For a moment, I doubted.
I was stuck in a prison cell, jailed for calling out Herod Antipas for his sins.
I did no wrong; in fact, I was doing the will of God.
But was Jesus truly God? Was He the one we had been waiting for?
Was He really who He said He was?
I wondered if it was all worth it…
my being set apart from birth, the preparation, the preaching.
Was it enough?
Enough to justify prison and facing death?
From boyhood, my father told me I was special. I was a gift from God, sent to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah. He told me the angel, Gabriel, had announced my birth when he and my mother were very old. Gabriel’s announcement came with several specificities:
“…He will be a joy and delight to you,
and many will rejoice because of his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He is never to take wine or other fermented drink,
and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
As a boy I didn’t know what it all meant, but I listened for the voice of God to lead me; I was so eager to fulfill His calling on my life. To make others ready for the Messiah!! What an honor!
My mother said Jesus was her cousin’s child, my distant relative. She remembers so vividly when I recognized Him, even while we were still unborn in our mothers’ wombs. This child, born after me, would be greater than me or anyone else who ever walked the earth because He was born of God’s Spirit, not from man.
My appointment was to call people to repent of their sins and ready themselves to receive Jesus as their Savior from sin!
I could baptize with water, but Jesus the Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit!
Instead of following in my father’s footsteps and studying under a rabbi to become a priest, I followed God out to the wilderness. I had no profession other than practicing the discipline of listening to the heart of God and worshipping Him. I had no true home and only the land to live on. I spent years wearing clothes made from camel hair and surviving on just locusts and wild honey. But God was with me, teaching me, preparing me to be an outspoken evangelist. I wasn’t caught up in caring what people thought, what they said, or even how I suffered.
I was singularly focused on my mission
because I spent decades focusing on God alone.
When He told me it was time, I set out from the wilderness toward Israel. As I encountered people, I told them exactly the Lord’s message as He had given it,
“Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!”
This was the fullness of my purpose, and with great zeal I leaned into the work!
People came out of the city to listen to me and be baptized.
Despite my father’s words that I was a special gift, I knew the true gift was what the Lord was doing in me. He prepared my own heart to receive His Salvation.
I was no one.
I was society’s reject.
I preached the unpopular sermon of repentance many prophets before me had declared.
Yet remarkably, I could see God point others beyond myself to One Coming.
I still remember the day Jesus came to the Jordan River to see me.
His purpose was so intentional.
How my hands shook as He entered the Jordan and our eyes met!
Here was the moment, Jesus was The One, yet I couldn’t help but back up.
He should be baptizing me! I was not worthy to untie His sandals, let alone baptize Him!
“Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness”, Jesus insisted.
Suddenly, everything became clear!
He went under the water like all the others I had baptized, but when He rose up a white dove descended as the skies were opened and rested on Him.
God had told me to look for that sign, for it would signify the Messiah.
What an honor! My heart came alive – truly alive!
Here was confirmation of God fulfilling His promise both to Israel and myself!
I stood motionless, taking in this magnificent occasion.
Arms stretched to heaven, I glorified God the Father as Jesus the Messiah, God in the flesh, stood with me in the river.
His ministry began and I continued to confront sin in peoples’ lives, clearing the path before the Savior of the World. When it was King Herod whose sin I called out, I was locked up.
Faced with looming execution, the doubts and questions came rapid-fire.
Will Jesus save me from this?
Was I duped, or is He truly the Messiah?
Was my hope misplaced?
Were my efforts for naught?
Was my life wasted?
My life had been surrendered to ministry in Jesus’ Name since before I was born.
I’d experienced incredible moments – proofs – of Jesus having the very nature of God wrapped in humanity’s skin.
Still, I doubted.
I had heard, of course, about His miraculous acts:
the blind see,
the deaf hear,
the lame walk.
None but God could do these things.
Still, there I sat, awaiting death for doing the will of God.
I could not help but ask,
“Are you The One who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Jesus sent back a response reminding of truths I’d already witnessed and then finished with this, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
The language He had chosen was itself a message as I quickly recalled another prophet’s words, “And He will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense…”
Isaiah foretold how Jesus’ message would be offensive and bring persecution for those who loved Him. But as Jesus now reassured, this message was the one by which all peoples who embraced Him would be blessed.
Persecution would come.
The cost of sacrifice was for all followers.
Was it worth it to be counted among those who were granted eternal life because they were not offended by His grace?
Jesus’ divine destiny was the undeserved persecution of the cross, enduring the fullness of God’s wrath, in order to take away the sins of the world (every person EVER) if they chose Him. (John 1:12; Acts 10:43)
Just as I have.
And here I rest in confident peace.
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