RELIGION COLUMN: We cannot look to anotherBy Staff Reports Published 10:32am Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Jake McCall
John the Baptist plays a key role within God’s story. He did a lot of preaching and baptizing and warning. He is known as one who “prepared the way,” yet his primary purpose was to make it known that the ultimate answer was not in a teaching or a philosophy but in a person. He also made it known that, even though he gathered a lot of followers, he was not that person. That person had to be the “Lamb of God who could take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). With that declaration, John the Baptist was expressing the saving significance of a person and an event.
Though Jesus was to have three fruitful years of ministry that would be filled with sermons, healings, exorcisms and even resurrections, John skipped right to declaring the saving work of Christ on the cross. Yes, Jesus needed to prove that he was God. Yes, Jesus needed to establish the foundation for which he would build his Church. Yes, he needed to prophesy of his resurrection and the coming of his Spirit. But his eternal purpose was to die and take away the sins of the ones God had given to him.
The peculiar wilderness ministry of John the Baptist was to precede Christ’s ministry. It was designed to bring human sin to light and to show the need that mankind had to be pardoned, forgiven and cleansed. John the Baptist made it clear that though he was baptizing people, he was not the one that had come to “sprinkle clean the people” (Ezekiel 36:25). His limitation was the fact that, even though exposing the need was possible and even his job, he had neither the power nor the qualifications to deal with the guilt and condemnation of sin. Therefore, when many asked whether John the Baptist was the awaited Messiah, John responded, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20). He knew that hope was coming and he knew that he was the one who was to pave the way for Jesus, but he also knew that he could only provide a message. That message was simply to look not to him, but to look to “He who comes after me” (John 1:27).
Jesus, on the other hand, did not deflect messiah-ship to another, but boldly declared to the crowds, “Behold the Lamb.” Referring to himself as a lamb was indicating that he would be sacrificed. This language and imagery pointed directly to death and atonement. This is how Jesus tells us that he had come to do what no other person could do for himself or herself, and that was to die a death that would take away their sins.
Be careful of who or what you are looking to while hoping they can be your answer or all that you would ever need. John the Baptist reminds us that there is no other Messiah and if there is another that you are looking to, they must decrease and Christ must increase—or maybe you yourself must decrease. Regardless, Christ must get bigger. Now is a great time to give him more of your life, heart and attention.
—Jake McCall is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. He is the pastor at Grace Fellowship Presbyterian Church. His column appears each Thursday.