“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” Mathew 11:11.
John the Baptist is here referred to by Jesus as the greatest born among men. By today’s standards none of us would ever consider John the Baptist to be the greatest by any stretch.
He wasn’t trained in any of the liberal-leaning institutions of higher learning. John the Baptist didn’t believe in political correctness and he didn’t preach to please or to entertain people like so many preachers do today. His simple diet of locust and honey demonstrated his humble lifestyle, and he never earned any stylish points for his fashion statements because he wore camel-hide (Matthew 3:4).
“In the time of John the Baptist, greed for riches, and the love of luxury and display had become widespread. Sensuous pleasures, feasting and drinking, were causing physical disease and degeneracy, benumbing the spiritual perceptions, and lessening the sensibility to sin. John was to stand as a reformer. By his abstemious life and plain dress he was to rebuke the excesses of his time” (Desire of Ages, p. 100).
When people traveled many miles through the desert to hear his preaching they were not welcomed with the soft words we often hear in our churches when we say: “Oh, thank you so much for coming, how wonderful it was for you to come.” Instead, John the Baptist laid heavy burdens upon many who came to hear him when he said:
“O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.” Luke 3:7, 8.
He never took a course on sensitivity training for making friends or for growing the church. He never studied public speaking in order to effectively reach an audience. But his message did reach sinners with a sense of urgency as he called people to seek God and to turn from their sins:
“He (John) saw his people deceived, self-satisfied, and asleep in their sins. He longed to rouse them to a holier life. The message that God had given him to bear was designed to startle them from their lethargy, and cause them to tremble because of their great wickedness. Before the seed of the gospel could find lodgment, the soil of the heart must be broken up. Before they would seek healing from Jesus, they must be awakened to their danger from the wounds of sin” (Desire of Ages, 103).
John the Baptist was not trying to make people feel good about themselves. He was not trying to make anyone feel happy. He was trying to awaken people out of a deep spiritual slumber so that they could be ready to receive Jesus.
By the world’s standards, John the Baptist didn’t sound good, he didn’t look good, he didn’t eat good and he didn’t have any kind of sophistication in his manners. But, according to Jesus (Mathew 11:11), John the Baptist was greater than Elijah, Daniel, Joesph, King David, King Solomon and Moses.
The Scriptures prophesied about how significant the life and work of John the Baptist would be – “great in the sight of the Lord,” but not great in the eyes of political, social or ecclesiastical circles.
- “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord…and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” Luke 1:15.
- “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.” Luke 1:16.
- And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the adisobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:17.
Greatness in the eyes of God is all that matters. He was considered great by God because of the significant role he fulfilled. He prepared the way for Christ’s first advent. He announced Christ’s coming, and he is a representative of those who are to prepare a people for our Lord’s second coming.
Seventh-day Adventists have a work to do that is similar to that which was done by John the Baptist. We must be faithful to this sacred trust and calling because we live in an age where the church wants to accommodate God’s message to fit the feelings and desires of the modern world. So many do not want to disrupt or awaken people out of their sinful sleep. The soft, smooth messages and social media posts we see from our leaders today do NOT make any lasting impressions upon the hearts and minds of people.
The following 5 points will help us to understand how our mission embodies the work of John the Baptist, and how we too can have success and value in the eyes of the Lord. John the Baptist was not the greatest; there is a second part to the verse that is left for to us to fulfill:
“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11.
1 – We have to bear a more pointed message than John the Baptist:
“In this fearful time, just before Christ is to come the second time, God’s faithful preachers will have to bear a still more pointed testimony than was borne by John the Baptist. A responsible, important work is before them; and those who speak smooth things, God will not acknowledge as His shepherds. A fearful woe is upon them” (Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 321).
2 – John the Baptist, with interest, observed the current events of his time:
“But the life of John was not spent in idleness, in ascetic gloom, or in selfish isolation. From time to time he went forth to mingle with men; and he was ever an interested observer of what was passing in the world. From his quiet retreat he watched the unfolding of events” (Desire of Ages, p. 102).
3 – John the Baptist denounced the national corruption and the prevailing sins, he preached the coming of Jesus and called people to repentance:
“John’s singular appearance carried the minds of his hearers back to the ancient seers. In his manner and dress he resembled the prophet Elijah. With the spirit and power of Elijah he denounced the national corruption, and rebuked the prevailing sins…John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and called the people to repentance. (Desire of Ages, p. 104).
4 – John the Baptist preached a balanced message of judgment and mercy during a time of spiritual crisis:
“God does not send messengers to flatter the sinner. He delivers no message of peace to lull the unsanctified into fatal security. He lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of the wrongdoer, and pierces the soul with arrows of conviction. The ministering angels present to him the fearful judgments of God to deepen the sense of need, and prompt the cry, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ Then the hand that has humbled in the dust, lifts up the penitent. The voice that has rebuked sin, and put to shame pride and ambition, inquires with tenderest sympathy, ‘What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?’ When the ministry of John began, the nation was in a state of excitement and discontent verging on revolution” (Desire of Ages, p. 104).
5 – Our publications and outreach are supposed to warn people because they are symbolized by the work of John the Baptist:
“The publications sent forth from our printing houses are to prepare a people to meet God. Throughout the world they are to do the same work that was done by John the Baptist for the Jewish nation. By startling messages of warning, God’s prophet awakened men from worldly dreaming. Through him God called backsliding Israel to repentance. By his presentation of truth he exposed popular delusions. In contrast with the false theories of his time, truth in his teaching stood forth as an eternal certainty” (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 178).
This is exactly what our churches needs today. Part of the reason why God’s people are in a spiritual decline is because the special work represented by John the Baptist is missing today. We pray for the Holy Spirit, we pray for Divine guidance and we pray for the Lord to revive us; but what we fail to realize is that the Godhead is looking for individuals to fulfill the work of John the Baptist in these last days – “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).