Originally published Friday, 09 March 2012.
Through my chronological reading of the Bible, I’ve now made my way to the New Testament. And as I started thumbing my way through this section, through the first pages of the story of Christ, there was something in this grand unfolding of the Messiah who has come to earth that caught my eye…
As I was reading, I noticed that when Luke and John both begin their gospels, they start not immediately with the birth of Christ, but instead with the birth of John the Baptist. Matthew, too, begins his gospel by looking first at John the Baptist before making his way to Jesus.
Luke tells “Most honorable Theophilus” that his letter is one that provides “a careful summary” of “the events that took place among us” and “of what God has done in fulfillment of his promises.” (Luke 1:1-3)
So why is it that, I wondered, instead of starting off at the manger, these gospels begin with John the Baptist?
From even before his conception, John the Baptist was intended to be “a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old” and one who would “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.” He was one who was born into great purpose: “He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival.” (Luke 1: 15-17)
I wonder if it is not this purpose—to prepare people’s hearts for the coming Messiah—that makes him so important to the story of Christ? Because isn’t that what the entire Old Testament is about, what every page before the New Testament leads up to, as well?
In the Old Testament, we see that the law is given which is a means for God’s people to live in communion with him and bring some of his heavenly kingdom to earth. The history of the nation of Israel is recorded with story after story about how God is merciful and loving to his children, even when they don’t deserve it. Prophet after prophet speaks of the day when all will be made new by the coming King of Kings, urging the nation to turn back to God.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God reaching out to his people, time and time again. For centuries, he asks them to come back to him, to be his bride as they were meant to be, to live the life of faith that were their wedding vows back in that desert so long ago.
In that chain of people beseeching their brethren to turn back to God, comes John the Baptist. Perhaps it’s less about John the Baptist and more about what God has been doing for and through his people all along, showing them his grace and mercy as he prods them again and again, as he gives them chance after chance, to return to their standing as a holy people.
And into this unending rhythm of God’s mercies to his people, a Messiah is finally born. Grace beyond compare. This is what everything in The Good Book is pointing toward, even John the Baptist himself.
Carmen writes the blog, Life Blessons, which provides an intimate look into her life as a twentysomething woman as she details her experiences learning how to live out her faith, enjoy the simple things in life and be the woman God created to her to be. Along the way, she shares the blessings and lessons that are a part of this journey, the things she likes to call her "blessons."
Feel free to read more at her blog, Life Blessons.
What are you reading about in your Bible studies? What are some of the things that have caught your eye in Scriptures lately?
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