“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)
How do we measure the power of a message?
Given the overwhelming response John the Baptist received, his efforts in announcing the advent of Jesus’ public ministry must have indeed been powerful. Since transportation in those days was accomplished primarily by walking, it is remarkable that John was receiving people from all over Judea. Jerusalem would have been more than 35 miles from where John was baptizing, which is more than a day’s walk. The more remote areas of Judea would have taken even longer.
What made this even more extraordinary was that John’s message was a tough message, calling people to change their ways and repent of their sins. Even tax collectors and soldiers were going to John, to listen to him and 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. We may recall the words of the angel Gabriel to John’s father, Zechariah, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)
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 them to him.
Like John, we too, have the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom, courage, 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 the birth of Jesus, are we acting with the same passion as John the Baptist in pointing people toward Jesus?