There are many things that spring to mind when one considers John the Baptist. He was the uncompromising forerunner of Jesus, the man who didn’t mince words, the man who chose to clothe himself in a camel’s hair, and had a unique diet that consisted of locusts and wild honey. John the Baptist, called as such, not because he belonged to the Baptist denomination, but rather because he baptized people, was unconventional to say the least. Here was a man who did not go into the cities to preach, he did not seek out a following, but rather as counterintuitive as it might seem to many today, went into the wilderness of Judea and began to preach.
He did not have a vast repertoire of sermons, but his message consisted of nine powerful and relevant words, that have kept their potency and authority to this day: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’
I have heard many sermons on John the Baptist’s boldness over the years, as well as his uncompromising message, but few if any concentrated on what I believe to be one of his greatest attributes, which was his humility.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that his personality overshadowed this virtue, or his clashes with the Pharisees and Sadducees kept us from digging deeper into the man’s character, but it is one attribute of his life that we can learn from, and even learn to emulate in our own lives.
Consider that John the Baptist had what many would consider today a very large ministry. The news of him traveled throughout the land, and people would come to the wilderness of Judea just to hear him and be baptized by him. His message was heeded by the poor and rich alike, so much so that even the Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by him. Although he had some choice words for them, rebuking them without holding anything back, it is John the Baptist’s humility I want to focus on for this particular teaching.
Matthew 3:5-6, “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.”
By any estimation, John’s was the biggest ministry around at the time, both in Jerusalem and Judea. In fact some even thought that he was the Messiah the prophets of old had prophesied of. We realize just how special and rare a person John the Baptist was, when we see that he let none of the accolades go to his head. Sure people came from afar just to hear him speak, sure people came to be baptized by him, but he always maintained that sense of perspective, wherein he knew that it was not him, but God working through him.
John the Baptist lived with the expectation of seeing one greater than himself, and he knew himself well enough to play down any of his own works. This is a lesson that many preaches and evangelists have failed to learn, and as such appropriate the glory and praise due God for themselves.
Matthew 3:11, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
To see the full measure of John the Baptist’s humility, we need look no further than the contrast between him and his followers. After Jesus had come to be baptized by John, after the Spirit of God was seen descending upon Him like a dove, and the voice from heaven was heard saying, ‘this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’, the followers of John came to him greatly distressed.
Rather than see Jesus for who He was, they saw him as a threat to the ministry of John the Baptist. These men came to tell John that in fact Jesus had started baptizing and that men were coming to Him. Now the answer that John the Baptist offered these men reveals his heart of humility in a greater way than anything else he could have done.
John 3:27-28, “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’”
What do you have that God has not given you? What talents do you posses that were not a gift from God?
Rather than giving in to the rhetoric of his followers, and thinking to himself, ‘hey, maybe Jesus is trying to upstage me, maybe He is trying to take my followers’, John the Baptist simply pointed out the fact that it was not his ministry to begin with. If he was called it was by God, if he was empowered, it was by God, if he was effective it was by God, and if God chose that it was time for him to step aside, if it was time for him to decrease that Christ might increase, he would obey just as he had up to that point.
Humility births in us the knowledge that our labors are not our own, our victories our not our own, our accomplishments are not our own, but everything that is given to us in order to further the kingdom of God and bring glory to His name, comes directly from heaven, from the hand of God.
A humble heart defers to Jesus, a humble heart obeys Jesus, and a humble heart follows Jesus. It is not concerned with its own merits, it is not concerned with its own popularity, the desire of the humble heart is singular; to serve God, and obey when He commands.
When we possess the humility of John the Baptist, no matter the great calling that God places on our lives, no matter the number of people reached through our ministry, we will always know that nothing is of ourselves, for a man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.
Walking in this sort of humility ensures the presence of God in us, and the works of God through us. We go where He sends us, we speak what He tells us, and we rest in the knowledge that it is He who will stir the hearts of men, it is He who will compel men to fall to their knees at the foot of the cross and repent of their sins, accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.
John the Baptist lived with the expectation of one mightier than he, who would come and forever change the world, offering mankind the opportunity to be reconciled unto God. Today we live with the expectation of His second coming, the Christ, Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. Our duty as His ambassadors are not to draw men unto ourselves, but point men to Him, that He might draw them unto Himself, and that they might be transformed and renewed in mind and heart.
John the Baptist will be remembered for many things, but one thing he should be remembered for is his unceasing humility. May God grant us the grace and wisdom to pursue such humility!
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.