The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” – Mark 1, verses 1-3.
Do you know who John the Baptist was? In the story of Jesus, John played an incredibly important role, one prophesied for centuries before his birth.
He was Jesus’ cousin. Mary, the mother of Jesus, went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, when she found out Elizabeth was (like Mary) pregnant. You’ve heard the story: how Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb when he heard Mary’s voice. That baby was John the Baptist.
John was Jesus’ contemporary. A few months older than his Divine cousin, John and Jesus might have grown up knowing each other well. It would make sense that they would see each other at family gatherings, or during festival pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem. Can you imagine what they would have talked about? They not only grew up in the same time, but they grew up with the same background and the same human aspirations. Both knew they were destined for uncommon lives because they would likely have been told of how angels visited to announce their conception. NOT your typical family reunion.
John was the man who baptized Jesus. I sometimes wonder how John must have felt. He was in awe of his cousin because he understood Jesus was the Son of God. Yet Jesus didn’t take John into His confidence; John wasn’t one of the Twelve. I wonder how that made John feel, especially since the Baptist had a strong following of disciples of his own. I wouldn’t rule out that John felt some trepidation at seeing Jesus’ rise in ministry and influence over the people of Judea. Yet, when the time came for Jesus to undergo the ritual of baptism, He went to see His cousin in the desert: the one who immediately recognized and proclaimed Him for who He was. That matters.
More importantly, though, John the Baptist was Jesus’ herald. John was the voice in the desert, prophesied long ago by the prophet Isaiah. Centuries before it happened, with stunning accuracy Isaiah was a prophet who said there would be a man who would cry out in the desert that all people should, “prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” In the decade before Jesus made His presence known (and began public ministry), John the Baptist moved out into the desert, lived off of God’s provisions there, and preached a message of repentance and God’s mercy. His message was hard: turn from evil and repent to God because God is on our doorstep. In screaming it out, John’s message was like herald trumpets that announce the arrival of a king…in this case, the King of Kings.
It’s true, Jesus could have done all He did without His cousin’s help. Yet, for the unbelieving Jews of ancient Judea, and for us unbelievers here today, the corroborating heraldry of John the Baptist served as a radical, vociferous testimony of He whose time had just then come.
The question for us, then, is,’ how are you and I heralding Jesus?’
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your cousin, John the Baptist. For the lessons we can learn from him even today.
Read Mark Chapter 1 verses 1 through 3. Consider reading the verses in Isaiah as well, in Isaiah chapter 40.