Summary: John's whole life and purpose were about witnessing to the light of Christ arriving in the world. What is it that we have in common with John the Baptizer?
A DEFINING MISSION
Text: John 1:6 - 8, 19 - 28
How many times have you driven the interstate to arrive on the back end of a “message vehicle” that bears the warning “Wide Load”? That vehicle is announcing the motion of a vehicle that comes after it containing cargo that is usually wider than the lane it is traveling in like half of a double wide trailer. Whether you have arrived at the back end traveling in the same direction or the other side in the opposite direction, those “message vehicles” announce something far bigger than themselves. Now that might not be the best analogy best it does serve the purpose in what John the Baptizer did in announcing the coming of the Messiah.
John's whole life and purpose were about witnessing to the light of Christ arriving in the world. What is it that we have in common with John the Baptizer? Could it possibly be that we too have a purpose to mention the arrival of the Messiah? Yes, we live what many call the “in-between times”---the celebration of Jesus's birthday aka as the First Advent and what that means along with the warning of His Second Coming. Jesus came the first time to be our Savior and He will come the next time to judge the world! How do we define our mission in in our journey as pilgrims in the pilgrimage of life?
WHO ARE YOU?
Why were there some bystanders who were suspicious of John the Baptizer and his identity? It seems that John the Baptizer's arrival created curiosity. 1) An Elijah look alike: He showed up looking like a prophet by his very appearance. In fact, some thought John might be the fulfillment of Elijah the prophet's presence among them. It has been said that his appearance---his attire being clothed with camel's hair and a leather girdle around his waist was a an echo of II Kings 1:8. 2) A historical significance: There is at least 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. The Pharisees (which literally means “separatists”) came into existence around 200 BC. They were sticklers on the law and tradition who were very interested and curious in John's authority as he came onto the scene Baptizing sinners. 137 years after the Pharisees became established, in 63 BC the Hasmonaean dynasty had fallen around the time when the land of Israel had been incorporated in the Roman empire. (F. F. Bruce. Th Gospel and Epistles of John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1983, pp. 49, 50). As we know from the other Gospels John called them sinners when they thought that they were above sin as he insisted on their need to be Baptized like everyone else.
Why did the Pharisees want to know about his credentials? Could it be that his presence among them signaled that there were necessary changes that need to be made? 1) Dreaded detour: John the Baptizer's whole purpose was to pave the way for the coming of the Messiah! They were not fond of the change. How well do you like a change? Rev. Dr. Rose Sims once said, “Troubles are like babies, growing larger by nursing and always yelling for a change. But those doing the yelling always want someone else to do the changing.” (Rose Sims. Pappa Was A Promise Keeper. Rdige Manor, Florida, 1995, p. 116). 2) Standard: Did his presence mean that they were being upstaged by an impostor or did it mean that they had some changes to make? 3) Security vs. insecurity issues: How many people do you know that openly respond to any type of communication unless they know or expect to hear from someone or some company? John the Baptizer was sent by God to give the message the he “was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord as said the prophet Isaiah” (Isaiah 40:3)
What does history teach us about some of our leaders from the past? Consider an example of a model politician from over a century ago. When you consider the current political climate where there is partisanship, fraud, division, scandal, immorality, infidelity and conspiracy and cover ups it is hard to have any trust in any one of our current leaders. Is it hard to believe that there was a time when the integrity, humility and diligence of our leaders made a difference for those who elected them?
ILLUSTRATION: "One of the great lawmakers of the twentieth century, Carl Hayden, entered office in 1913. After the swearing in ceremony, Congressman Joshua Talbott of Maryland said to the young Arizonan that there are two kinds of congressmen, show horses and work horses. Talbott suggested that if Hayden wanted the help and respect of his colleagues he should try to be a work horse. Talbott had learned what Hayden also learned, the principle of serving and receiving". (Herb Miller. Actions Speak Louder Than Verbs. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989, p. 121). John the Baptizer had been sent by God not to call attention to himself as a "show horse" but to bear witness to the light as a "work horse". It seems that John the Baptizer had come onto the scene as a “workhorse” in the midst of the “show horse personality” of the Pharisees who questioned his credentials.