One of the most exhilarating experiences you have as an athlete is when you are introduced, either for your turn at bat or before the game when they announce the starting lineups. I remember the way I was announced in college, I loved it. Yeah my plate music was a bit cheesy to most people, but when I heard it, in fact, every time I hear it now, I can’t help but get pumped up and have a bit of an adrenaline rush. I remember the process like it was yesterday. As I stood on deck, warming up with a sledge hammer (don’t ask), Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger would begin to play. BUMP…….BUMP, BUMP, BUMP………BUMP, BUMP, BUMP……..BUMP, BUMP, BAHHHHHH. As I walked to the plate, trying to be as intimidating as possible & usually staring into the pitcher’s soul (or at least that’s what I like to think I was doing), I would hear, “Now batting, #27 Keith Jones.” The crowd would go wild with cheers- ok, let’s be honest, my mom would go wild with cheers (Thanks Mom). Nevertheless, I always got a euphoric sense of pride when I heard that and I felt at that moment I could do anything. It was a wonderful feeling to have someone pave the way for your entrance. Tonight, we are going to look at a major supporting character in the story of Christ’s birth. If Jesus was the cleanup hitter, then John the Baptist was the lead off man.
The first thing we need to realize about John is that he was set apart from the beginning. There would never be anything ordinary about John the Baptist. His father was one of the priests that would go in and offer gifts to God in the temple and his mother was descendant of Aaron, the Levite high priest himself. From the get go, John was going to be special. In Luke 1:8-25, As Zechariah was offering incense in the temple, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son, and that son would be named John. Now this was understandably hard to believe because, well let’s just say that old Zechariah and Elizabeth were no spring chickens any more and Elizabeth had spent her whole life barren. Not only would they give birth to a baby boy named John, that boy would prepare the way and the people for the coming of the savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. This birth given to these two faithful followers of God signifies that God was going to use uncommon means to bring Jesus into the world, ways that would cause people to pay attention. God was not going to do or use anything that could even remotely be taken as every day or normal. Only bringing in both John and Jesus by the most unconventional means possible, would make people stand up and take notice.
Another significant difference in John the Baptist that set him apart from the ordinary was his connection to the Holy Spirit. Gabriel informed Zechariah that John would be infused with the Holy Spirit even in the womb of his mother (Luke 1:15). Let’s stop to think about this for a second. John was filled with the Holy Spirit in the WOMB!!!! We see this later in Luke when Mary comes for a visit and upon hearing Mary’s voice, John leaped in the womb of his mother (verse 41). This is what really sets John apart from every other person serving the Lord. John never knew a moment in his entire life without the Holy Spirit in him. It’s why people flocked to him as he traveled spreading the news of a coming King, it’s why he was able to baptize countless numbers of people, it’s why every move he made and every word he uttered was precisely what God wanted people to hear and see. Can you imagine the awesome burden and awesome experience it would be to never know a day without the Holy Spirit in you? Talk about being a sold out instrument of Heaven. This spirit filled man ushered in the next wave of prophesy, he prepared the church for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2. It was the first real Holy Spirit act of prophesy since the days of Malachai some four hundred years earlier. The Holy Spirit working through John the Baptist was a huge deal in preparing the way for Christ.
Which brings us to the final point. John was a man on a mission. A mission given to him before he was even born, much like Jeremiah, John had one purpose- prepare the way for the Lord. John was to become the new Elijah. Malachai 4:5-6 says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” It was the custom to send a messenger ahead to remove obstacles in the way for the King. That is exactly what John did. John came through removing obstacles, obstacles of unbelief, unrighteousness, and sin. He came and he baptized thousands upon thousands.
John came to prepare the way for our Lord and Savior. He played an integral part in the restoration of families, of relationships, and of righteousness. He brought stability to a group of people so bent on observing the law, they forgot how to get along and love. This was no small task and it was not bestowed upon anybody. In fact, I would argue that for 6 months, the greatest birth in the history of man was the birth of John the Baptist. But, even when John was at the height of his popularity and as he had more followers than he ever had, John still knew his position in the Kingdom. When Jesus came through and people began flocking to Him, John appropriately put his role in the Kingdom in perspective when he uttered in John 3:30, “He must increase, I must decrease.” That sums it up completely. This Christmas season, let’s keep that perspective and live those words out loud- HE must increase, we must decrease.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach