studies in scripture by David and Renée

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Like John the Baptist
I recognize the preeminence of the Lord Jesus.

Poor John the Baptist. Talk about a guy who needed to see a media specialist to improve his public image and a psychological guru to boost his self-esteem. Right?

Actually, John really didn’t care what others thought of him—wild appearance, eccentric diet, prophetic speech, and all. John knew he was just a messenger—it was the Messiah’s image and esteem John was interested in boosting and exalting.

John the Baptist had no lack for confidence as he bucked society’s fashions and conventions to proclaim a radical message from his wilderness platform. He wasn’t afraid to insult the establishment and challenge the religious leaders who shackled the people with their tradition yet lived in covert rebellion against God. Yet this prophet wasn’t interested in gaining a following for himself.

Instead, this fiery man thundered out the call for people to repent and turn to the Lord. Then in the waters of the Jordan River he baptized those who meant business.

John’s intensity and bold actions weren’t a byproduct of climbing his own ladder to fame and success. And his obvious humility did not spring from self-hate or low self-esteem, either. He simply recognized that this life wasn’t all about John—it was all about Jesus.

Even before his birth, John’s life purpose was extraordinarily clear (Luke 1:11-17, 67-80) John knew exactly who he was in God’s plan—and pursued that purpose wholeheartedly for God’s glory, not his own. Even when his disciples left him (John 1:19-41). Even when he ended up caged before his own prophecies could come true (Luke 7:18-35). Even when his message of repentance brought execution on his head (Matthew 14:1-12).

Granted, the short-term benefits of exalting Jesus Christ above self seemed bleak at best. But John the Baptist reaped rich, eternal rewards. Jesus himself honored John, declaring that no prophet—not even Moses—was greater.

You and I may not have a mission revealed by ancient prophecies (Malachi 4:5-6), but our purpose can be the same as John’s. Like him, we are to be Jesus Christ’s ambassadors to the world (2 Corinthian 5:18-20).

FURTHER STUDY: John the Baptist, a Jewish prophet of priestly origin who preached the imminence of God's Final Judgment and baptized those who repented in self-preparation for it; he is revered in the Christian Church as the forerunner of Jesus Christ. After a period of desert solitude, he attained notice as a prophet in the region of the lower Jordan Valley. He had a circle of disciples, and Jesus was among the recipients of his rite of baptism.

Sources of information about John. The primary sources for information about John's life and activity are the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the Acts of the Apostles, and the Jewish historian Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews. In using these works for historical reconstruction, allowances must be made for the known tendencies of each writer. All four Gospels recognize in John the start of the Christian Era, and each in its own way tries to reconcile John's precedence in time and Jesus' acceptance of his message and of a baptism of repentance from his hands (elements suggesting subordination to John), with the author's belief in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God.

The reading takes place in the gospel of Mark (1:1-11, 2:18-22, and 6:14-29)

Detail from painting by The Limbourg Brothers, c. 1413


This excerpt is from the Living Faith™ Bible (Tyndale House Publishers)
Copyright © 2003, 2000 David and Renée Sanford

You and I may not have a mission revealed by ancient prophecies, but our purpose can be the same as John’s...

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