Jesus stated that John the Baptist was the greatest man to ever live. Jesus considered him greater than Moses, Abraham, any of the patriarchs or people we typically associate with Old Testament greatness:
– Matt 11.11
God Himself, in the human form of Jesus Christ, declared John the Baptist to be the greatest. This is remarkable. Especially considering we have such a small knowledge of his life and ministry! Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, Paul wrote much of the New Testament, Abraham’s life is detailed through nearly every stage, but the story of John the Baptist is primarily wrapped up in his singular purpose: to be the witness.
The Old Testament promised a prophet who would come before the Messiah and “make straight the path for the Lord” (Is 40.3). As the Jews were awaiting the Messiah whom they believed would come and rescue them from the bondage of the Roman Empire, they were looking for this prophet. Many believe that this would be Elijah, in fulfillment of a prophecy in Malachi:
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
– Mal 4.5-6
The Jews knew that Elijah had not died, and thus they were expecting the physical reincarnation of Elijah. Thus, when they questioned John as to his identity, John proclaimed that he was not the reincarnation of Elijah, but Jesus stated that John was indeed fulfilling the role that they were expecting of Elijah: the fore-runner prophet declaring Jesus’ coming:
– Matt 11.14
John’s role was to prepare the way for Jesus. He was the prophet. He was the “voice crying out in the wilderness” (Matt 3.3, Mark 1.3, Luke 3.4, John 1.23). He had a dynamic ministry, he had disciples, and he led many people to repentance and baptized them back into the ways of the Lord. But His ministry had one purpose: to point to Jesus. His personal witness was that he was the forerunner and after him was coming someone much greater:
– John 1.15
“It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
– John 1.27
And perhaps his most well known statement is the humble observation:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
– John 3.30
John existed to point people to Jesus. He was “a voice crying out in the wilderness”. The interesting thing about a voice, however, is that it is nothing in and of itself. It belongs to someone. It is the tool of someone. It is a means by which someone communicates and makes a point. A voice is only valuable as the user deems to utilize it. John was the voice proclaiming the truths of God. God was utilizing John and speaking through him, and John knew it. He sought no glory for himself but fully and regularly pointed people back to Jesus. And in doing so, Jesus declared him to be the greatest man ever born of a woman.
What can we learn from this remarkable example of John?
It has become very trendy to encourage people to become the voice for those who have no voice: the homeless, the orphans, the unborn children, etc. Non-profits and humanitarian organizations are continually seeking to raise awareness for their causes, for the needs of people around the world, and they systematically do so by seeking out advocates and ambassadors. They teach us that we can change the world by being the voice of someone in need.
Much greater than this ambition, however, is our calling to be ambassadors for Christ. The Bible actually calls us that:
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
– 2 Cor 5.20
All of humanity has one, singular and massive need: salvation. Apart from Christ we have no life and we are condemned to an eternity in Hell. This need is infinitely greater than food, water, clothing, shelter or anything else we consider a basic human need. When we come to know Christ and are forgiven, we are given Spiritual life, we are saved from Hell, and we are appointed as voices to go out and tell everyone. Thus we are ambassadors from God to the needy. We can offer the hope that only He provides.
Unfortunately, often times our worlds center around us. We can be selfish, we can be proud, and we can be lazy. We can preach Gospels that bring the glory and attention back to ourselves and our efforts instead of bringing glory to Jesus and His wonderful grace. We can be silent when the Holy Spirit within us is urging us to speak and proclaim the truth. We can choose to lay around and watch TV rather than invest in our family, friends and neighbors.
John was the greatest voice to live. He was completely committed, he spoke truth, and he pointed people to Jesus continually. By making little of himself, he became great in the Kingdom of God. Jesus says,
“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
– Matt 20.26-28
We can and should strive to be great in the Kingdom of God. We can and should seek to store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. And we do this by dying to ourselves, serving others, and being a faithful witness for God to the world. Let’s be the voice He has called us to be. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us and give us the words as we need them. Let’s be more like John, giving all of the glory and honor to Jesus Christ alone.