Whenever you hear the stories of the saints, if you can’t read between the lives that they are always and everywhere pointing to Christ, then you’re missing the point. That’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to studying the saints, which by the way, is a very praiseworthy endeavor. One of the very best illustrations of that rule of thumb is the life of St. John the Baptist. Of course, it’s easier to see that in him, because he’s prominently mentioned in the Gospels.
St. John the Baptist bore the marks of all the prophets that came before him. He was called from his mother’s womb. We see that in the stories of the Annunciation and the Visitation. He called for repentance – a complete change of heart and mind. We see that in the baptism that he made available, a baptism that even Christ himself received. His words were sometimes unwelcome. We see that in the Gospel story this morning. And finally he was murdered in reaction to his ministry. All of the prophets before him had those same marks, and most of them ended in the same way.
But through it all, he pointed the way to Christ. In the Gospel of John, we read:
“So they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.’ John answered and said, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease'” (John 3:26-30).
John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation. Everything that he did and everything that he was pointed to Christ.