by Bill Lambert

“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”   ---Matthew 11:7-11

    John the baptist was one preacher who would have a difficult time finding a place in a modern-day pulpit.  Jesus said there was none greater than was this godly man.  A “pulpit committee” would have an impossible task in searching for anyone with a better commendation.  Many, however, would be highly critical of this son of a priest for his choice of clothing, some would shudder at his eating habits, while others would be offended by his “get-right-to-the-point” condemnation of sin, and his call for repentance.  While this writer would not necessarily advocate the wearing of camel’s  hair clothing or a diet of locusts and wild honey, I am nonetheless appalled at the importance some brethren place upon physical considerations and the lack of it placed upon the soundness of a gospel preacher.

      The people of Judea knew about John, for he went about the region, pleading for the Jews to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven” was at hand, making many disciples.  Jesus asked of the multitudes who went to see and hear John, “What went ye out to see...?”  In other words, what were they looking for?  If they were looking for one dressed in fine clothing, they were in for a big surprise!  If they expected to find a spineless “reed shaken with the wind,” they were surely disappointed.  Those who were expecting a prophet found more than that.  They found one who was especially chosen by the Lord and sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  He was an outstanding individual.  He would not win a popularity contest, was not a culinary expert, nor a fashion plate.  His only appeal would be to those who had an interest in hearing the truth.  Then, as now, the world at large was not interested in hearing a man who would “shell the corn.”  

    In Mark 6, information is given us concerning how John met his death.  Herod had him beheaded because John had insisted on saying that his adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife was not lawful.  Herod was a lot like some people today, in that he could tolerate John’s preaching, even hearing him gladly, and still not be motivated to act properly. John was not intimidated by the fact that it was Herod that he was speaking to when he said, “it is not lawful for you to have your brother Philip’s wife.”  That was just the kind of person he was, true to his mission, no matter who might be in his audience.  Herodias could not stand John, however, and conspired to have him beheaded.

    A song sung by choral groups a number of years ago comes to mind when thinking of John.  The song is entitled “Stouthearted Men.”  This is the kind of man John was.  Such was the temperament of the apostles when they were threatened by the Jews for preaching in the name of Jesus.  Their response to their persecutors was, “we cannot but speak that which we have seen and heard,” and “we ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 4:20; 5:29)  This is the disposition which must be manifest in those who would speak the word of God.  There is no room for moral cowards among the Lord’s people, in the pulpit or out of it.  

    As soldiers in the cause of righteousness (Eph. 6), God’s people must ever defend truth, reject error, and resist the efforts of those among us who would blunt the sword of the Spirit with their false concept of love.  Love not only seeks to soothe, comfort, and calm troubled waters, but it also sounds the warning, shouts the battle cry, rings out the message of truth.  All of the current emphasis upon “positive” preaching, “re-studying” the subject of divorce/remarriage betrays a lack of understanding of why Jesus came into the world.  He came to save sinners from their sin, not in their sins.  He came to deliver them from darkness, not to make them “feel good about themselves.”  The spirit of compromise and cowardice which may be found among brethren is but an extension of the liberal, all-condoning attitude of modern society.

    What do you expect one who preaches the gospel to be - “a reed shaken with the wind?  The Lord expects us to “fight the good fight of faith,” not to behave like a bunch of cheerleaders.