When Herod heard the reports about Jesus, he was sure that it was really John the Baptist come back from the dead. That’s how deep an impression John’s life, teaching, and works had made on Herod. This is quite a testimony to the power of John’s life. Even before John’s birth, an angel had appeared to his father, Zechariah, and told him that his son would be filled with the Holy Spirit and would “turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16).
At the time of John’s birth, what with all the strange goings-on surrounding his mother’s pregnancy, many people wondered, “What then will this child become?” (Luke 1:66). With such portents as an angelic messenger, a miraculous conception, and a father’s prophetic prayer, they must have expected great things from John. You can just imagine many in the town shaking their heads and murmuring, “what a waste,” when John went off to live as a hermit in the wilderness. It’s exactly what you might expect in a similar situation today.
But John was being true to his calling when he went into the desert to learn to hear God’s voice. It was in the desert that John discovered that he was to be the “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29), the one who would pave the way for the Messiah. John forfeited his whole life for this one purpose. In loving obedience, he submitted to God’s will and so became a shining witness to the greatness of the One who came after him, the One whose sandals he was unworthy to untie.
Like John the Baptist, each of us is created for a unique purpose. The Holy Spirit teaches us what our mission is if we seek God through prayer, Scripture, and the teaching of the Church. We can be like John and surrender our hearts for the sake of advancing the Kingdom of God. We too can become friends of the bridegroom as we fall at the foot of the Cross and lay down our lives for Christ.