In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
(Matthew 3:1 ESV)
After telling us about the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and early childhood Matthew fast-forwards about 30 years to introduce us to John the Baptist. John was a distant cousin of Jesus [Luke 1:26-36] and was a man set-apart by God before he was even born [Luke 1:11-17]. He came onto the scene in Israel after almost 500 years had gone by since Malachi, the previous prophet.
John the Baptist lived and conducted his ministry in the wilderness of Judea. This was an isolated, out-of-the-way place east of the Dead Sea. It would have been an inconvenience to go hear what John had to say. As such, only those people who were genuinely interested would make the effort to do so. Those who didn’t go either weren’t interested or had an excuse not to go.
Therefore, in a very symbolic way John the Baptist was calling people away from the world and towards Jesus. The same choice – the world or Jesus – faces every single person who has ever lived.
The world demands our attention. We have our careers and our families. We have our hobbies and our finances. We have our entertainment and our troubles. There is a lot to be focused on. And while some of those things are sometimes important – and others are never important – they all compete with Jesus for our attention.
Sadly, many people are too wrapped up in the affairs of this world to be bothered with looking into Jesus’ message. They are like the people who won’t venture into the wilderness to hear John the Baptist. It’s too much of an inconvenience for them to take some time out of their lives and look into whether the Bible is true or not. They are either not interested or come up with excuses. As a result they will miss out on heaven.
As we’ll learn tomorrow, the message of John the Baptist (and Jesus) is not an easy one to swallow. It hurts our pride. But those who are willing to be inconvenienced to hear that message, and believe it, will be rewarded.
I don’t recall where I heard it, but a true saying is “If you’re too busy to spend time with God then you’re busier than God ever intended you to be”. The world offers us nothing but distractions. To learn about God we need to get away from the world. We need to go into the wilderness – metaphorically speaking (although really getting away isn’t a bad idea). It is only when we are unencumbered by the temporary things of life that we can discover what really matters and how to obtain it.
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