Wednesday 20 June 2012

John the Baptist
If you study your Bible you will find there is a gap of four hundred years between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and the first book of the New Testament Matthew. There was no one outstanding figure, no one to prophesy to the people.

Then all of a sudden there comes on the scene a man called John the Baptist. He was referred to in the Scriptures as one chosen to prepare the way for the Lord and in Luke we read that he was chosen before his birth. He proved to be a very special person and on June 24th the Church remembers his ministry by setting that date to honour him. If you are in Spain, or perhaps some other European Catholic country, they treat the day in a special way with processions and pageantry.

Jesus made special mention of him describing him as a burning and shining light with no other man comparable to him. He lived out in the wilderness close to wild beasts alongside the river Jordan, wearing clothes of camel hair tied with a leather belt. He ate honey and locusts.

John was a fearless preacher who attacked the religious leaders of his day, calling them a brood of vipers, he even attacked the king for immoral living which caused him to be arrested and subsequently beheaded, yet crowds of people flocked to hear him preaching his call for them to repent of their sins.

Those who listened to him wondered who he was as he spoke so authoritatively. They thought he might be one of the great prophets returned. But he was a humble man who never sought public acclaim and was never willing to compromise or seek greatness. He referred to himself as one not even fit to untie the sandals of the One was to come.

In every Bible story there is inevitably a lesson for us today. John was a holy man who tried to live a worthy and good life and a Christians that should be our aim.

There is a lesson for preachers in that there was a man who was prepared to speak the truth and was not afraid to be criticised, and he didn’t seek to modify his message to please those around him. How many would be prepared to speak forthrightly in our Cathedrals, indeed how many would be allowed to.

John said what he believed God wanted him to say, what people needed to hear rather than consider what they wanted to hear. People went to hear him because whether they agreed with him or not there was substance in what he said, and that is a difference in many Churches to day.

I listen to sermons today and sometimes I pray that no stranger was in Church that day or they would be put off for life. The problem with many of today’s preachers they are afraid of upsetting people, but as long as a preacher is not offensive, for which there would be no justification, it should be remembered that a sermon should stimulate thinking and most reasonable people would welcome that however much they disagreed with content.

We know ultimately John offended the king's wife and when she got the opportunity took revenge. Her daughter danced erotically before the king and was promised anything she asked for, and at her mother's insistence asked for the head of John the Baptist. The king regretful but unwilling to be humiliated agreed

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