Assessing Ministry

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), September 26

John the Baptist was a fireball of a preacher with an unusual ministry. The Gospels provide a number of details regarding John and his ministry:

imagesJohn the Baptist was rough around the edges, “Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey” (Mk. 1:6).

John the Baptist baptized Jesus and witnessed the opening of heaven, the appearance of the dove, and the voice from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17).

John the Baptist was not politically correct or enamored by large crowds. He called the multitude of Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” (Mt. 3:7).

John the Baptist was confrontational. He confronted Herod for taking his brother’s wife: “John had said to Herod, ’It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife’” (Mk. 6:18).

John the Baptist’s ministry had an obscure beginning, “John came baptizing in the wilderness” (Mk. 1:4, emphasis added).

John the Baptist preached repentance and announced the coming of the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 3:2).

Crowds came to hear John speak: “Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Lk. 3:7), and many people responded to John’s message saying, “What shall we do?” (Lk. 3:10,12,14).

John the Baptist pointed people to Jesus at every turn of His ministry, saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease (Jn. 3:30), and “One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose” (Lk. 3:16).

John the Baptist’s ministry was short-lived, “But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the other evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison” (Lk. 3:3,19-20, emphasis added).

John the Baptist struggled with discouragement after being incarcerated: “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” (Mt. 11:2-3).

John the Baptist’s ministry had a shocking ending, “Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter . . .” (Mk. 6:27-28; Mt. 14:8-12).

John’s ministry reveals a number of truths about the men God uses and the ministries to which He calls them:

  • Though a man may be rough around the edges, God will use him greatly when he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

  • Though some ministries may be short-lived, brevity of ministry has little to do with effectiveness in ministry.

  • Though crowds may initially come to hear a man preach, few respond to the message of repentance.

  • Confronting sinners is costly.

  • The goal of all preaching is to point people to Jesus. Preaching that doesn’t point people to Jesus fails.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Mt. 2:1-23; 3:1-17; Lk. 2:41-52; 3:1-18, 21-22; Mk. 1:2-11):
How does the LORD meet the needs of Joseph and Mary’s sojourn to Egypt? What does this reveal about His provision?
Describe Jesus’ early childhood.
How does John the Baptist prepare the people for Jesus’ ministry?