John The Baptist Madman Evangelist

John the Baptist & evangelist is not who you think he is. If you came across a man like John the Baptist today, you'd probably run away as fast as your feet would carry you.

If you came across a man like John the Baptist today, you'd probably run away as fast as your feet would carry you. He was a wild man, dressed in skins and eating locusts in the desert. He preached fire and damnation to those who refused to repent. Yet, he succeeded in drawing thousands to hear the Word of God. What can we learn from John the Baptist about spreading the Good News?

John the Baptist was a close relative of Jesus. His mother's home is where Mary, mother of Jesus went when her pregnancy was revealed. John's mother Elizabeth was one of the first to know the wonder and honor that had been bestowed on Mary.

The angel Gabriel announced John the Baptist's impending birth and the name he was to be given to Zacharias, John's father. The angel also announced the unique mission that John would have. "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:15-17 NKJV)

Virtually nothing is known of John's youth. After the annunciation of his impending birth and the prophecy concerning his life, we hear nothing of him until the start of his ministry, which probably began around 29 A.D. He made his home in the wilderness and dressed himself in camel hair as Elijah had. The Jews of the time were watching for the return of Elijah who, it is prophesied in Malachi, would herald the Messiah. (Malachi 4:5) John the Baptist would have appeared to be Elijah in looks and in the power of his ministry.

John preached boldly and loudly against sin and for repentance. His preaching was directed specifically at powerful people, like Herod Antipas, the governor of Galilee and Perea. John preached directly against Herod Antipas for taking Herodias, his sister-in-law as his wife. "For John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." (Mark 6:18 NKJV)

Despite the obvious risks, John preached boldly. He drew huge crowds of people out into the wilderness and baptized them. The word baptize comes from the Greek word, baptiso meaning to wash. John was offering the people an opportunity to wash their sins away and prepare themselves for the coming Messiah. The Gospel of Mark described John's ministry this way, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.' " 4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:3-6 NKJV)

John the Baptist was not hiding his light under a bushel by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the opposite in fact, he was setting the lands on fire with his preaching. How often do we encounter someone who preaches the Gospel with this kind of fire today? It's rare. It's also likely that such a person would be locked up for mental illness. How many of us even have a pinch of the courage of John the Baptist? How many of us shy away from witnessing to our dearest friends, afraid that we'll sound like fanatics?

We have important lessons to learn from John. Bible prophecy tells us that a man such as John will come before the return of Christ. Will we be prepared to listen? Will we turn away from him in shame or label him a lunatic? Many a closet Christian will be challenged when a man like John comes. When Christ returns, will He be ashamed of us? If we are too embarrassed to proclaim Him, He will be. "And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. " (1 John 2:28 KJV)

John's boldness in calling people to repentance cost him his life. "For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly." (Mark 6:20 NKJV) But Herod's protection and willingness to listen wasn't enough to keep John alive. Herodias and her daughter Salome tricked Herod into beheading John. (Mark 6:25-29) Even though Herod knew John to be a holy man, he chose the things of this world over salvation.

The world offers some attractive things. The beauty of Salome swayed Herod and all of us are at some time or another romanced by something the world offers that we know is not right. Our challenge and our calling as Christians is to turn our backs on the things that the world has to offer and keep our eyes instead on the eternal salvation of Christ. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

John the Baptist had a calling on his life to preach boldly about repentance. Yet, he was just as human as we are. He had free will just like we do and could have chosen to avoid risking his life with his preaching. Instead he honored God by taking the challenge that God laid before him and doing what was asked of him. It takes tremendous courage to serve God the way John the Baptist did and few of us are asked to risk all that John was asked to risk. His devotion was not forgotten, though. Jesus said of John the Baptist, "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist;" (Matthew 11:11a NKJV)

John's faith was courageous not only in the things he did do, but in the things he didn't do, too. He didn't accept any of the creature comforts the world has to offer. He lived like a beggar in the desert instead. There would seem to be no reward at all for John's devotion. And that absence of earthly reward is the evidence of his tremendous faith. In spite of all that was around him, the threat of death, the poverty, the conditions of his life, he trusted in God to sustain him and remember his faithfulness. John the Baptist knew where his treasure would be and that's where he kept his heart, in heaven.

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