John the Baptist…
The Gospel of Mark begins by introducing us to John the Baptist:
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'” John (the) Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.” -Mark 1:2-8, NAB
The picture painted of John here is of a wild man living out in the wilderness. He survived off the land – only on what God provided to him. Camel hair sounds anything but comfortable, and locusts do not seem like a delicacy. He gave up worldly possessions and comforts to do one thing: prepare the way of the Lord.
John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ by doing just as his name suggests, baptizing the people. People came from all over to repent of their sins and be baptized. This same ritual is still practiced today as the Sacrament of Baptism, and its goal is the same, to prepare us for the coming of the Lord.
John was quickly making a name for himself, both good and bad. John’s followers saw him as a prophet sent by God; however, the rulers of the day began to fear John for the crowds that came to listen to him. Yet, John said that, “One mighter than I is coming after me…,” and, of course, he was speaking about Jesus.
John continued, in one of my favorite verses from the Bible, “I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In Matthew 3, it is said that He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. I especially like the contrast of worldly Baptism (water) with spiritual Baptism (Holy Spirit and fire). Baptism by water is just the beginning; it is when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit that our journey truly begins.
John the Baptist filled a very important mission. The prophets foretold of his coming, and he did as God commanded. Let John be a reminder to us that we do not need a stage to share the Word of God; all we truly need is a heart on fire for God and the passion to make it happen. Regardless of what our wilderness may be, let us preach as fervently as John the Baptist did at the Jordan River 2000 years ago.