Summary: A look at various characters in the Christmas story. This week we look at John the Baptist
John the Baptist
December 5, 2020
Have you ever received a Christmas card or bought cards and the picture on the front is magnificent? Maybe it’s a picture of the Shepherds and the angels; or it’s the wise men; maybe it’s Mary, Jesus and Joseph; or a simple star piercing the darkness over the manger. Those tend to be the most popular. And we’ve seen hundreds like them. But we always pause for a moment and take in that picture, don’t we?
There’s one Christmas character I’ve never seen on a Christmas card. Have you ever received one with John the Baptist on it? I mean picture a card that looked like this . . .
SLIDE OF A CARD WITH A GREETING FROM JOHN THE BAPTIST
Have you seen one like that?
As we move towards Christmas and think about the joy of the birth of Christ, a John the Baptist Christmas just doesn’t seem appropriate. So we celebrate and honor this sweet, little Jesus. That’s all good, really it is? We should feel good about it. Yet, in this crazy year, a John the Baptist Christmas almost seems more appropriate.
In the gospel of Mark, John takes center stage. Mark starts his gospel focusing on John. There’s no choirs of angels, instead he begins the story of Jesus’ coming with a prophet blaring and baptizing in the wilderness of Judea. In so doing, he adds a new figure to the good news about the incarnation of Christ.
So, let’s look at his story and how it impacts the Christmas story.
Some would say of him that he was a religious eccentric. Others would dismiss him as being a flake; some might say he wasn’t playing with a full deck. He doesn’t seem to fit in with shepherds and wise men and the other characters that we associate with the Christmas story. Yet, this was God’s unlikely servant chosen to promote and proclaim the coming of Christ.
Everything was different about John. Remember from last week, we looked at his father Zechariah. Zechariah and Elizabeth were older when John was born. Elizabeth and Mary were related.
The story is so cool, because after the angel, Gabriel, visited Mary, and told her she would conceive and have the Messiah, she visited Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John and Luke tells us - -
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! - Luke 1:39-41
John leaping in her womb for being in the presence of the unborn Jesus. Cool!!
Matthew 3 tells us more about John and his mission - -
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. - Matthew 3:1-6
John began his ministry living in the desert of Judea, a rugged desert wilderness. He ate honey and wild locust and dressed in garments of camel hair. He read over the scriptures. He communed with God. He seemed to model his ministry after Elijah’s.
Maybe lunch today could be some honey and locusts. That’s actually what some of the poorer people ate in that region. So, it wasn’t unusual that someone ate it, but his status, looks and appearance would have been questionable to the elite, especially the religious elite.
John attracted many followers among the lower class, many of whom were baptized by John. He had a number of followers, many of whom became followers of Jesus. Many people in that day thought John was the long awaited Messiah.
John made it clear that he was not the Messiah. In Matthew 3:11, John said --
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
In the gospel of John 1:6-8, John also makes it clear about John the Baptist --