In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
In this season of Advent, we are setting aside time to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ. What a great passage for us to work through to get into that mindset — clearly John the Baptist had been preparing! I love the picture that we get from Matthew, a very detail-oriented author who wanted us to know exactly what a haggard state John was in. I cannot help but admire his heart and dedication to the cause of Christ. He was so focused on preparing the way for the Lord that he had little concern for his own appearance.
I will be the last to advocate that we all run into the wilderness and dress in camel’s hair, but I think we should take a hard look at ourselves when juxtaposed against this picture of a man dedicated to the Advent of his Lord. Do we find ourselves so caught up in how we present ourselves that we don’t have any margin to reflect on who God has made us and what He has done? I certainly am guilty of that, and often am in no better standing than those well-put-together, knowledgeable Pharisees and Sadducees that John berates, who Jesus would later call “white-washed tombs.”
It’s significant to note that despite his unkempt appearance and extreme demeanor, “all the region about the Jordan were going out to him” — the truth of Christ will draw people in! We don’t have to try to make it stylish, or cool, or relevant. It has been and always will be the most relevant aspect of all our lives. We are simply called to reflect on that and live into that truth.
This advent season, I pray that we all would take time, not to intentionally try to think less about ourselves, but to intentionally focus our hearts and minds on the truth of Christ and what He has done for us.
Dr. Zach Williams is an assistant professor of physics at Hope College.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.