Summary: Why did God call and entrust his message to John the Baptist rather than Herod or the priests
Luke 3:1-8 The mission of John the Baptist
Have you ever wondered why God spoke to an uncouth fellow like John the Baptist rather than to the “great and good” like King Herod or the High Priest Caiaphas.
Conventional wisdom would dictate that God should have engaged the “great and the good” to get the Gospel out. So why didn’t he?
Let me give you a little background on King Herod - just to illustrate the type of man he was.
The Jews hated Herod because of his successful alliance with Rome. He had been appointed king by the Roman Senate in 40 BC and had gained control of the country by 37 BC.
Herod was paranoid. He had three of his sons, his wife and his mother-in-law put to death - because he saw them as threats to his power.
Indeed the Roman Emperor Augustus said, “It was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son”.
His murderous streak didn’t end with his own death either.
Just before he died, he ordered some of Jerusalem’s most distinguished citizens to be arrested on trumped up charges and sentenced to death.
Their execution was to take place the minute he died.
Herod knew no one would mourn his passing, but wanted to make sure that people mourned the day he died.
And I don’t need to introduce Caiaphas to you.
As you all recall he was the High Priest primarily responsible for the judicial murder of Jesus – an event we remember on Good Friday each year.
He had power and he wasn’t going to jeopardise it by allowing a simple Jewish Carpenter to stir up a rebellion. As he infamously said: “It is better for one man to die for the people than the whole nation perish” (Jn 11:50).
Perhaps come to think of it, Herod and Caiaphas weren’t such a good idea after all!!
3. JOHN THE BAPTIST
But why, on a more positive note did God call John the Baptist?
I believe there were three characteristic qualities of John that shine out of Scripture.
3. 1. The first quality was John’s Humility
John the Baptist had a servant heart. He was
humble. He didn’t claim to be anyone special and he pointed to Christ.
Herod and Caiaphas on the other hand were keen to make a name for themselves.
Story: Herod was a marvellous builder. Have any of you seen the awesome palace he built in Masada? If you ever get the chance to see it you should.
Between 19 and 11BC he re-built and beautified the Temple (ie the third Temple) – the Temple of Jesus‘day. He did that to ingratiate himself with the Jews and to make a name for himself – not to worship God.
3. 2. The second quality that commended John was his dedication to God
Scripture tells us John was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth (Lk 1: 8-17).
John gave up the comforts of civilisation to withdraw into the wilderness to spend time seeking the will of God. He was single-minded.
Story: When I was out in Israel in January 2000, I found something really special in spending time in the Judean desert praying.
There is little to distract you and there is a ruggedness that helps to focus on God.
I believe God spoke to John because John avidly spent time seeking God.
3.3. The third quality that commended John was his boldness and honesty
John was bold and he was honest – he wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.
His boldness and honesty eventually made him powerful enemies and cost him his head.
He reproved King Herod’s son - Herod the Tetrarch for sleeping with his brother Philip’s wife and for his pains, he was thrown into prison and eventually executed
Jesus described John like this: I tell you the Truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone great than John the Baptist. (Mt 11:11. Quite an accolade from Jesus
Story: If Alistair Campbell had been the archangel Gabriel in charge of the Incarnation – I am sure he would have urged God to go for Herod and Caiaphas rather than John.
Yet the foolishness of God confounds the wisdom of this world (1 Cor. 1:25).
What commended John the Baptist to God?
His humility, his commitment and dedication to God and his single-mindedness in following his calling, however unpalatable that may be at times.
Quite a challenge for us in Advent isn’t it?