What an interesting man John the Baptizer must have been! No wonder people came out to see him. He had one basic message: “Get your act together. God’s kingdom is about to come.” We imagine him a bit wild looking. His clothing was out of the ordinary (animal hides) and his food as well (grasshoppers and wild honey). Yum! People not only came to hear him, but they confessed their sins to him and received the baptism he gave. He demanded true repentance, as seen in his rejection of the leaders who came only to check things out. He was severe with them: “Brood of vipers! Give some evidence of your sincerity. Don’t simply count on being children of Abraham. God will give other children to Abraham. Things are about to change dramatically. I’m only a herald, a sign of the One who comes. In fact, I’m unworthy to even serve Him. His baptism will be in the Holy Spirit and in fire. He will clear the threshing floor of this life, gathering the good and throwing the chaff into unending fire.”
This is a message for the ages! Even today John continues preparing the way because we keep losing it, both as a people and individually. The reign is actually here, but each of us needs reminding that our own threshing will be over at death. It’s time to start heading for the good pile. The image of gathered wheat and burning chaff is very compelling.
John was born for his mission. He was the one who rejoiced in his mother’s womb at the approach of the unborn Messiah in Mary’s womb. Sometimes it seems so hard to identify our life’s mission, never mind following it from birth, and with such gusto throughout life. And yet, we who received Baptism as babies do have our mission early on: we were reborn as followers of Jesus Christ. That may appear a little wild to some folks; our clothing is Christ himself and our food is definitely Unique!
John lived a Lenten existence for his thirty-some years. May his message and example inspire us this Lent to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord we follow.