John the Baptist (Matthew 3)

John had waited thirty years before commencing his call to be the forerunner of the Messiah. Luke tells us that John had lived in the wilderness until he commenced to preach (Luke 2:80). Whatever else we can say about those decades, we can see that the time of preparation was a lot longer than the period in which he preached. We can see in this ratio a pointer to the seriousness of his call.

Yet we can also observe the suddenness of his ministry. From the point of view of the public, he seemed to appear from nowhere. John did not have to build a gradual influence over years of ministry. Sometimes God raises up a preacher from what seems to be nowhere and uses him in a dramatic manner.

Although the onset of John’s ministry was sudden, Matthew makes clear that it was successful. Many were drawn to listen to him and many responded in the sense of committing themselves to prepare for the arrival of the Messiah by being baptised. This had a tremendous effect on the religious hierarchy and they went to investigate.

When they arrived, they discovered that John’s message was stark as far as they were concerned. He had the same message for both groups. The Pharisees were the orthodox and the Sadducees were the liberals, but John put them together and called for them all to repent. Their sin was that they assumed that special privileges meant they did not need to repent. John reminded them that the truth was otherwise.

The final detail that we can mention about John’s ministry is that it was strategic. His calling was to make known certain truths about Jesus and of the imminent appearance of the kingdom of God. He was given a great privilege by God. Indeed, Jesus says elsewhere that John the Baptist was the greatest of the Old Testament servants because he had the role of forerunner.

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