Read Matthew 3
John the Baptist seems like an unlikely fellow for people to have chased after! Yet this scripture records that people went to see him from all over the region. As news spread of the “prophet in the desert” calling people to (of all things) repentance, more and more came!
I find that astonishing. Repentance is not a popular topic! Yet they came. Do we, in 2017, have anything in common with this crowd? Would John the Baptist have the same welcome here?
It was like the first domino in a long maze of dominoes was tipped when Jesus came. First, His crazy birth and controversial childhood set things into motion. Next, this equally crazy camelhair-clad man proclaimed Jesus as Messiah. The dominoes kept careening as Jesus ministered, and His ways eventually led to His death. Still, the domino effect kept on as He rose again, ascended, and sent the Holy Spirit!
We have the benefit of completion. We read and understand segments of the storyline, but we also know the big-picture. God destined His Son to take on humanity by living it and dying for it. God had a plan, and He still holds the plan. Folks in John the Baptist’s day only knew a limited amount compared to us.
So, I go back to wondering. What made John attractive to them? He was authentic. He focused on what was really important — what God had him to do for his days and years on the earth. Many had their focuses on acquiring, storing up, making a name for themselves, etc. (Sound familiar?) But, John was just John. He was much simplified unlike the over indulgences of the Roman-led society.
Pastor Nick recently charged us with the notion of simplifying. Do we really consider how much time we spend gaining stuff, caring for stuff, storing stuff, reorganizing stuff, and purging stuff? Not to mention the time we spend worrying that our stuff is not as wonderful as someone else’s stuff! We enjoy shows like HGTV’s “Tiny Homes” because we marvel at the simplicity of such a livable, small structure. Island cast-a- way sagas seem almost desirable compared to the weight we carry due to our stuff.
I think people liked John the Baptist (or at least were curious about him) for much the same reasons. He lived on bare necessities, and Jesus made his list of must-haves!
As I thought about this more, I considered that John the Baptist was closer to God perhaps because the wrong “stuff” didn’t consume him. His earthy lifestyle probably kept him from cool social circles, yet freed him up to do God’s work. The crucial message John preached on repentance was authenticated by his lifestyle, faithfulness and humility.