Our reading today comes from Matthew chapter 3:
I read this and think of John the Baptist, the very first “evangelist.” We take for granted the stories we read about him, and never think about who he really was. To my recollection, there are no stories of his youth in the Bible, so we don’t really know how he felt the call to be the herald for the Messiah. So I consider today, his life and his calling. It does not appear easy to me.
Given his parents, I believe his upbringing should have been close to that of other good Jewish families. He probably went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, observed all the laws, learned the stories of his people. But somewhere along the way, he was called by God in what must have been a miraculous way. I say miraculous because he, all at once, wandered out into the wilderness, began eating bugs, and wearing strange clothing. He began aggressively yelling at people as they passed by, “Repent, sinners!”
Can you picture it? Seemingly normal one minute, and an apparent lunatic the next? His story reminds me of some of those overly enthusiastic Christians today that stand and yell on street corners. You know the ones, those people that even we (the regular church) mostly avoid because they look crazy. What makes a person do that? It is either mental illness or an undeniable encounter with the living God.
I am sure it wasn’t easy. I am sure there were many that scoffed at him and ridiculed him. There were probably those that were mean and vindictive toward him. But he kept going, shouting in the wilderness for all to hear. The reason I don’t think he was crazy, is this: The Bible records that all kinds of people sought him out. They came day after day to be baptized, and hear the prophesying of the coming Savior.
See, John met a very real need for the people of Israel. He preached about hope and deliverance, something the regular church people cared nothing about. He preached about healing and forgiveness – things that we still need today.
I wonder how I would have reacted to John and his message. His strange ways, odd appearance, and crazy message. Would I have embraced him as one sent by God, or would I have crossed over to the other side of the street because he made me feel uncomfortable?
It is so easy to worship You and accept the stories of Your faithful witnesses from the backside. I look up to the people in the Bible because they were heroes. But would I have thought so then? Please forgive my judgmental attitudes. Help me to see all believers as brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of their appearance or behavior. Help me, Lord to see You when I look into their eyes, and to support their calls and ministries, as much as my own.
In the Name of the Lamb I pray,