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T or F: The disciples walked about in bathrobes because they were too lazy to change into street clothes.
T or F: John the Baptist was a wild, crass hillbilly of a man.
T or F: Many people in America wear pants with holes across the knees because they are of the poorer class and must work on their hands and knees for a living.
JOHN’S THE BAPTIZER’S PEDIGREE
John was born with a silver spoon. You remember his father Zechariah was a priest who served in the magnificent temple. John was born into the priestly line. That speaks volumes! The priests were the social standard makers, religious litmus test takers, and the civil/religious judges of the day.
John was born into an elite class with the highest social rank. He was better educated than 95 percent of the nation. In terms of religious status John was born at the crest of the hill. Economically he was probably in the upper class, for priests had financial benefits others did not.
The truth is John had it all – status, education, and most likely wealth.
Like his father, John’s birthright was to serve at the temple. There was one problem. John came to despise the corruption of the “organized religion” of the day. He saw most of the priests and religious leaders as slime balls. They were hypocrites, widow robbers, and false teachers leading the nation away from God into dead ritual and spiritual bondage.
John repudiated the abuses of the priestly class and abandoned the option of being among the elites. He walked away from the magnificence of the temple service, the intelligentsia with their heady theological conversations and social commentary, and their arrogance, hypocrisy and duplicity. He would not endure their spiritual degradation. Disgusted, he turned his back on it all, to seek Yahweh only.
TO THE WILDERNESS
John abandoned the religious nonsense and went to the wilderness. Israel had found God in the wilderness. God could be found there again. John got what he looked for! “The word of the Lord came to John in the wilderness.”
John traded in his priestly garments and dressed in leathers. Dressed for a different type of success. He no longer ate from the temple cafeteria but scavenged for food in the wilderness.
IDENTITY AND MISSION
John’s father was not just a priest. Both Zachariah and Elizabeth had sterling spiritual character. Zachariah stood out as a godly priest who had met the angel Gabriel in the temple. John had been raised with that story – that impartation!
John’s young spirit had been seeded with, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High…” If ever a child had a sense of destiny and calling!
John laid hold of his identity and mission to be a front-runner and road excavator for the Lord.
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ Mt 3:3, Is 40:3
A MOVEMENT BEGINS
The Bible does not describe how John’s preaching ministry began and grew. I picture it this way. John was venting his frustrations, passion and hope in the barren wilderness by preaching to rocks, brambles and jackals. A shepherd came by and was taken with the message. He returned to his Bedouin family and reported the experience. The family, then the clan, came out to listen to a stark, trembly, hopeful message. It went viral.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
John did not make it easy for people to hear the message. The people would have to walk a day or two to hear him. He had not learned how essential it is to have a convenient location. They came to the wilderness with their backs to the great temple. The Scripture says, the whole nation came to him in the wilderness. John offered something they could not find at the temple.
John’s strident message came from revelation of great alarm. The warning needed to be sounded! There was no easy repentance in John’s preaching. His message was not soothing and comfortable, but it was hopeful! John was not as harsh as he was convicted, convinced the nation was lost, far from God and about to suffer the stinging consequences.
He prophesied God was about to show up big time! The proud would be rewarded with torching fire and hacking axe. John did not want his people to experience those things – because he had the heart of a priest! He would rally the people back to God, and to the mercies received in convicted repentance. The good news was the humble and oppressed would finally find justice and relief from oppression.
MESSIAH IS COMING TO CLEAN SHOP!
John had a message of Messianic Weight! His assignment was to point out the Anointed One, a greater One who would follow him. It was not just, “Repent or you will be burned and hacked” but, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” Something big was up. A unique person was coming to reinforce God’s Kingdom.
Something monumental was about to take place. God was about to act and take things in hand. He would not be distant, but present! Be aware, because when the King takes decisive action heads will roll. And comfort will come for the oppressed!
That stirred the nation, and hundreds of thousands of people made the trek to the wilderness, for they saw that John had the heart of a priest, but the voice of a prophet!
John radically changed everything: his associations, his clothes, his diet, and his mailing address. Then he fired up his message! The nation came and humbled their hearts. The fear of God gripped a people anticipating an amazing disruptive future!
Is there a spiritual swamp which needs to be drained?
John had identity and mission. What is yours?
What does it mean to have the heart of a priest and the voice of a prophet?
Are you anticipating an amazing disruptive future?
Steven C Johnson