John the Baptist

Day 6

Luke 1:57-80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
    that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
    in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
Jesus said there was no prophet greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). All the other prophets foretold of a Messiah who was to come. John the Baptist announced that the coming of the Messiah was imminent, and indeed had already happened.

The Jewish people had not heard a prophet’s word from the Lord since Malachi 400 years earlier. They thought God had abandoned them, that he had given up on them. Into this darkness and silence, John the Baptist comes as a voice crying out in the wilderness (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3).
What a joy to hear a word from God! But wait… Was this guy really who he claimed to be? Could they really trust his message? After all, Malachi prophesied that Elijah was to usher in the Messiah.

John the Baptist came in the manner of Elijah, especially in the manner of dress. The Bible tells us that John lived in the wilderness and ate locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). Just as Elijah dressed in hair (2 Kings 1:8), John made his garments out of camel hair. Jesus himself later told that John was Elijah who was to come (Matthew 11:13-14).

The birth of John the Baptist was nothing short of a miracle. His mother was barren and well past child-bearing years when an angel appeared to her husband to tell that she would bear a son. John’s miraculous birth indicated that God had placed a special calling on his life. He was to be the herald of the coming of the long-awaited Messiah, his forerunner in the manner of Elijah. John the Baptist’s birth meant that finally someone would declare, “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:3; Isaiah 40:3) and “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Just as John was born to proclaim that Christ had come, Jesus birthed the Church to proclaim the good news that he is King of kings and Lord of lords. He has not abandoned us and never will! He gave his life for you and me that we might have freedom from slavery to sin. Joy to the world!

If you’re in Christ, you are the Church. The message that John the Baptist was born to herald almost 2,000 years ago is ours to proclaim boldly today. But in order to do so, the message must occupy first place in our hearts and minds and empower everything we say and do. John gave Jesus his rightful place of preeminence in all things and so should we. As we return to the busyness work and school after a few days of rest or something that resembles it, we need to keep Christ first and foremost. Let us pray for grace to be able to say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

The ancient message that John the Baptist was born to deliver—pepare the way of the Lord; prepare his coming—needs to live on in us Christ-followers as well. Every one of us needs to ask God to search our hearts to see if there’s any obstacle or sin or idol that impedes his doing a new thing in and with our lives. John the Baptist’s message to the crowds that flocked to see him was one of repentance, which is the first step in preparing the way of our hearts. Jesus stands ready to forgive and remove anything and everything that would keep us from the joyful life he wants to give us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus and in his Word, John the Baptist’s dwelling in the desert combined with his unusual diet and manner of dress should reveal to us the importance of Jesus’s words that we are “not of the world” (John 17:14) even though we live in the world. Our lifestyle as disciples should demonstrate more and more that there’s something different about us, something that should make others also want to be disciples. That something is the Someone proclaimed by John the Baptist and who lives in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the Messiah we now celebrate during this season of Christmas. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Roger Phelps | Discipleship Pastor

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