We have now come to the third Sunday in Advent and we have one more Sunday before we move into the week of Christmas. This morning we will be looking at the life of John the Baptist as a model for Christian ministers. When we look at the life of John the Baptist, there are several things that stand out about his life. He was a nameless prophet, a fearless prophet and a selfless prophet. His life was filled with exemplary courage, humility and selfless service to the one who had sent him.
John the Baptist is sent as the one to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. John himself quotes the words of Isaiah the prophet and identifies himself as the messenger who was to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. In the Isaianic text, the reference is to the Syrian desert through which the people of Judah would return from their exile in Babylon. However, John the Baptist appropriates it for himself and sees himself as the one who is preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness.
John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It was a single initiatory baptism indicating the beginning of a new commitment. The most likely precedent was a ritual cleansing by Gentiles on becoming a proselyte. But the shocking thing about this is that John is asking the Jews to undergo the same initiatory ritual required by the Gentile convert. John was clearly showing that it was not good enough to be born a Jew, but one had to be born of the Water and the Spirit. John acts as a model for us as he calls people to repent of their sins.
Christian ministers are likewise to challenge their people to repent of their sinful ways and turn back to God. No one can claim the right to salvation by stating they have been worshipping in this church or that they were born in a Christian family. The difference will come only when we repent of our sins.
Secondly, we learn from John’s life that it was a life of humility and selfless service. John lived a very austere life. He wore clothing of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. He also preached that after him will come one who is higher than him, the straps of whose sandal he was not worthy to untie. John showed that Jesus was to increase through his ministry and he was to decrease. This is also a model for Christian ministers who are to build up God’s name and God’s glory while we ourselves are to decrease. John also sets this as an example for us to be selfless.
Thirdly, we also see that John was a fearless prophet. John did not hesitate to confront king Herod. He had confronted him about his immoral life, as he was living with his brother Phillip’s wife. John had been saying, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people because they considered John a prophet.
On Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised her with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
John was then beheaded and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl. John was not worried about the consequences. He was a fearless prophet and he confronted evil. Christian ministers are likewise to have a prophetic voice. We are to confront that which is evil and be a prophetic voice in the community.
This morning as we meditate on the life of John the Baptist, may he truly teach us to preach the message of repentance, to live a life of simplicity, to humble ourselves, to lift the name of Jesus higher and to be a prophetic voice in the community. May God truly help us to be like John the Baptist.
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