In the past few posts I have spoken a little about John the Baptist. There is an aspect to his ministry that I want to examine today that is quite different to the basic ministry he came to teach. I want to explore a little about “how” he taught, which also looks a little at where and why he taught. There is in this paragraph of John 1 an interesting positional context that deserves some further explanation, and it goes to the heart of the differences that both John the Baptist as well as Jesus showed which set them apart from the religious leaders of their day.
The Voice of One
Look first at verse 23. Here he makes a statement as to who he is when queried by the Pharisees. He says firstly that he was “the voice of one.” John was a lone voice crying to the people. He was not backed up by a large, powerful or influential organisation. He was alone and backed up only by a large, powerful and influential God!
Some years ago there was a book written called the Voice of One. I don’t recall much about the story, but my scant recollection is that it was about the impact of one person to create change in South Africa during they years of apartheid. I believe it was a work of fiction, but the title of the book has stuck with me.
So often we have seen the power of one person to make a change by making a stand. In the case of apartheid consider Nelson Mandela. others who come to mind who made a stand against overwhelming odds were people like Ghandi, Churchill, Columbus, Galileo, Martin Luther King and his namesake Martin Luther, and so on. Each of these people had overwhelming odds, whether from the state, enemies at war, the church or other places, and yet they stood alone and firm in the face of such odds to win a victory. But how does this apply to John the Baptist?
John too stood in opposition to the religious structures of the day. At one point he called them a brood of vipers for he knew they were opposed not just to him but to the truth of the Lord. And John knew he stood alone as he stood with God in the way of the righteous.
But like so many others who have stood alone, sometimes we too will need to stand alone. If you are seeking the Lord you will need to seek him for yourself. You cannot rely on someone else to know and understand the truth, you need to understand it for yourself. And that means you will need to stand alone and seek him. John did not go to the religious institutions of his time to find the truth and it may be the same today as we will see in the next part of this important verse.
Crying Out in the Wilderness
Not only was John alone as the voice of one, he was out in the wilderness. He preached out in the countryside, not in a cathedral, temple, synagogue or church but in the wilderness. He was not part of the formal religious orders of his day but was separated from them.
Much of the time when Jesus taught, he too taught the people in the wilderness or by the seaside. He did teach in the temples too, but he was often teaching away from the traditional places of worship. The most enduring of his messages that we recall was his Sermon on the Mount, which was a “wilderness” message.
Why is this going to the wilderness important, or why even mention it? I believe the writer of Hebrews gave us the clue in Hebrews 13:11-13, which says:
11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
Just as the bodies of the sacrificial animals were taken outside the gate of the cities and away from the temple to be disposed of, so too Jesus, who was the sacrificial lamb and the perfect sacrifice for our sins, died outside the gates of the city and away from the temple.
The writer here instructs us to go out from the gate, out from the places of worship and away from the temples if we are to find Jesus. We are to go to the wilderness where He suffered and so come out to him. That is, if we want to find the truth about Jesus we may have to leave the traditional forms of religion and the traditions of church worship to seek the truth.
I have written in these posts many times that there are many things said and done in churches that have no basis in the scripture. There are many things said and done in the name of Jesus that are not part of the Christian covenant. So if you are really seeking the truth and you are part of a church, you cannot blindly accept whatever is preached and assume it is the word of truth.
Now am I saying that everything in the churches is false? Absolutely not! There is good and there is bad in what is taught. The challenges each of us faces is to sift between these messages to sort the wheat from the chaff.
So like John the Baptist, you may need to listen to the voice of one crying in the wilderness and be like him to find the truth. There is no easy way, it requires seeking, asking and prayer to find the truth. You may also need to let go of some things you currently accept as truth when or if you find they do not accord with the words of the New Covenant.
So come to Christ seeking his truth. His promise to you is that if you ask it will be given, if you seek it will be found, and if you knock it will be opened. That is the promise of the Lord. It is up to you and I to put ourselves out in the wilderness to go to Him and find him.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Martyn E. Jones)