John 1:6-9 There was a man sent from God, his name John. He came for witness, that he might witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him. *He* was not the light, but that he might witness concerning the light. The true light was that which, coming into the world, lightens every man.
We know that many people in the Bible have names that fit their ultimate character, in what we could say was a divinely inspired choice. But not many had their names dictated to their parents before they were born. The angel Gabriel gave Mary Jesus’ name (Jehoshua – meaning the LORD saves) because, as God told Joseph in his dream, He was coming to save His people from their sins. Likewise, the same angel told Zechariah the priest that his son’s name would be John.
And even though at that point in the story we may not catch the significance of the name of the Baptizer, its importance is hard to miss when the time to give him his name came:
Luke 1:59-63 And it came to pass on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called it after the name of his father, Zacharias. And his mother answering said, No; but he shall be called John. And they said to her, There is no one among thy kinsfolk who is called by this name. And they made signs to his father as to what he might wish it to be called. And having asked for a writing-table, he wrote saying, John is his name. And they all wondered.
The name John is the English version of Johanan (itself a shortened form of Jehohanan), meaning the Graciousness of the LORD.
As important as it was for the people to hear that the Messiah was coming, not to defeat the Romans, not to conquer the world, but for something infinitely more important, to deliver them from their sins, it was equally important for the Herald of the Messiah to proclaim this would all be done by Grace.
The Grace of God is the opposite of worldly power.
Jesus highlighted this when He asked the crowd why they went out to the wilderness to listen to John. Clearly, they sensed the importance of the moment, for they did not go out to see a “reed swaying in the wind”. And, clearly, they knew this had nothing to do with worldly power, for the wealthy, those dressed in finery, are found in the palaces of kings, not the wilderness. No, they went out there because they knew God was speaking out there through a prophet, sent for them.
Think about him: a man dressed in a garment of camel’s hair, living in the desert, eating whatever the wilderness provided him. He had no property, no job, no powerful sponsors. The poorest of Israel could feel right at home with him. The richest couldn’t possibly be threatened by him. And even the outcasts couldn’t say they were more isolated than him. And to all he gave the same message: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
In those simple words he told us: “Repent, that’s all you need to do. It is within the reach of every single one of you. If you are rich, you don’t have to bribe your way in. If you are poor, you don’t have to give anything you don’t have. If you are an outcast, you have nothing to prove, there is no membership requirement.”
God Himself will pay the price for entrance into the Kingdom, for everyone the same.
This is the meaning of Grace. No one could afford it, no one could merit it. The only requirement placed on us is that which every human being in the world can do regardless of station and circumstance: make the choice; the choice to repent.
Are you like me, have you ever longed for someone dear to you to finally believe and receive the Light of the world?
John showed us the way:
First, I have to make it clear that I am not the light. Yes, I will do my best… but don’t look to me as the measure of success; I have failed too many times. Don’t look to me for acceptance or even for forgiveness, as if my forgiveness were the pre-requisite to enter in. No, if there were anything I had to humanly forgive, I have already done so. I know because I myself have been forgiven everything. I have been where you are.
I am not the light.
But I know who is. And the only reason I am here – at all – is to be His witness.
It is Him I want to tell you about. Not only will He drive away the darkness, He will give you Life… new and free, willingly, lovingly, without limit… because the LORD is Gracious.