Rotating Header Image

john the baptist’s covid-19 call to you – geoff new

Mark 1:1-4

1The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

John the Baptist was a preacher in an isolated place (the wilderness) and proclaiming from that place.

Let’s listen to his words as we seek to preach in a COVID–19 world which can force preachers into “wilderness” and isolated places.

“I am not the Messiah” (John 1:19–23)

With lockdown measures, you are in a new space marked by restrictions. You might be fielding and feeling expectations from others that you ought to be immediately effective in this new preaching space. The sub-text of these expectations is that you ought to have more answers than you are offering.

In the face of anxiety-ridden expectations -– you find you don’t have a lot of answers.

A reminder then for you.

From the wilderness, John the Baptist calls: you are not the Messiah.

“A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me” (John 1:29–31)

This is worthy of careful and prayerful consideration – your preaching never begins with you. You preach concerning the One Who has already gone before you and surpasses you.

As a preacher, you are not in a position of supremacy or primacy: Christ is (Col 1:15–20).

The rapid spread of COVID-19 and the rapid response has caught us all off-guard to varying degrees. Yet we preach Christ who is not surprised or caught off-guard. He is the Lamb of God slain before the creation of the world (John 1:29; Rev 13:8) because of his love for the world for the salvation of the world.

A truth then for you.

From the wilderness, John the Baptist calls: Christ surpasses you because he was before you.

“I baptise you with water . . . He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Mark 3:11)

The promises of God about the Spirit’s work among us abound. At a time when you experience weariness and worry about families – the family of God, the families of the world, and your own family – the Spirit is with you.

At a time when your energy is depleted and your mind and heart is racing with everything that needs to be done . . .

A gift then for you.

From the wilderness, John the Baptist calls: Jesus baptises you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:26–30)

Your reputation and skill as a preacher could be enhanced in this COVID-19 crisis. It may be that you adapt quickly and proclaim the gospel beautifully and wisely. Deep blessings to you in this.

Yet your proclamation and reflection rests on discerning the work and ways of God in the midst of what the world is confronted with. Who is being elevated in your preaching? Truly.

In an ancient work of art, Mathias Grüenwald’s Isenheim Altarpiece (painted in 1512–1516), the depiction of the suffering and crucified Christ is horrific and gruesome. His body is afflicted with sores and worms. Very Job-like. The original placement of this work was in the chapel of a monastery dedicated to the care of victims of a terrible plague-like sickness in the Middle-Ages. At the foot of the cross stands John the Baptist with an open Bible pointing at Jesus. The Baptist’s words “He must increase but I must decrease” are quoted. He bears witness.

Mathias Grüenwald’s Isenheim Altarpiece

A challenge then for you.

From the wilderness, John the Baptist calls: Jesus must become greater and you must become less.

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered . . . (Luke 3:1–14)

Preaching leads to response. A sense of urgency marks our craft. In Luke 3 the crowds, tax collectors and soldiers responded to the message by asking “What should we do?” The three groups are representative of the life and times of 1st century Palestine. John the Baptist’s replies were specific and grounded in the essence of the Torah and writing of the prophets. John the Baptist’s response is an early version of Jesus’ later summary of the law and prophets:

Matt 22

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

A preaching ministry continues to open up for you.

From the wilderness, you call . . .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.