Suddenly, with the coming of John the Baptiser, we have new evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. Not only was John filled with the Holy Spirit from birth but his father, Zechariah, was also filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to prophesy what John’s role would be.
That role was not described as a baptiser but as a prophet of the Most High God. The mantle of prophet was not grabbed by John but rather given to him by none other than God Himself. John didn’t decide as a young man that he would become a religious leader or guru – he was destined from birth. His father received the instructions directly from God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
However, there was a definite direction and purpose behind John’s prophetic words and work. His message was not man-made or of human origin. It was not to be a message of popularity but of truth. He was not to try and make people follow him – as many of the local prophets of his day were trying to do; to set themselves up as the next Messiah to set the people free.
No, that was not John’s role. John’s role was to prepare the people to receive their true Messiah – not him, but Jesus. John’s message would precede Jesus’ entrance on the stage. John’s message was not a message to follow John but a message to prepare for the coming Messiah.
John’s message was as much a warning as a message of hope. Yes, the Messiah was coming, but before He came, before the people could receive Him, there had to be some sorting out.
God was coming down to redeem His people – Jesus would make a way for them to be forgiven, but before that happened, there would have to be some soul searching. There would have to be some hard questions faced. There would have to be total surrender of arrogance, pride and independence.
John would challenge the people to repent. Repentance from sin was required. More than that – John expected the people to go down into the water and allow him to submerge them as a picture of being washed clean from sin.
However, there was even more to it than that. Repentance has, within its definition, an expectation of a confession of the wrong behaviour, an apology for it, and above all a sincere and humble determination to change course. To change behaviour – a 180-degree turn-around.
For the person repenting there would need to be a radical lifestyle change. It wasn’t enough to say a change would be made – it had to result in a visible demonstration of a refocused life. The old pattern of life had to be replaced by a new set of values and choices.
John the Baptist heralded a new era. Where each person has to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Let go of selfish and self-centred ambition, and become a servant of the Most High God.
We still live in that era. Our job is also to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.