A Voice from the Past

The Background

The Gospel of John wraps up the public ministry of Jesus in an unexpected way, by returning to the memory of John the Baptist. At the beginning of this gospel, we read about the message of John the Baptist (John 1:6-36). But after the introduction and baptism of Jesus, his followers followed Jesus instead, as they should have. And that is when the ministry of John the Baptist diminished, as it should have as well.

But after nearly three years of intensive teaching and ministering, both in and out of Jerusalem, Jesus transitioned from public ministry to passion week preparation. In doing so, he returned to the place where his ministry started (John 10:40).

And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed.

What did this accomplish? It subtly reminded many people who followed him about the message that John the Baptist had preached. John the Baptist had predicted the arrival and ministry of Jesus and prepared people to follow him. Now John was was dead and his ministry and message were a memory of the past.

Echoing Isaiah 40:3, he had described himself as only a “voice in the wilderness” (Luke 3:4-6). Knowing this helps you to understand and appreciate the response of people when Jesus returned to the place where John had preached, and where John had baptized him (John 10:41).

Many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.”

According to contemporary Jewish tradition at that time, a man would need to accompany his message with a supernatural sign in order for people to recognize him as a prophet from God. John, though, had no such miracle on his resume. He only had a message, a message about Jesus. But that was enough (John 10:42).

Many believed in Him there.

Nearly three years had passed and John the Baptist was deceased, but something remarkable happened. Not only had the ministry of John the Baptist vindicated Jesus, but the ministry of Jesus had now vindicated John the Baptist. The people who had followed John the Baptist, and followed Jesus next, now reflected over what John had told them. Indeed, everything he foretold about Jesus had proven to be true. On the basis of John’s past witness, many believed on Jesus.

The Application

Friend, are you willing to be a voice for Jesus and nothing more? Your world does not need you to perform impressive supernatural feats. It needs to hear the truth about Jesus. It needs words, not miracles. And it needs these words about the extraordinary Son of God to come from ordinary, unspectacular people, like you.

Your world does not need you to perform impressive supernatural feats. It needs to hear the truth about Jesus.

If you accept this role, then you must also be willing to wait awhile for some people to believe the message. In some cases, and perhaps in many, people may not believe until you’re nothing more than a memory in their mind. But the truth about Jesus, spoken by humble, faithful messengers, lingers over time. For John the Baptist, many who heard his message believed years later, after he had died. Do not measure the success of your ministry by the numbers of people who believe on Jesus in the present. That is a very limited sample. Some will do that, but others will not. Others will believe in the future, maybe after you die. And that’s okay. That’s the power of speaking the truth about Jesus.

Do not measure the success of your ministry by the numbers of people who believe on Jesus in the present.

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