John the Baptist was a different kind of guy. He was a miracle baby. His father and mother were past the child-bearing age. But he was more than an “oops” baby. He was born to a mission: he’d be the Elijah, the messenger declaring the way of the Lord. It’s little wonder that his birth came under impossible circumstances.
After his birth, we hear little of John the Baptist until his adult life. Apparently, he’d made his way to the wilderness, and he attracted attention—not only for his lifestyle but for his message. He ate locusts (yuck) and honey (well I guess that’s okay). His camel-hair clothing probably gave him an unkempt look.
But apparently, he could really preach—a message of repentance and redemption. People flocked to hear him and came to the water for his baptism. Not everyone liked his message. John called it like it was and told the king he was in sin. That doesn’t make you popular, and it led John to prison, where he knew he’d likely end his life.
It’s at this low point—in prison, his career over, and facing the end of his life—that John asks his disciples to go and see Jesus with a simple message: “Are you really the Messiah?” Translation: Have I wasted my life? Was I doing the right thing? Will it all amount to anything? After Jesus tells John’s disciples a message to comfort John, he then delivers, in essence, the following eulogy in Matthew 11:7-11:
What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Wow! Think about it. Here’s Jesus, the Savior of the world, declaring that John the Baptist was more than a reed shaking in the wind—no, he was a tall oak tree giving shade for generations. He was not just a novelty. He was more than a prophet. Indeed, among those born of women there was no one greater.
The legacy of John the Baptist lives on in the lives of those who call upon the name of Jesus. His life serves as an illustration that we all will leave a legacy, and we get to choose what kind of legacy it will be.