How do we measure the power of a message? Surely the efforts of John the Baptist in announcing the advent of Jesus’ public ministry would qualify as powerful, given the overwhelming response he received. Mark reports, “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” (Mark 1:5) Matthew says, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.” (Matthew 3:5)
Given that communication was mostly dependent on word of mouth and that transportation was accomplished primarily by walking, it is remarkable that John was receiving huge crowds of people from all over Judea. Jerusalem would have been at least a day’s walk and more remote areas of Judea would have taken even longer.
What made this even more extraordinary was that John’s message was not one of sweetness and light. It was a tough message, calling people to change their ways and repent of their sins. Imagine, people from all over Judea going to John to confess their sins.
Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, would John have been able to attract so many people, from such distant areas, with such a challenging message.
This was previously confirmed by the angel Gabriel when he appeared to Zechariah and told him that his wife, Elizabeth was going have a son whose name was to be John. “He will be great in the sight of the Lord” and “will be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Gabriel added, “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.” (Luke 1:15, 17)
In fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy, John was preparing the people of Judea to receive the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. “A voice of one calling in the desert; prepare the way of the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:3) He was preparing them through the confession and cleansing of their sins in the waters of baptism.
Like John, we too, are called to lead family, friends, colleagues and even strangers to open the door of their hearts to Jesus. It starts with how we live our lives. Righteous conduct gives credibility to our words. Sometimes, our role is just to plant seeds for God’s future cultivation. Sometimes we have a more direct role such as with our families (spouse and children) for whom God gives us a direct responsibility. Sometimes God places people in our lives for the purpose of introducing himself to them through us.
Like John, we too, have the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom, courage, knowledge and opportunity to speak and build relationships with others for the purpose of leading them to Jesus.
As we move into this season of celebrating Jesus’ birth, are we acting with the same passion as John the Baptist in introducing people to Jesus?