“And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[e]water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1.4-8
John the Baptizer is not the kind of guy we would welcome in churches. I mean look at him — coming out of the desert wilderness, looking like an Old Testament prophet, wearing a camels hair coat? Really? This is the kind of guy who would get looks anywhere he went. And although times and dress codes have changed, John was “the kind of person who would stand out. He was ”noticeable.”
John wasn’t just noticeable in his appearance, although he certainly was even for first century Judea, he was noticeable for what he said. Because what he said stood out as much as how he looked. And what he said was revolutionary — “Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him.” Repent and believe the gospel. This is not something we hear everyday! And Lord knows these Judeans had not heard anything like this for a long time (probably since Isaiah spoke it to their forefathers and foremothers.)
But John preached a baptism of repentance— “turn from your sin,” but why? Because someone was coming. (Think the JAWS intro music here!) Someone is coming, not a nasty, angry shark, but a loving, sin-defeating Savior. Jesus was on the way. He had been waiting and watching, for thirty years Jesus had roamed this earth and now was his day. And his cousin John is announcing his arrival – someone not only who will baptize with water but with the Holy Spirit.
This. Was. Revolutionary.
Today we might read it and go oh, that’s nice. John did this, Jesus did that. Now we have the ability to go to God, confess our sins, mark our salvation with a baptism of God’s Spirit, and get to go to heaven when we die. But what a revelation! What a joy and hope.
And it was all introduced to us by John preparing the way for the Messiah. John, a woolly, wondering prophet sent by God so that we might know Jesus fully.
So although John’s appearance was less than appealing, especially in a modern context, his message was not. His message brought hope to a world deep in need.
Have you received this message? Have you surrendered to Christ? Has his Spirit come to live within your spirit? Pray to receive Jesus now and allow his light to live in you.
“O Lord God, you have saved us! Come now, Holy Spirit and live within me! I confess you as my Lord and Savior. I claim the blood of Jesus to save me. I give you my day and confess my love and my need for you. Thank you Lord for sending John that we might find life in your name. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen