John the Baptist said of Jesus, “…He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” (Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16, John 1:27, Acts 13:25). John knew his place in creation and he understood the glory of Christ. John in this statement shows the humility that humans are to have when thinking of God.
Humility is most commonly defined as considering another greater or of more import than yourself. John the Baptist certainly considered Christ greater than himself and his words and action bear witness to this fact. Jesus Christ is Lord. This humility of John the Baptist equipped him to be able to bear out the bold witness that the book of Hebrews exhorts Christians to have. John the Baptist’s humility allowed him to remain faithful, even to the point of death.
John the Baptist lived and taught the message of Jesus Christ with the full belief that Christ would show up as promised. His witness came from faith, a faith that God does what God promises and all of scripture that John the Baptist knew pointed to the message he delivered. When it was not popular, John the Baptist taught a bold message when it was dangerous for him to do so and he did not have to resort to making fanciful stories. He simply taught what God had given. His witness was bold.
In D. Stephen Long’s new book Hebrews, which is a wonderful exposition of the New Testament book, he writes about a bold witness.
“I saw the former [bold witness] while attending a church service in China. Because being a Christian brings with it accusations of anti-Chinese activity, Christians can suffer loss of goods, reputation, or profession. For this reason, the sacraments take on a political reality they seldom explicitly have where Christianity is more settled & the temptation is sloth. I was present for a service of Holy Communion one Sunday morning in a Chinese church. After the pastor said the words of institution, and before people communed, he asked all of those who were baptized to stand in order to receive the elements. Because worship services occur under the threat of surveillance, to stand in that place is to make a bold confession. It is parresia. All those unwilling to stand are not permitted to receive because they have refused that witness.” (p. 79)
John the Baptist stood and proclaimed with humility that His Lord was coming. As Christians, we are called to do the same. We stand with humility and proclaim that One greater than us, One who saved us, has come and will come again. In the face of persecution, danger, intellectual assault and abuse, we say that Jesus is Lord. We teach what God has given us, His word and with knowledge that Jesus Christ is that Word, our bold confession witness shows itself. He will arrive.