John lived in the time when Tiberius Caesar was King. He was strange to the world around him. His clothes were strange. Who dresses in camel hair wrapped with a leather belt? His diet was strange. Who eats locust and honey? Where he lived and what he was doing was strange. Who lives out in the wilderness telling people to repent?
In spite of or perhaps because of this strangeness, the people of Jerusalem, Judea, and the whole surrounding region came out to see him. Who knows what they were expecting? His message was hard and still, they came.
Some came to find out who he was and badgered him about it. Others heard his message, and found their way back to God, symbolizing it by having John baptize them with water. In fact, Jesus of Nazareth, himself, came to see John and in so doing, was revealed as the Son of God.
Yes, John was strange to the world around him. He, however, had a strong identity. He knew who he was not. The Jews of his day were looking for a Saviour. “Who are you?” they asked. “I am not the Christ,” he told them. They kept up with the questions and finally asked: “Who are you?”
“Are you Elijah, are you the prophet?” they continued. He knew who he was. ” I am”, he said, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord”, “as the Prophet Isaiah said.”
He also knew his purpose. He knew what he was doing and he also knew why. “I baptize with water,” he told them. “that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” His purpose was to reveal Jesus, as God’s Son, to Israel.
Yes, John was a strange man but strong. His strength in part came from a strong identity. He knew who he was not, who he was and why he was. As we begin to know God in Christ Jesus, we learn who we are not, who we are and why we exist. In that knowledge, we gain an enormous amount of inner strength that enables us to live in freedom: freedom from how we are perceived, what we should be doing, and how we should be doing it.
Grace and peace to you.