Here we have the message of John the Baptist to the people. Nowhere does the difference between John and Jesus stand out so clearly because whatever the message of John was, it was not a gospel. It was not good news; it was news of terror.
John had lived in the desert. The face of the desert was covered with stubble and brushwood, as dry as tinder. Sometimes a spark set the face of the desert on fire and out of their hiding places came the vipers, scurrying in terror from the menacing flames. It was to them John likened the people who came to be baptized.
The Jews had not the slightest doubt that in God's economy there was a favored nation clause. They held that God would judge other nations with one standard, but the Jews with another. They held that a man was safe from judgment simply because he was a Jew. A son of Abraham was exempt from judgment. John told them that racial privilege meant nothing; that life - not lineage - was God's standard of judgment.
There are three outstanding things about John's message: (1) it began by demanding that men should share with one another. It was a social gospel which laid it down that God will never absolve the man who is content to have too much while others have too little. (2) it ordered a man not to leave his job, but to work out his own salvation by doing that job as it should be done. Let the tax-collector be a good tax-collector; let the soldier be a good soldier. It was a man's duty to serve God where God had set him. It was John's conviction that nowhere can a man serve God better than at his day's work. (3) John was quite sure that he was only the forerunner. The king was still to come, and with him would come judgment. The winnowing fan was a flat wooden shovel; with it, the grain was tossed into the air; the heavy grain fell to the ground and the chaff was blown away. And, just as the chaff was separated from the grain, so the King would separate the good from the bad.
So, John painted a picture of judgment, but it was a judgment that a man could meet with confidence if he had discharged his duty to his neighbor and if he had faithfully done his day's work. John was one of the world's supremely effective preachers. John preached for action and produced it. He did not deal in theological subtleties, but in life.
Life Application: What do you think of the man John? Would you fit in his world? Would you want to fit in his world?
Praise/Prayer: Dear Father, I am so thankful for the 'John the Baptists' of our world. Men and women You call, and they respond with the effort to work in different countries. or even their own, and like John, they work to please You. The job is not what is important. Seeing people get saved, and enter Your kingdom is the purpose of the calling. My pleasing You is what matters most to me. Amen!