It’s noteworthy that the one meant to pave the way for the Messiah didn’t create a new school of thought within the walls of the temple system. He wasn’t integrated into the political hierarchy of the day, artfully preparing for Jesus to emerge as a powerful leader. He was not a great warrior, destined to be captain of Jesus’s guard.
He was a desert prophet.
The cousin of our Lord lived an eccentric, ascetic, and intentional life. Wearing animal furs, eating wild honey and locusts, and proclaiming a message of change; John spent most of his adult days in the harsh landscape of the desert wilderness. His behaviors and appearance may strike us as odd, and they would’ve been outside of the norm for the typical working person in his day too. His austere appearance was mirrored by his stark message of repentance and preparation.
And yet he amassed quite a following, and what he had to say struck a chord with the people. So much so that the authorities and the establishment were concerned about his popularity. His message was powerful, authentic, and rang true, and it confronted the establishment in some pretty intense ways.
We can learn a lot from John the Baptist when it comes to stewarding influence. His entire life can be characterized as a bold, unwavering arrow, pointing toward anyone who had eyes to see Jesus. From his miraculous birth, to his tragic death, John the Baptist lived one core message that could be summed up as this: Get real about yourself, get right with the Lord, get ready for the Messiah. He directed every follower he ever had straight to Jesus.
We live in the age of personal influence management. “You are your own brand”—that’s a mantra we hear a lot from leadership and business gurus. And, on a pragmatic marketplace level, they’re not wrong. More and more, we hear talks and read articles about “influence” as it relates not only to organizations but as it relates to individuals. In our day, the real question is not whether or not you have influence, but what are you doing with it? Whose banner are you raising? Whose name are you really hoping will be made great? How willing are you to hand it all over so that it points to Jesus?
We may not be called to be prophets, but we are called to use our gifts, our talents, our voices, and our influence to point to Jesus with everything we’ve got. Even when, from a temporal perspective, it doesn’t seem like a prudent investment or a wise bet. Whether a banker or a butcher, an entrepreneur or an engineer, we must be prepared to pour out every ounce of our energy and influence to point to Jesus, the one who makes all things new, right, and whole.
We have a bit of an advantage compared to John. He had to stake everything, every ounce of his reputation, on the one who was coming after him. Jesus hadn’t walked on water yet, nor had He healed blind Bartimaeus. Jesus hadn’t conquered the grave, yet John staked everything on what was to come.
We have the distinct historical advantage of already knowing the powerful outcome of Jesus’s earthly ministry. We can point to the one who was, and is, and is to come, declaring with confidence and everything we have that He is greater (Revelation 1:8; Matthew 3:11). Full stop.
Written by Andrew Stoddard