My namesake is John the Evangelist, but in my heart of hearts, I think it should have been John the Baptist. I make no claims to personally measuring up to either John, mind you. It’s just that preaching the Kingdom come, in the person of Jesus, has to have been the greatest evangelization the world has ever seen.
From the inestimable King James Version, from Matthew 3:
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias [Isaiah], saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
Well, John the B. went on, annoying the self-righteous, and knowing that his cuz, Jesus, was on His way. John combined zeal for the Lord with humility — it was not about him. It was about Him. And only Him. Still in Matthew 3:
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire
It may be useful to imagine the scene; place yourself in the picture as John, or as one who is about to be baptized. Listen to what John is saying: “he that cometh after me is mightier than I”…and you, and me. But here comes the Son of Man, Jesus, to…repent and be baptized? Doesn’t make sense, does it? For the fully divine Jesus to seek baptism by John? Yes, because Jesus was also fully human.
No, of course Jesus did not need to repent for Himself. He needed to repent for our sins. John at first demurs — who is John to baptize Jesus? Matthew 6:
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
4 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Now here comes what we might call the money quote from Matthew 6, when the Holy Spirit descends to seal Jesus’ status as the Son of God:
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Imagine you are there; imagine John’s reaction to seeing this; to taking it all in, and knowing, in his bones, that his prophesy of the coming of the Lord is true. John later comes to a bad end, as we all know. But words can not express the honor to have been the prophet who baptized the Lord.
Think, especially, on what John did the next time you think you’ve accomplished something really nifty in your life. I know that I do. And it humbles me each and every time.