John the Baptism had an audacious start. While he was still in his mother’s womb, his father Zechariah received an angelic visitation. As that happened, Zechariah was at the very pinnacle of his career as a priest. The angel told Zechariah that he would have a son, that his son will be a joy and delight to him, that he should name his son John and that he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Even more than that, he was told, “Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Subsequently, Zechariah prophesied at John’s birth, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven.” True to form, the Word declares, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.”
John never did a miracle. His preaching was basic fire and brimstone. His prophesies were all centered on Christ, not the nation or people’s futures. His ministry is largely summed up in a single sentence of Scripture, “He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
One might think that for all the buzz around his birth, John was a bit of a letdown. Yet Jesus testified, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” That is quite a statement. It means Jesus saw John as greater than Abraham, greater than Moses, greater even than David or Solomon. How can that be?
Matthew Henry enlightens us, “Christ knew how to value persons according to the degrees of their worth, and he prefers John before all that went before him, before all that were born of women by ordinary generation. Of all that God had raised up and called to any service in his church, John is the most eminent, even beyond Moses himself; for he began to preach the gospel doctrine of remission of sins to those who are truly penitent; and he had more single revelations from heaven than any of them had; for he saw heaven opened, and the Holy Ghost descend. He also had great success in his ministry; almost the whole nation flocked to him: none rose on so great a design, or came on so noble an errand, as John did, or had such claims to a welcome reception. Many had been born of women that made a great figure in the world, but Christ prefers John before them.”
We could argue with Rev. Henry, pointing out that all of Israel followed Moses out of Egypt, or that others too saw heaven open. But we cannot argue that Christ prefers others over them, for His own testimony is, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist,” and neither can we argue that Christ does not know how to value persons according to their worth, for He is God and we are not. His testimony stands. So what sets John the Baptist above all others?
It could only be because John the Baptist was unwaveringly faithful to his calling. And this is the critical spiritual principle we have to grasp; he one thing that God looks for and values is our faithfulness to Him. All of our gifts and the exercise of our gifts takes a dim second place to our faithfulness with what we have and who we are.
The real test of our faithfulness to God is in most cases our power to continue steadfastly in one course of conduct when the excitement of conflict is removed, and the enemies with which we have to contend are the insidious allurements of ease or custom amid the common-place duties of life.Henry D.M.S. Jones
Have you been faithful to God this past week? Has He and His mission been preeminent in all you’ve put your hands to?