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LION OR LAMB?
"The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 'Look, the Lamb of God!' "When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, 'What do you want?' They said, 'Rabbi (which means "Teacher"), 'where are you staying?' 'Come,' He replied, 'and you will see.' So they went and saw where He was staying, and they spent that day with Him. It was about four in the afternoon." John 1:35-39 (NIV).
Jesus rated John the Baptist the greatest of all the prophets. Why? He was not like Isaiah, for instance, who was a member of the royal family and whose long ministry lasted through the reigns of four kings. Isaiah was the prince of prophets in the Old Testament era. He had insights into the nature and ministry of the Messiah like no other prophet. After all, didn't he write the most profound and sublime chapter in the Old Testament -- Isaiah 53? But John was greater.
Why was John such a great man? His ministry lasted no more than six months before he was incarcerated and then beheaded. I believe his greatness lay in the way he fulfilled his assignment. What was his assignment? He was to prepare the way for and introduce the Messiah to Israel. It was not so much what he did but the way he did it that marked him out as a truly great man.
In response to the constant squabbling of His disciples over who would be the greatest, Jesus taught them what true greatness was all about. They thought that greatness was about being the most important and the most visible person in the pecking order. James and John even asked for positions at His elbows in His kingdom! Imagine that!
Jesus was quick to point out that it was they, not He, who determined their greatness. If they were were prepared to stoop down to the level of the lowliest in society, a little child, and lift him up, they would be truly great. Humility and the behaviour it produces, is the way to greatness.
How did John the Baptist measure up to Jesus' criterion?
When the Pharisees interrogated him, he was quick to point out that he was no more than a voice. He could have claimed to be Elijah come back from the dead, a great prophet who had ministered during a time of apostasy in Israel and who had done amazing miracles - stopping the rain, bringing on the rain and even raising a dead child on one occasion. Jesus identified John as the fulfilment of God's promise to send Elijah ahead of the Messiah but John made no such claim for himself.
John had the heart of a servant. His fiery preaching was not to humiliate but to call people back to God. When they responded, he spent time encouraging and teaching them about God's kingdom.
He never lost an opportunity to point people to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Whenever he saw Jesus, he declared, 'There is God's Lamb!' John, unlike Jesus' own diisciples, had grasped the real mission of the Messiah.
The disciples were anticipating a stand-off with the Romans, their humiliating defeat and an era of glorious freedom for Israel under their new ruler, Jesus. The miracles He did confirmed their notion that He would restore Israel to her former glory under their great king, David, when everyone lived in safety and in plenty under his merciful and benevolent rule.
John, on the other hand, kept insisting that Jesus was God's Lamb, not God's Lion, at least not yet. He was not in any way resentful when some of his disciples left him to follow Jesus. That was his purpose, to point people to Jesus and to introduce Him to the world as God's sacrifice for sin.
John was faithful to his calling. He had no other purpose in life but to ensure that everyone he encountered knew who Jesus was. He was consumed with the passion to prepare the way so that, when Jesus arrived on the scene, people would recognise and follow Him.
This story speaks for itself, doesn't it?
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