Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus calling people to Himself. However, during the early days of His ministry, He intentionally called out the men who would become His group of disciples and core group of followers. These men would walk with Jesus throughout His three year ministry, listen to all His teaching, and join Him on the night He was betrayed. While they were a chosen group of men, they were also extremely ordinary people who failed and struggled in their faith just like we do. What set the twelve disciples apart was not only the fact that Jesus specifically chose them, but that they agreed to follow Jesus wherever He would lead.
But how did these men first meet Jesus? How did they become His followers
John the Baptist was obviously known for his ministry of baptism. Born to Zachariah and Elizabeth as a special gift from God—you can read that story in Luke 1—John was destined for greatness. God had given John a special assignment: prepare the way for the Messiah. It was a mission that John took seriously and successfully fulfilled.
By the time he was thirty, John had a thriving, effective ministry. He had many followers and was seeing revival stir in Israel as he baptized people in the Jordan River. His ministry had such an impact that the religious leaders of the day took notice and began questioning if he was the Messiah or at the very least another prophet. As we saw last time, John adamantly denied any claims to being the Messiah or a prophet and made it clear that his role was to pave the way and point people to the Lamb of God
Every king needs a herald. Every victory needs a forerunner. Every Savior needs a prophet to prepare the way. Before Jesus started His earthly ministry, God raised up another man to prepare the people. John the Baptist was a distant cousin of Jesus. Born to two older parents who were most likely beyond childbearing years at the time of his birth, John’s life was destined by God and filled with purpose. He was a man with a special mission to fulfill and job to accomplish, and he executed his divine calling with excellence and boldness.
Living in the northern part of California in the winter, darkness is a very real thing—both literally and metaphorically. The days are short and darkness descends in the late afternoon/early evening. Add in stormy days and the gloom can become oppressive making the metaphoric darkness a real issue. Seasonal depression is a serious issue here and COVID has not helped in this department. But by far the spiritual darkness present is the most dangerous and rampant.
However, spiritual darkness is not just confined to remote, northerly parts of the globe during winter. It has been prevalent throughout the world since Adam and Eve’s fall in Genesis, and it continues to permeate every people, culture, society, and nation. No one is immune or can escape from the dark world we live in, and it is not something we can dispel in our own strength. However, light has come in the person of Jesus Christ.
God is often viewed as a distant being, separated and uninterested in the affairs of men and harshly critical of any transgression. Since the beginning of time, humanity has sought after God. While many today in our post-modern world would deny this fact, the reality remains that mankind has always searched for something greater than themselves.
As we kick off our study in the first six chapters of John, I am reminded of a line from Sound of Music: “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” There are four Gospels that recount the life and story of Jesus and His time on earth. Each one starts at a different place. Matthew starts with Abraham. Mark jumps right in with John the Baptist. And Luke, the historian, starts when God’s silence was first broken in the temple with Zachariah.
However, John starts his gospel completely different. Instead of starting the story with a person, event, or time in history, he goes back even further. John starts his book at the very beginning.