The child [John] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
Today, we continue to examine seven ways in which John the Baptizer was, as Jesus said in Luke 7:28, the greatest man who has ever walked the earth.
- John made the invisible kingdom visible
Zechariah’s prophesy mentions, “a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69). This is the ancient language of kingship.
King David was Israel’s most famous ruler. He ushered in a golden age unprecedented in the ancient world that continued on through his son and successor, King Solomon. This kingdom was only meant to foreshadow God’s true, perfect, forever Kingdom where Jesus is the true, perfect, forever King.
King Jesus told His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus rules over all times, nations, places, cultures, languages, tribes, and lifestyles of people. He rules over the angels and the demons. He rules over the rich and the poor, the living and the dead. The Book of Revelation tells us that Jesus is already seated on the throne in heaven. His invisible Kingdom will one day be established on the earth with His second coming, and the invisible Kingdom will be made visible. In the meantime, what we see are the visible kingdoms of the earth.
In his prophecy, Zechariah describes God’s Kingdom as marked by redemption, salvation, mercy, deliverance, holiness, righteousness, light, and peace. In contrast, he describes the kingdoms of the earth as “those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
- John obeyed God’s call on his life
Zechariah’s prophecy echoes Gabriel’s words in Luke 1:17, saying John “will go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (Luke 1:76).
John was a great man, but God gave him a difficult call. As a student of Scripture, John would have been keenly aware that most of God’s prophets lived lonely lives that usually ended in exile, murder, or both. That’s precisely what happened to John. He was thrown in prison and beheaded after preaching against Herod (“Herod the Great,” ironically). John went from known by some to mega-tour preacher to imprisoned to dead rather quickly. That’s a man who humbly obeyed his difficult call.
- John avoided adolescence
Following Zechariah’s prophecy, the Bible speaks briefly of John’s youth: “And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Luke 1:80).
John’s public ministry lasted roughly six months—shorter than an academic freshman year at a Bible college. He preached a lot of sermons, baptized perhaps thousands of people, handed his ministry to Jesus, and got martyred—all by the age of about 30. Today, the average 30-year-old guy is getting married for the first time after years of playing video games, acting silly, and wasting time.
John did not consume any alcohol, he did not waver on his mission, and he packed in a lifetime of man’s work during his brief 30 years because he did not waste any of his time on earth. Like a soldier off to war, he did not pretend that life was an extended vacation at an all-inclusive resort.
Men, especially young men, who aspire to greatness can learn a lot from John’s example. He is Jesus’ definition of a great man.
When you think of the greatest man you personally know, who comes to mind? How can you encourage him today?