John the Baptist is one of the most distinctive characters in the New Testament. He had an unusual flair for fashion, wearing wild-looking clothing made of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. He lived in the desert wilderness, ate locusts and wild honey, and preached a strange message. Unlike so many people, John the Baptist knew his mission in life. He clearly understood that he had been set apart by God for a purpose.
Through God’s direction, John the Baptist challenged the people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah by turning away from sin and being baptized as a symbol of repentance. Although John held no power or influence in the Jewish political system, he delivered his message with the force of authority. People could not resist the overpowering truth of his words, as they flocked by the hundreds to hear him and be baptized. And even as he attracted the attention of the crowds, he never lost sight of his mission—to point people to Christ.
Accomplishments of John the Baptist
John’s mother, Elizabeth, was a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The two women were pregnant at the same time. The Bible says in Luke 1:41 when the two expectant mothers met, the baby leaped within Elizabeth’s womb as she was filled with the Holy Spirit.
The angel Gabriel had already foretold the miraculous birth and prophetic ministry of John the Baptist to his father Zechariah. The news was a joyous answer to prayer for the previously barren Elizabeth. John was to become the God-ordained messenger proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The remarkable ministry of John the Baptist included the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. John did not lack boldness as he challenged even Herod to repent of his sins. In approximately 29 AD, Herod Antipas had John the Baptist arrested and put in prison. Later John was beheaded through a plot devised by Herodias, the illegal wife of Herod and ex-wife of his brother, Philip.
In Luke 7:28, Jesus declared John the Baptist to be the greatest man to have ever lived: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John …”
John’s greatest strength was his focused and faithful commitment to the call of God on his life. Taking the Nazirite vow for life, he personified the term “set apart for God.” John knew he had been given a specific job to do and he set out with singular obedience to fulfill that mission. He didn’t just talk about repentance from sin. He lived with a boldness of purpose throughout his uncompromising mission, willing to die a martyr for his stand against sin.
John the Baptist did not set out with the goal of being different from everyone else. Although he was remarkably strange, he wasn’t merely aiming at uniqueness. Rather, he targeted all of his efforts toward obedience. Obviously, John hit the mark, as Jesus called him the greatest of men.
Thought for Reflection
When we come to realize that God has given us a specific purpose for our lives, we can move forward with confidence, fully trusting the One who called us. Like John the Baptist, we live without fear, focusing on our God-given mission. Can there be any greater joy or fulfillment in this life than knowing God’s pleasure and reward await us in heaven?
Key Bible Verses
This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. (NLT)
He [John the Baptist] did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”
They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
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 desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” (NIV)
I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (NIV)