Every four years in the United States, people hope that a new president will lead the country into an era of success, flourishing and economic prosperity. You know the story: The election cycle begins almost two years before the actual election; candidates promise a change from the past and always attack the actions of the current administration.
The American people are drawn to the charismatic figure in his navy suit, pressed shirt, easy smile and charisma. They have found their new hope to relieve them of their present sufferings! A candidate becomes president, tries his best to change the country, and fails to meet the expectations of those who carried him into office. It’s the same story our country lives every time a new president comes into office.
Imagine the lives of first-century Jews, who were promised a Messiah to relieve them of their suffering thousands of years ago (Gen. 3), and yet had not seen a prophet of God in more than 400 years. Finally, when they saw John the Baptist preaching and baptizing the penitent, they exclaimed, “He is the One! He is the Messiah!”
John knew better. He knew his role in this story. He knew his role was to testify to the One. He knew that this was his primary purpose in life. What can we learn from John’s example of pointing the way toward the true hope of humanity—the Lord Jesus?
Recognize Your Humanity
John the Baptist knew his limitations. After all, he was simply a man whom God had prepared for the incredible task of clearing a path for the arrival of the Messiah. Look at the way he compared himself to Jesus: “I baptize you with water, but One who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (v. 16). As Christians, we might be tempted to think of ourselves as saviors: “We have the answer you are seeking.” However, our role in the Christian life is to downplay our own capacity to make some things better and consistently point to the One who can make all things better.
Recognize Your Role as Proclaimer
John the Baptist spent his adult life preaching the message of repentance, exhorting the people of Israel to turn away from their idols and toward the one true God. His true purpose in life was to serve as the forerunner of the Messiah, preparing the way for His arrival. He fulfilled this role marvelously and with endurance. As people of God, we need to remember that proclaiming the lordship of Christ is a daily, lifelong endeavor. We cannot tire of this work, because it is the work the Lord Jesus has given us until He returns (Matt. 28:18-20).
Recognize that True Life Is Found in Christ
Recall how I began this sermon by describing the anxiety of awaiting a new president. We must remember that as we proclaim Christ in the spirit of John the Baptist, we cannot seek hope or joy in anyone or anything else except for Christ. As our world continues to look for new political figures to relieve the sufferings of the poor and lead us into an era of political peace, we consistently need to point our lives to Jesus, the One whom will make all things right in time.
Jesus was not a slick politician. He didn’t enter His public ministry wearing expensive suits and spouting promises He couldn’t deliver. While Jesus was true God and true man, He began His ministry in the humblest of circumstances—being baptized by His cousin. What was the response from the Father? “You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased” (v. 22).
As the people of God, let us recognize that true life is found in Jesus Christ and proclaim the good news every day of our lives in the spirit of John the Baptist.
Ben Espinoza, pastor, Community Life at Covenant Church in Bowling Green, Ohio.