Mark 1:2-8, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
If only John the Baptist had consulted with the church growth “experts,” he would have done things differently, but instead he decided to do things his own way—God’s way. He was a radical and his ministry was radically distinct from the norm.
He was a man “sent from God” (John 1:6), in fulfillment of prophecy (Mark 1:2-3). “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through Him, He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light” (John 1:7-8).
He came to share the news of the coming of the Christ. His ministry was utterly unconventional. The religious leaders of that day sat “in the chief seats in the synagogues” (Matthew 23:6), John the Baptist “came baptizing in the wilderness” (Mark 1:5). The Pharisees and Scribes espoused a religious of self-righteousness “(tying) up heaven loads and laying them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4), John the Baptist preached a message of repentance in view of the immanent appearing of the “Kingdom of Heaven” in the person of Christ (Matthew 3:2-4). The leaders of his day richly adorned themselves with religious garb drawing attention to themselves, John the Baptist–akin to the prophets of old—“was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist” (Mark 1:6). Those leaders loved “place of honor at banquets” (Matthew 23:6), John the Baptist ate “locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6).
Despite his unconventional ways (or, because of them) the multitudes were drawn to him—“And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him” (Mark 1:5). Even the religious leaders came, only to suffer his rebuke as he sensed their hypocrisy (Matthew 3:7-12). Amongst his followers were some who would later become Jesus’ disciples (John 1:37).
He came to “bear witness of the light” and that is a matter in which his example has direct relevance to us. He was always directing people to Jesus (not to himself). When the religious leaders sent men to ask, “Who are you?” he replied, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:19-20). When they asked again, he affirmed his God-given role as a “voice crying in the wilderness (to) make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:22-23; Isaiah 40:3). He spoke of the One who would come after him “whose sandals (he) was not worthy to untie” (Mark 1:7). He saw Jesus and declared “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Though he was born first, he spoke of the eternity of Christ in saying “He existed before me” (John 1:30). When it came time for Jesus to be baptized, he hesitated, saying: “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? (Matthew 1:14).
He spoke to the essence of his ministry endeavor this way: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). He came to make much of the Christ, not of himself. And that is the nature of the ministry of any legitimate witness for Christ—to make much of Jesus. We are far too easily drawn to fads, methodologies, distinctions, and culturally relevant matters that distract from the task we have bee