things I have learned from John the Baptist - part two

Not only have I been struck again by John's humilty, and clear awareness of his own role in relation to Jesus - I have also grown through unpacking just what it was that John was called to do.When the Jewish people, especially those sent by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, ask John who he is, his answer is:

"The voice of one calling in the wilderness, make straight the way for the Lord." (John 1:23)

Definitely a cryptic answer when viewed from a 21st century perspective - but no doubt many of those listening would recognise the quotation from Isaiah 40:3.  John is stating that he is the forerunner to Christ, as prophesied long ago.  John's job is to make straight the way for the Lord, to prepare the way for Jesus, to shout out in every way possible - "Get ready!  Jesus is coming!  Sort yourselves out!"

Getting ready is something we're used to in everyday life.  Anyone else with young kids will confirm that getting ready to leave the house is a mammoth task in and of itself.  Forget a spare nappy, or some snacks, or worst of all a stuffed elephant, and the day is pretty much a write off!  While it takes soooo much time, it really is worth being ready!

The people of Israel were totally not ready for Jesus to come amongst them.  John's role was to nudge, or rather, shove them into action.  Luke fills in a few of the gaps about what John's 'get ready' role was to be (Luke 1:14-17).

  • To turn people back to their God
  • To turn the hearts of parents to their children
  • To turn the disobedient to the righteous
  • To give people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins

This grabs me most of all when I realise that John wasn't just an interesting, if not slight weird sideshow to the main event of Jesus.  John, the prophetic preparation party for Jesus, was a significant part of the story, one foreseen by Isaiah a few hundred years earlier.

Jesus could surely have just rocked up and started moving and shaking (!), but instead he wanted his people to be ready, to be prepared, to be in the right frame of mind - and life - to get the message. 

"Get ready" was a hugely important message for the people of Israel two thousand years ago.  "Get ready" is a massively important message for me, for us, for followers of Jesus, and for the world in 2012 as well.

Am I ready?

things I have learned from John the Baptist - part one

I started the year reading John's Gospel. I have got stuck. Not in a 'what's going on here?' kind of a way, but in a 'there's no point reading further until I have thought long and hard about this' kind of a way.The good people of Barney's are therefore 'stuck' there too - we've spent four weeks in John so far, and we haven't finished chapter one!

The main reason I am stuck… is John the Baptist.

I am stuck on his humility. When the Jewish leaders ask who he is, he is very clear on who he is not. He answers them unequivocally. "I am not the messiah. I am not worthy even to untie his sandals. I am nothing. He is everything."

This is striking for me, in a culture where self-promotion, self-centredness and self-addiction are prominent. Don Miller captures well the spirit of the age in his book 'Blue Like Jazz' when he writes,

The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me.

John Baptist resists the temptation to get a bit of limelight for himself, even at a time when the Jewish people are desperately seeking someone to follow. Surely he was a little tempted to get something out of this situation for himself? Instead, the clear motto of John Baptist's ministry:

He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30)

How often we are tempted to think of ourselves first, and others later, if at all? How often do I look like I'm listening to someone, but actually I'm planning something else or wondering what's for tea? How often do we seek some benefit for ourselves in our interactions with other people?

John Baptist is a powerful reminder - it's not about me. Life is not a story about me.

Life is, rather, a brilliant Jesus story about the creation and redemption of a fantastic world gone wrong. My life, if it is to have meaning, is designed to be part of this great story - which is most definitely not just a story about me.