John the Baptist is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. And he certainly is a character. He is the son of a priest and had a miraculous birth. His parents were old, and probably died while he was still young, so he was used to being on his own. He lived in the desert and wore itchy camel’s hair clothing. He ate locusts! (And honey, so that must have sweetened the taste!) He baptized people as a way of preparing for the Messiah, and as a sign of repentance – a sign that you were willing to change your actions and get right with God. He had followers, and acknowledged Jesus as the Lamb of God. He was eventually thrown into prison and beheaded.
What strikes me most about John, though, is that he was willing to be extreme for God. He did not live like those around him – not fighting with swords like the Zealots, not hiding in the hills like the Essenes, not playing politics like the Sadducees, not trying to demand obedience like the Pharisees, not just trying to get by like everyone else. He told people the truth – in a very direct way. He was not afraid of the consequences, and he did not care about your background or who your family was – what mattered was YOUR choices with God – today.
In the end, that truth gave people hope – God cares about your choice today. I want to be unafraid to be extreme for God, too – making a difference in truth and love.