John the Baptizer is one of the all-time great characters in all of Scripture. Concerning him, the Lord said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptizer…”
Because of the way John burst on the scene and his message, many have a rather monolithic view of this great man. Most think of him only in terms of his strange ways and his call of repentance (not unlike the Lord – Matt 4:17, 11:19). But like many great men, John was a complex character who exemplified many of the beautiful traits of our Lord.
First, even though John did sternly rebuke the religious leaders of the day (vv 7-10), a call to repentance does not necessarily require a scorched earth, fire and brimstone presentation. In Luke 3:10-14 we see the common man coming to John in humility and receiving straight forward but calm instruction on how to live to please the coming Messiah. Thus, we see John as a man to whom the common man was attracted, just like the One who would come after (cf Mark 12:37).
Second, John’s greatness is also seen in his unwavering declaration of the preeminence of the coming Christ in comparison to himself (v 11). I heard a preacher once say of John, “He played the second fiddle well.” Indeed he did! John did not allow his popularity to deter him from his true place and mission.
Third, consider the humanity of John. When we think of “mountain men,” we think of hardened, rugged individualists who care little for themselves or others. Such was not the case with John. In Matthew 11, John was in prison and certainly aware that death could come at any time. He sent men to Jesus to make sure that Jesus was “the real deal” (Matt 11:2-3). Why did John doubt? Was it because of the threat of death? Was it a misguided idea that Jesus did not care, as we have no record of Jesus ever visiting or sending visitors to John in prison? For whatever reason, John was concerned that perhaps his work had been in vain. Jesus sent John’s followers home with a message of great reassurance.
Don’t sell this great man short! John was an all-timer!