If you had an important announcement, how would you go about it?
In today’s world we would likely hold a press conference at a noteworthy location such as the nation’s capitol, with various news reporters and TV networks beaming the message across the land, coupled with postings on all of the internet social media.
God took an entirely different approach in announcing that he would become one of us in the person of his son, Jesus. First, he speaks through the prophets in sometimes obscure ways hundreds of years in advance to people who could not possibly be alive when the event takes place. Next he takes a more direct, but very private approach, by sending angels to speak personally to Mary, Zechariah and Joseph.
On the day of the grand event – the birth of his son, Jesus – he sends a group of angels not to the temple in Jerusalem to speak with the leaders of the Jewish faith, but to a group of obscure shepherds in the remote hills outside of the small village of Bethlehem. The angels announce that today a savior who is the Messiah and Lord has been born in Bethlehem for all people. While Luke reports that the shepherds made known the message they were given by the angels and “all who heard it were amazed,” the number of people who heard this news from these unlikely heralds had to be minimal.
Any reputable public relations firm in our day would consider all of this a complete communications failure.
But God was not done. He still had John the Baptist. Still, John’s initial effort was not so much involved with announcing the coming of Jesus as it was in preparing people’s hearts for the coming of Jesus. He was calling people to repent of their sin. Instead of John going to where the people were, he went out to the desert along the Jordan River and the people came to him. Mark reports, “People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” (Mark 1:5)
Think of how powerful the Spirit of God must have been working in John to cause people to make the strenuous journey, walking for a day or more over rugged roads from Jerusalem and other parts of Judea to the Jordan River! Then, after they got there, he asked them to confess their sins and be immersed in the river. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees made the trip. What a revival it must have been!
God tells us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Is.55:8) We see a foretaste of the power of Holy Spirit working in John which he says Jesus will pass on to us. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Mt. 3:11)
Come Lord Jesus! Come Holy Spirit!