John, the Nonconformist

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:6-8)

It would be an understatement to say that John the Baptist didn’t blend in with the world. The way he dressed and what he ate surely drew attention–not to mention his message! Interestingly, the prophet Elijah–one of John’s forerunners–appeared in Scripture dressed in the same way. When one wants to follow in the footsteps of another, they imitate as many behaviors as possible. John the Baptist imitated the lifestyle of Elijah– and he walked in the same spirit and power:

“He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.” (2 Kings 1:8)

Sometimes, as with diamonds, things come wrapped up in rough packages, their value not readily exposed. There was not a glimmer in John’s outward appearance that would have given a hint to the precious Holy Spirit he contained. He carried around treasure in his jar of clay, a very precious message:

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 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.” (Luke 1:13-17)

John came into the world for a special purpose and he was focused throughout his life on that purpose. John arrived on the scene living out the gospel. Many of us follow after the world and its futile pursuit of happiness simply because it’s the easier path and we want to blend in. Unfortunately, as the Bible points out over and over, we are like sheep and we tend to go astray. However, the more we choose to live above the world, the better prepared we are for the Lord Jesus. When someone lives a life that is truly for Christ–particularly when it is not glamorous, or easy, or widely acclaimed or accepted by the world, they stand out–just like the Baptist.

Romans 12:2 says:

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:2, The Message)

John the Baptist demonstrated perfect humility in his relationship to the Lord Jesus. Even a slave was not required to do the menial task of stooping down and untying the sandal of his master, yet John in our verses for today that he is not even worthy to accomplish this work for Jesus. Throughout the Bible we see that humility always precedes exaltation:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

Take It to Heart

Jesus commends John with His words, making the criticism that was poured on John throughout his life pale in comparison to the delight of the Lord’s approval. John may have been a nonconformist, but he accomplished God’s work for him to perfection.

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)