John the Baptist has a unique place in human history. He was the one who came to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. Like a pilot vehicle he went ahead announcing the coming of the Messiah—the anointed One for whom all Israel was waiting for.
Preparation in the Desert
God always takes a long time in preparing his servants before he allows them to step into a particular moment in history. Often the sudden appearance of such men and women of God surprises others. John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth, too came suddenly into the scene. He was prepared for service in the long years he had spent in the desert.
Why did God choose the desert to train him? The desert is a place where one is shut out from others and shut in with God. The desert is a place where the isolation compels a person to develop a strong relationship with God. Again the desert is a place where other human voices are not heard; and one can develop a sharp sensitivity to listen to the voice of God.
Moreover, as far as John the Baptist was concerned, God had a prophetic role for him. He was trained to fear no man and speak the truth fearlessly to all. His voice came like a thunderstorm to the Israelites and it derived its power in the long years of silence he had spent in the desert. He came to please God and did not bother to ask whether what he said pleased men.
Again, the long years of preparation in the desert made him ready to step down as soon as Jesus came.
John the Baptist had another great quality. He remained true to the purpose for which he was called. He came to prepare the way for the Messiah. He knew that he was not the light; but only one who came to testify about the true light that was coming into the world.
When Jesus came to be baptized; John the Baptist was a powerful and popular figure in the land. He had many followers. He could have easily taken his followers with him and established a kingdom for himself. But he chose to turn the eyes of others to Jesus saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John was content to be just the “voice” calling in the desert. His desire was that Jesus must become greater and he must become less. He knew that he was just sent ahead to prepare the way. In all this, he leaves us a blazing example of being true to the purpose for which God has called us to be.
His Witness to Christ
We are called to witness to Jesus Christ. And John did that faithfully. After his death many people came to believe in Jesus saying, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true” (see John 10:40—42). Such was the greatness of this man.
Even though he was greater than any man born of women, he had his moments of doubt especially when he was locked up in prison for speaking the truth fearlessly. Yet he took his doubts straight to Jesus and remained strong in faith. Perhaps we should be encouraged to note that such a giant of faith had doubts and that is no sign of lack of faith.
Every generation has its heroes; but some of them stand tall for all generations to see. John the Baptist stands tall because he humbled himself to exalt Jesus Christ above all.
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