize before or after Jesus? No one knows, but try to imagine: one thousand fifty-three, fifty-four, fifty-five…on and on. The message was of utmost importance. Each time he had to wonder. Is this the one? Nope. Next one? Nope. Again and again.
Was John ever discouraged? There’s no indication that he ever missed a beat, but I have to wonder if he looked at the list of those he baptized a few times to see if he somehow missed the sign. That’s just my mind wandering because there are so many days when I question if I’m on the right track.
What is your wilderness today? You and I may not be standing in a river or eating locusts and wild honey, but if we can see beyond the physical realm and peek into the spiritual world that surrounds us, I think we would see the wilderness with some clarity. Of course, the tempter does not want us to see this nor does he want us to dwell on the thought.
Instead, I think Satan wants us to question being the voice in the wilderness. He wants us to think we are merely drawing attention to ourselves. He feeds us the lie that it’s all about our fame and fortune. I don’t want to say “we” too often. Perhaps you don’t get discouraged or confused, but I have found myself questioning my motives to the point of inaction. Does that make sense? Am I the only one holding back? Is my pursuit of ___ (fill in the blank) ___ all about promoting myself, or is it to help people in their walk with Christ? It sounds easy, but it’s not.
As I get older, my list of failures gets longer. The opportunity to dwell on that which did not work is far longer than the successes I have seen. Here’s the key: focus on the mission statement that was commanded: go and make disciples of Jesus, teach His commands, baptize in His name, repeat until the time on earth is done. If my daily activity is supporting the mission, whatever that activity is, I’m moving in the right direction.
Life in the wilderness may not easy at times, but in comparison to the sacrifice that Jesus made, it’s certainly worth the struggle. Enjoy the successes. When you fail, (and you will if you’re trying) lean forward and fall on your face. Fall forward. Then get up and try again.