John the Baptist (a no-nonsense kind of man)
by Jeff Hodgson
December 18: AM Psalm 50; PM Psalm [59, 60] or 33; Isaiah 9:18-10:4; 2 Peter 2:10b-16; Matthew 3:1-12
First of all I must confess that I have borrowed from Bishop J.C. Ryle’s commentary on the Book of Matthew. Bp. Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool, is one of my favorite Anglican theologians – a reformed evangelical follower of Jesus, who was able to communicate with the common folk in that industrial area of England.
No doubt John the Baptist is one of the more intriguing persons we read about in Holy Scripture. He is portrayed as an intense personality and eventually lost his life because he was not afraid to confront evil and evil-doers in his ministry. He was, of course, tasked by our Lord to “prepare the way” for Jesus’ ministry. In this season of Advent we should realize that the message from John the Baptist will also help us to prepare for our Lord’s second coming.
John the Baptist challenges us by his teaching about the absolute necessity of repentance (Matt. 3:2) for salvation and that this repentance must be accompanied by “fruit” (Matt. 3:8) and our turning to God. That is, we are told to have not only an acknowledgement of our Lord, but a devotion to Him. In particular, we must be wary of falling into the trap of being content with mere formal religion and church attendance as the basis of our salvation. John the Baptist would have us come to a personal communion with Jesus.
He (John) also stressed the need for us to embrace the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our baptism – that while he could baptize with water, it is through Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in us that our baptism is made complete. Thus we are not to be passive about our salvation, but to be enthusiastic followers of Jesus Christ.