Summary: 1st in a four part character study on the life of John the Baptist.
A UNIQUENESS EXHIBITED
INTRODUCTION TO SERIES:
I want to make what might be a surprising statement: John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived with the exception of Jesus Christ. Now to some, that statement would not just be surprising, it would be absurd. Because they evaluate greatness in terms of fame, power, wealth, worldly prestige.. qualities that John the Baptist, did not have. “Certainly,” they would say, “John the Baptist could not be compared to Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Gandi?” But even as a Christian, you might wonder about the veracity of saying that John the Baptist is the greatest man to ever live except Jesus. "Look Tim, John was a significant Bible character but he performed no miracles, he wrote no book, he reigned over no kingdom. John was a great man but was he greater than Abraham, Moses, David. Paul? Saying he was the greatest man, sounds like an exaggeration, in fact, it sounds like something a preacher would say to introduce a series about John the Baptist.”
But I’m not just expressing an opinion that maybe John was the greatest man who ever lived, I am absolutely certain of it. Listen to Jesus as it is recorded in Mt 11:11- "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.." Jesus, who as the Son of God knew all men.. past, present and future. And He didn’t exaggerate. He didn’t say, "I think John’s great." He said, "I tell you the truth..(A phrase of emphasis) There has never been anyone born of a woman.. that includes everybody.. there is no one greater than John the Baptist."
Now, that ought to really peak our interest. That should make us ask: “What made John so great? What was there about this man that elicited such high praise from the Lord Himself?” You see, true greatness is not determined by how much we’ve pleased men but by how much we have pleased God. 1 Thess. 2:4- "we’re not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." So for the next few weeks I want us to study why John the Baptist merited such tribute from Jesus. I want to look at this man’s "Marks of Greatness" and in so doing see how we can live a life that pleases God too.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SERMON:
The first mark of greatness I want us to see is the uniqueness that John exhibited. John was compared to the prophet Elijah but he was like no one else. And I believe in this day and age it is so important that we show the world that we are no-one’s clone except God’s. It is so easy to be squeezed & trapped into this world’s mold. Eph. 5:1- "Be imitators of God" If you want to please God and reach your full potential as a follower of Christ, you must demonstrate a uniqueness to the world that shows you are truly His. How was John unique?
I. HIS UNIQUE BIRTH:
He was unique in His birth. Steve read for us the account of John’s beginning. But the story actually starts in the O.T. The book of Isaiah describes his work and in Malachi 4:5-6, he wrote:“See, I send you the prophet Elijah. He will turn the hearts of the Fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to the fathers.” Now, Malachi wasn’t saying Elijah was returning from the dead but simply predicting that one would come like Elijah that would turn people’s hearts back to what was right. In-between that prophecy and the actual birth of John there was 400 years of silence. But God broke that divine stillness by giving a son to parents who were thought to be too old to have children. Zechariah and Elizabeth, are described in vs:7 as being, "both well along in years." Now, we are a little concerned about pregnancies when they happen in their late 40’s, but the scholars suggest that due to the phrase in vs:7 which literally means "stricken in years" and the statement that Zechariah uses in vs:18, that Elizabeth might of been in her 60’s, maybe even 70’s! Whatever her exact age, both had given up hope of ever having any children. Notice vs:6.. even though they may have been older they "were upright in the sight of God.." Apparently, like Mary & Joseph, the parents of Jesus, one of the reasons they received this blessing was because they had a right relationship to God. That statement made me wonder.. “Have I missed any of God’ s blessings because I haven’t been as upright with God as I should?”
Well, one special day when Zechariah was serving in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Vs:13- "Do not be afraid Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John." Zechariah was both startled and skeptical. He questions the angel- vs:18- "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." Notice the tact. He doesn’t say, "I’m an old man and my wife’s an old lady!" He said, "I’m old and my wife is... experienced and mature too." But while he was tactful he was not real smart. He basically questions the veracity of an angel! Can you see Gabriel bristling a bit when he replied to his question? Vs:19- "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news." "What do you need? I mean, how often in ones life does an angel appear and give you a message? But since you want proof. V.20- "..you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at the proper time." “You want to be sure Zech? Okay, you won’t be able to explain one detail of this, with words.”