John the Baptist is the only other person besides Jesus whose birth and death is recorded in the Gospels. It is a credit to his significance that all the four gospels comment on his life.
It is the commendation of God that is significant not the praise of men (2 Corinthians 10:18). John was a voice in the wilderness (Matthew 3:1-3). It is possible to make a lot of noise without being a voice for God. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, never did a miracle nor wrote a book, yet was still relevant twenty years later (Acts 19: 1-3). He still has much to teach us today.
John came baptising (Mark 1:4). This simple yet powerful tradition has become a vital part of Christianity. Jesus' words to his disciples - 'therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' are given clarity by the ministry of John the baptist.
Have you been baptised with water?
Baptism is an indication of our submission to Christ; our death to the sin and flesh, forsaking the world; and our incorporation into the body of Christ. It is the fulfilling of all righteousness (Matthew 1:15). It might seem something small and insignificant but it has great bearing on your Christian walk.
Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience allows you to fulfil God's will even when you do not understand it and often cannot even comprehend it.
John the Baptist pointed people to the Lord. His success was measured by how many people recognised Jesus. Ministry is just like that. Bringing people to the place where they can walk with Jesus without your aid. They learn to walk without you.
As the people became aware of who Jesus was John was no longer needed. This did not decrease the achievements of John. It simply meant he did not get in the way of what God wanted to do. May God deliver us from ministries that seek to have a hold over people for life? May he deliver us from ministries that herald their achievements over the role of Christ? Yet let us not grow critical of others labour. Doubt, pride and cynicism can creep into the tiniest crevices of heart. You had better watch your own.
John the Baptist had a certain expectation of Jesus. Notice his preamble to Jesus' ministry in Luke 3:16 - But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire' (Luke 3:16).
John was expecting more of Jesus. Yes, he was probably hoping that Jesus would deliver him from jail (Matthew 11:2). Yet even more importantly 'where was the baptism of the Holy Spirit with fire' that he (John) had prophesied about (Luke 3:16)? You can now see that John had more than one motivation for asking his question.
How often have your expectations fallen short of what you thought God had promised you? John the Baptist died (or to be brutally to the point - lost his head Mark 6: 21-28) before his prophetic utterances came to pass. He departed this earth before seeing the full fruit of his ministry. The work he did had a far greater significance than what he perceived. We must always remember we are part of God's plan not the centre of it. We play our parts obediently and leave the rest to God.
John's lack of understanding was the reason for his question in Matthew 11:3. With the benefit of hindsight we can appreciate exactly what Jesus was about. The out pouring of the Holy Spirit and fire on the day of Pentecost that John the Baptist had so confidently prophesied about, occurred long after he was dead. Don't you ever presume that because God has made you his spokesperson mean that you totally understand his plan.
We may not always understand what God's overall plan is in any given situation but 'Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me' (Luke 7:23) is still relevant to us as it was to John.
Let us remember to point people to Jesus and never get in the way. Real progress is measured by how you decrease and He increases in people's life as you minister to them. Let's not think this is an easy task. Especially when there are many others around us who are doing all they can to 'increase at the expense of Jesus decreasing'. This can tempt you to ask the question - 'does God know what He is doing'?
The words of Jesus that were 'never sent to John' are relevant to us here - 'I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he' (Luke 7: 28).
No one can be greater than the person who learns to walk in obedience.
Remember, John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was greater than any born of woman in that he had the unique privilege of physically pointing people to Christ where the other prophets simply ,prophesied by faith'. John the Baptist never really witnessed the birth of the Church.
On the other hand we are 'part of the Church'. In that sense we are 'greater than John the Baptist'. We belong to the kingdom. We can tell people of our experience with Jesus.
On thing we should never do is 'get in the way'. How sad it is, on those few occasions, when the very people who God had done a great work through later 'get in the way' of what God is continuing to do.
Significance is doing what God wants you to do. Men may not always appreciate it but it is always commendable by God.
Living Word library
15 February 2007