Commentary by Walter Albritton


December 29


Rugged John the Baptist, Who Promoted Jesus Rather than Himself

Read Matthew 3; 11:2-19; 14:1-12

Key Verse: Matthew 11:10



Our focus today is on John the Baptist: Messiah’s Forerunner. What do we know about this strange man? Much more than what he wore and what he ate! We should not dismiss John as a wild man who roamed in the wilderness, eating off the land and wearing animal skins for clothes. He was so much more!

His parents believed the promise of God that he was born to serve God. From his birth, they dedicated him to God’s service. As a child, he was nurtured in this faith.

He grew up in the wilderness area of Judea. We have no record of special schooling. Evidently, his parents, with the help of the Holy Spirit, taught him and prepared him for his mission in life.

When the time came for John to step forward, he was ready. We can celebrate the strength of his will in the words, “In those days came John….” He did not wait for a committee to send him, nor did he wait for his friends to commission him.

John spoke plainly. He called upon people to repent of their sins. He insisted that the kingdom of God was near. The Messiah was at hand. By repenting of sin, the people could prepare their hearts to welcome the One foretold by the prophets.

John was not pretentious. He did not come meekly before people, hoping they would “like” him and give him a membership in the local County Club.

Bulldozers are used to make highways. God used John like a bulldozer to clear the way for Jesus. John understood that and he backed down from no one, not the cunning Pharisees nor the wicked King Herod Antipas.

John recognized Jesus as “the lamb of God.” I tremble every time I read the words that describe the moment when John said to his disciples, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). Here surely is one of the most profound moments in history.

Jesus proclaimed the greatness of John. Whatever other people thought about John, he had the commendation of Jesus. Jesus honored him when he described him as even “more than a prophet.”

Commentator Thomas Friskney observed: “John plows and prepares the soil for Jesus to sow the seed of the kingdom of Heaven.” As modern disciples, we can learn from John’s boldness but also his humility.

John did not promote himself. What an extraordinary compliment that is to a preacher! Shall I say it again? John did not promote himself! Would to God I might overhear someone say that about me! Every preacher knows how strong is the insidious temptation to build one’s own kingdom rather than tend to the flock of God.

Whenever we are tempted to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, we do well to remember the words of John:

“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

These words should drive us to our knees, where we cry out to God for the humility we must have if we are to serve Christ well.

John was called by God for a tough assignment. He stepped forward and served, refusing to whimper when the going got tough. May we ask God for the courage to do the same as we answer His call for our own special mission in these days. + + +