There is much excitement in the air as Christians approach the date recognized with the birth of the Savior. Many of the carols sung at this time of year date centuries back. Recently this writer discovered a text written in the fourth century and set to music in the 13th century. Aurelius Prudentius wrote, “Of the Father’s love begotten ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, He the Source, the Ending He of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see, evermore and evermore.”
This writer was well versed in Scripture. In the opening phrase of his lyrical poem, he spoke of the eternal existence of the second member of the Trinity, Christ, the Creator and Sustainer of creation as recorded in John’s gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4 NASB). Then the apostle speaks of the forerunner sent to the nation to herald the coming of Messiah.
This John, called the Baptizer, in heralding God’s begotten, was not speaking of himself for … “he said, "I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said” (John 1:23 NASB). Careful to leave no doubt that this herald was not speaking of himself, the Apostle John proclaimed … “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NASB). One can only imagine the excitement in the Baptizer’s voice as he looked among his audience by the Jordan and saw coming toward him the One promised since eternity past.
The next day, again seeing Jesus coming toward him he cried out in great humility and prophetic eloquence … “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! "This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me'” (John 1:29b-30 NASB). The Messiah, promised of old, had not announced the start of his ministry to all the religious leaders in the Temple, but rather to those who had responded to John’s message of repentance from dead works. Faith in the promised Messiah brought salvation devoid of religious activity.
Man could not attain a relationship with God through self-effort or merit. Accepting by faith God’s provision of a Savior who was full of grace and Truth would be the only approach to a righteous God. What a freeing message from the burdens imposed on the people by Judaism were the words of Jesus … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6 NASB). Jesus would tell the people burdened down by the do’s and don’ts of religion to … “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matt 11:28-30 NASB).
John the Baptizer had faithfully and effectively presented the Lamb of God to the nation. His audience would diminish as those who first had received his message turned to follow Jesus. By today’s measure of success, some would regard this “voice” in the wilderness as a failure. Yet God’s estimation was notably different … “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt 11:11a NASB).