We pray you have been blessed by this daily devotion. If you received it from a friend, you can see other devotions and studies by visiting our website at www.awordfortoday.org.
A WORD FOR TODAY, June 24, 2021
“His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people; and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets who have been from of old), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to Abraham our father, to grant to us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, should serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the dawn from on high will visit us, to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace.’” Luke 1:67-79, WEB
June 24th is the Nativity of John the Baptist. We celebrate on this day because the scriptures tell us that John was born six months before Jesus. Therefore, we are six months from Christmas. Are you already shopping for those Christmas gifts?
All kidding aside, John the Baptist is a worthwhile figure to consider. In his ministry, we are reminded that he came as a voice from the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. He cried out for repentance, so that the people would be prepared for that day when Christ did come, so that they would be ready to receive Him.
John was Jesus’ cousin, born of Elizabeth and Zechariah and elderly couple. Zechariah was a priest in the temple and Elizabeth was barren, but God spoke to Zechariah and promised him a son. When Zechariah questioned the angel that gave him the good news, he was struck dumb, unable to speak. When the child was born, everyone thought he would be named after his father, but Elizabeth said he would be called John. They asked Zechariah, since it was not a family name. He said, “His name is John.” At that moment, Zechariah could speak again, and he praised God for the blessing of this son. John grew in spirit and lived a most unusual life.
John was a herald. A herald is an announcer, someone who proclaims some important bit of information or news. In Medieval times, most of the news was delivered by traveling heralds who spoke to the people in the marketplace. Today’s anchormen are like those ancient messengers, only their platform is much different. A herald might also be an official representative for the leaders of an army, something like an ambassador who helps the negotiations during war. Other heralds announced the participants at a tournament. In modern terms, the announcer at a wrestling match has the same purpose, to warm up the crowd and make them excited about the battle ahead. Finally, heralds announced the coming of a king. Though the herald himself was of little importance, he had a very important task. If the herald does not get the attention of the people, or if he puts them to sleep with a boring speech, then the message he proclaimed would not be heard and the one he announced might be missed.
John went around the country preaching repentance. He baptized the people, a baptism of repentance, and preached the coming kingdom of God. He said “I indeed baptize you with water, but he comes who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)
John the Baptist heralded the coming of the Christ, proclaiming the kingdom of God and calling for the repentance of the people. He was sent first to warn the Jews that they must turn back to God or they would miss the Messiah for whom they were waiting. The Jews were longing for deliverance; they wanted to be freed from the Romans that bound and oppressed them in that age. Yet, they did not realize they were bound by an even harsher master: sin and death. It was not an earthly kingdom that was coming, but God’s kingdom and the salvation that was to be offered was not for the flesh. Jesus Christ brought eternal life to those who believe and John the Baptist prepared the way.
One day, Jesus went to John to be baptized. John tried to refuse but Jesus said it needed to happen. When John saw Jesus, he exclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) John knew that he came to witness to the coming of the Christ, the Savior of Israel. He was a radical and preached against the leaders of the day. He condemned Herod for his life and was beheaded.
Herod was filled with pride and human foolishness; he considered himself much greater than he was. He killed John the Baptist for a few minutes of sensual pleasure, though he feared doing so because the people called John a prophet. Herod did not want to kill John but he was a fool. He was called a king, but he held no kingdom. The people gave him honor and respected his authority, but he was not deserving of such respect. He rejected the truth and followed his flesh. Out of his own pride, he offered a young girl anything she desired because she made him feel good, and she asked for John’s head to make her mother happy. Herod killed John because his wife was offended by the truth.
Today is the day we remember John the Baptist, his life and ministry. If there is one thing to remember about John, it is that he knew his place in God’s kingdom. When Jesus began his ministry, John’s disciples reported that everyone was going to Him rather than to John. John told his disciples that he was not the Christ. He confessed to his disciples, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He came to point the way to the Lord Jesus, and he accomplished that mission. He was not jealous that Jesus was the focus. He lived, and died, in the joy of knowing that the Messiah had finally come to save His people.
John was just the herald, the one who came before to proclaim the coming of the King. He knew that he was unimportant, and once Jesus arrived on the scene, he willingly stepped aside so that Jesus would have center stage. John is an example to us today. We are also called to be heralds, witnesses to the coming of Christ. We become less and less as we grow in faith and knowledge of God’s grace until one day all God will see in our faces because we have been transformed into His image.
A WORD FOR TODAY is posted five days a week – Monday through Friday. The devotional on Wednesday takes a look at the scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday. A WORD FOR TODAY is posted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Word-for-Today-Devotional/339428839418276. Like the page to receive the devotion through Facebook. For information and to access our archives, visit http://www.awordfortoday.org.