John the Baptist
His name may mean: "Yahweh Has Been Gracious"
His work: He was the forerunner of Jesus, called to live in the spirit and power of Elijah. John prepared the way by preaching the need for repentance.
His character: John was completely focused on his assignment, unaffected by anything other than his message. And he wasn't willing to take on this duty without plenty of preparation.
His sorrow: A prophet's greatest joy is in preaching. But John spent the final days of his life in prison, unable to do what God had called and gifted him to do.
His triumph: God chose John to baptize his Son. No greater honor has ever been given a man.
Key Scriptures: Luke 1:5-25; 3:1-20
A Look at the Man
People in Israel were expecting the Messiah. The prophet Malachi had spoken of a redeemer, saying, "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes" this long-awaited day of the Lord had melted into years, decades, centuries. Generations had come and gone, and still, there was silence. God's voice was not heard.
But then came John with the clear-cut assignment pronounced centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him.'" John's voice was so strong and so persistent that it was heard even in the king's palace. When Herod learned that John had pronounced judgment on his illegal and immoral marriage to his brother's wife, he threw the prophet in prison.
While imprisoned, John felt the need for reassurance about the one whose way he was preparing. Had he, like so many others, secretly hoped the Messiah would be like other great kings, using military force to overthrow his adversaries? But Jesus had assembled no armies. Perhaps, he may have thought, Jesus would use political force. But civil reform would never prove to be part of Jesus' agenda.
When John's emissaries questioned Jesus, they found him at work, curing diseases, giving sight to the blind, delivering those who were possessed by evil spirits. Jesus merely replied to their questions with the command: "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard."
Imagine how John must have been pleased with this message. This is not what I expected in the Messiah, he may have thought. But Jesus must be from God. No one could do these things unless he was the one we have waited for.
A short time later, John was beheaded by Herod. By his life and by his death he prepared the way of the Lord, whose kingdom was not of this earth. Jesus said of John: "I tell you the truth. Among those born of a woman there has not risen anyone greater than John."
John said of Jesus, "One more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie... He must become greater; I must become less." A perfect summary of what it means to prepare the way of the Lord.
Reflect On: Luke 3:7–14
Praise God: For his faithfulness.
Offer Thanks: For God’s plan of salvation, for the obedience of John the Baptist, and for sending his Son.
Confess: Your fear of boldness in speaking the truth and in telling of your love for God and your faith in him.
Ask God: For opportunities to tell others of his mercy and for courage to speak.
Today's reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book's title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.
John spent the final days of his life in prison, unable to do what God had called and gifted him to do.