But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17)
After his birth, his father who was filled with the Holy Spirit, had this to say about his son:
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel. (Luke 1:76-80)
And appear to Israel he did! He was in the wilderness wearing camel hair and eating locust and honey and performing baptisms of repentance for all who came to him on the banks of the river Jordan. John knew he had a purpose: to call the people to repent of their sins in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. He was “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” (Mark 1:3) He didn’t go out into the wilderness simply to be different or get away from others, he went in complete obedience to God’s will – to do that which God had called him to do before he was even born.
John’s role in God’s grand plan of salvation was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. He knew that he was not the long-awaited Savior of Israel and let it be known: “He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’” (Mark 1:7-8) Although Jesus proclaimed John as the greatest among men (Luke 7:28), John never forgot who, and whose, he was.
John was clear in his purpose as the forerunner of Christ. His zeal for calling the people to repentance cost him his life as he boldly challenged all, including Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, to turn from his sinful ways. His singularity of purpose stands as an example to us. When we understand that God has set aside each of us for a particular role in his Kingdom, we need not fear the future and can boldly proclaim the Good News in full confidence that God is with us, even if we feel we are a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. Sometimes we will be the one called upon to speak the truth in love to others and call them to repentance. It seems like a daunting task, but we have God’s assurance of his presence and power.
Almighty God, by your gracious providence your servant John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah. Grant to your people the wisdom to see your purpose and the openness to hear your will, that the light of Christ may increase in us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Continuing to search for my purpose,