Summary: Today, we’re looking at the ministry of John the Baptist. You may think of his ministry as being a long time ago and happening in a place far away… but the fact is, Jesus has called you to the same kind of ministry today.
Just a few days after Christmas 2002, a man walked into a Baptist mission hospital in the Middle Eastern country of Yemen. He calmly sat in the waiting room with his pink slip that told security he was a returning patient. He sat patiently and quietly waited there with the other patients. Then at 8:15, he calmly got up and followed Dr. Martha Myers into Bill Koehn’s office. Now, I need to stop for a minute and tell you about Bill Koehn. Bill had been the hospital administrator for 28 years. You think of a hospital administrator and you think of a bigwig. But Bill was really nothing special. He wasn’t a scholar. He wasn’t a preacher. He wasn’t even a doctor. As a matter of fact, 28 years prior, before packing up and moving to Yemen, Bill was a grocery store manager in a small town in Kansas. If you didn’t know him very well, you would think he was backwards. He wasn’t outgoing. He hated to speak in public. If there was a group of people around, you could guarantee that Bill would be off to the side by himself. Bill was one of those types of people that you could meet and never remember. But God called him. Out of the middle of nowhere in Kansas, God called him to work with a Southern Baptist medical mission in Yemen. And he worked there faithfully for 38 years. The title of hospital administrator sounds really important. And it is in hospitals here. But not necessarily in hospitals in third world countries. His main jobs were fixing things that were broken. Pipes, beds, wires—whatever was needed, Bill did. And wherever he went, he witnessed. He witnessed to the patients. He spent his spare time carving out small wooden toys to give to the children on the streets so he could witness to them. He even was so bold as to witness to the Muslim guards at military checkpoints. The soldiers would look in his car and give the Muslim chant, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.” Bill would look up at them and smile and say, “And Jesus Christ is His Son.” By all accounts, this nobody from nowhere was a true witness for Jesus. It was never about him. It was always about Jesus. Everything he did in his life pointed people to Jesus as the Son of God. On that morning in December of 2002, Dr. Myers and the hospital’s supply manager, Kathy Gariety were meeting with Bill as they regularly did. Sometimes it was for prayer, sometimes it was for business. But it was always with an eye toward being witnesses for Jesus. This time was different. It was different because Al Qaeda operative, Abed Abdul Razek Kamel got up from his seat in the waiting room and followed Dr. Myers into Bill’s office. When he entered, he pulled a pistol and shot and killed the three of them. Bill Koehn, Martha Myers, and Kathy Gariety were 21st century Southern Baptist martyrs. Do you know what the word martyr means? The word martyr is actually taken directly from a Greek word and it means “witness.” It is the same word that is translated “record” in the verse we just read. It’s also translated “record” in verses 32 and 34—“and John bare record”—and John witnessed. The John that we see in our passage this morning is NOT the same John that wrote this book. The John that we see in our passage this morning is the one we refer to as John the Baptist. And John the Baptist was a witness of Jesus. Just like Bill was. For 38 years in the violent, desolate Islamic country of Yemen, Bill was a witness to Jesus Christ. He lived as a witness and he died as a witness. Scripture tells us that even before he was born, John the Baptist was a witness. When Mary was pregnant with Jesus and came to Elizabeth when she was pregnant with John, the Bible says that John leapt in her womb. From before he was born, John the Baptist lived his life as a witness to Christ. And later on in the Gospel of John, we will see that he died as a witness to Christ. We always talk about witnessing and being a witness for Christ. So, what does it take to be a witness? Do you have to take a bunch of classes to learn what to say? Do you have to be a Bible scholar? Do you have to be outgoing and have the personality of a salesman or traveling evangelist? Do you have to have some formula or special training or special materials? No—it doesn’t take any of that. It doesn’t take any of that, but it does take certain characteristics. Characteristics that we see clearly in well-educated people like Dr. Martha Myers. Characteristics that we see clearly in extremely gifted and talented people like Kathy Gariety. Characteristics that we see clearly in plain, ordinary people like Bill Koehn. Characteristics that all those people shared with John the Baptist. Do you want to be the witness that Jesus has called you to be? Then you need to model three characteristics. The first characteristic of a witness of Jesus is that a witness deflects. Look with me at verses 19-28.