“Your reputation precedes you.” It’s a line that happens mainly in movies and novels but we can see how it works out in real life. Whenever you meet that person that is the boss, a star, well-known athlete, or the jerk that lives in your neighborhood, they don’t come to you with a blank slate. We know something about the person before we know the person. In John 1:19-34, we discover something about John the Baptist and how he dealt with the reputation that preceded him.
Tempted to be the center of attention. The priests and Levites questioned John about who he really was. They wanted to know if he was the Messiah, a reappearance of Elijah the prophet, or a mysterious super Prophet to give insight that no one else knew. But John made it clear that the Messiah was about to arrive and he was not worthy to untie that Man’s sandal straps.
John could have claimed power and insight. He could have demanded respect for being the forerunner to the Messiah. He could have used people’s curiosity about mystical matters to his advantage. Instead, he chose a better way. Rather than trying to be “the man,” John chose to point to the One they truly needed to know. John was a voice crying out in the wilderness of an idol-filled world. He just wanted to cut a straight path for people to get to Jesus.
Testified to the One who deserves worship. John made it clear that Jesus is the sacrifice that we all will need. He pointed to Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus would not just mask our sin. He would remove it. It is the difference between covering a carpet stain with a rug and actually removing the stain with hard work.
John also pointed to Jesus as the divine One. He highlighted Jesus’ preexistence. It is a theme throughout the first chapter of John. The baptism of Jesus by John is also a witness of Jesus’ divinity. In the account, the Son is on the earth, the Father makes a declaration from heaven, and the Spirit descends on Jesus to inaugurate His earthly ministry. John would say, “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). Though John was presented with an opportunity to amaze the priests, Levites, and his own disciples, he testified that Jesus was the One who can save.
The great goal of the church is to point people to Jesus. We need to fill the whole world with the same kind of witness we see in John’s life. The mission of the church is to seek and save the lost. Not pacify and entertain the saved. Passages like this one remind me of the saying attributed to Charles Spurgeon: “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”
The church exists to draw men to Christ. If we are not doing that then all of our programs from preschool to senior adults, all of our services from Sunday throughout the week, all of our Life Groups on campus and off, all of our calendaring of activities and compassionate care, they are simply a waste. The world will entice you with your rights for pleasure. Religion will tempt you with its demands for morality. Your ego will insist that you be the center of attention. But Jesus is worthy of our praise and our faith. He is worthy to have His name testified throughout all of the world.
As part of my sermon series through the Gospel of John, I’ll be posting summaries of my messages and sermon notes. You can listen to the messages at FirstBradenton.com.