He wasn’t your usual preacher. This man had taken a vow at the beginning of his life, to serve God. He would separate himself from society – not indulge in things of the world – live alone as a hermit for many years as he prepared for his ministry. During that time, he never cut his hair. He ate what was available to him in the desert – mostly bugs and the fruit of the honey bee and his clothing would be made out of animal skins.
How would you receive a man like this if he came to your church today? He’s dressed in rough, leather clothing. His hair is long and matted. His countenance weathered and lined. His skin darkened by the sun. It was obvious he hasn’t bathed in some time. He’s boisterous – condemning – accusing and his words pierce the heart. Would you welcome him with open arms?
This man comes from a long line of religious people. His parents are in their latter years of living, yet even though they had given up on having children, they were blessed with this child. As a boy, he studied the scriptures and grew strong in spirit. His voice reaches crowds of thousands.
His references include a lifetime of service. He does not have a bed to lay his head on, but many are entranced and inspired by his words. They came in droves to hear him. His sermons are filled with fire and brimstone – things most people don’t like to hear about, yet he offers a solution to man’s sinful ways. He is preparing the way for the One who will come after him.
So here we have it. A man who looks as if he’s homeless. He’s dirty, sweaty, uncouth, and loud. His resume is filled with a history of condemning sermons. He draws great crowds. He’s charismatic. He baptizes everyone who believe his words of the coming redemption of God. He changes lives. He touches all levels of society. Would you hire him?
To most, the forerunner of Christ seems like a real nut case. Kind of like the guy on the street, parading around with a sign that urges repentance. His appearance leaves a lot to be desired. He called people to realize their sin and come to repentance, and ended his sermons with the promise of salvation. We all need to know that we’re sinners, so we can understand the depth of God’s love for us. When the Savior appeared before him, he knew at once that he was facing God’s own Son.
When Jesus was then baptized by John, he had no need for cleansing. He was sinless. Still he would carry the sins of the world to the cross and through this washing, he was demonstrating the sacrifice he would make for all of us.