Carole Crossley is the author of a daily devotional book entitled ‘Are you Listening.’ Carole has kindly agreed to share on our website; exploretoinspire.uk a number of her devotions for your encouragement (2019 Jesus Joy Publishing used by permission) and if you would like to order a copy of Carole’s book, go to ‘Are you Listening’
This devotional is about JOHN THE BAPTIST one of many Bible Characters that she has shared over the months and we hope you enjoy it.
I shrugged my shoulders inside the rough camel-hair tunic. The coarse skin was warm in the mid-day heat and the thick leather belt circling my middle was pulled tightly around my girth. It emphasised the leanness of a body which was used to eating mainly locust and wild honey.
My life was lived simply but my passion was immense. It was a passion I was born with. My mother, Elizabeth, had a visit from her relative, Mary; they were both expecting at the same time. My mother said that when they came face to face, I leapt within her womb.
My early life was holy. My parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah, had been elderly when I was born. In a vision, my father had been told by an angel that his wife would have a baby who’s name would be John. My father had cast doubt on this possibility due to my mother’s age. For his unbelief, he had been struck dumb during my mother’s pregnancy and it wasn’t until he agreed that my name would be John, that he regained his speech.
My parents were Catholic and I was brought up strictly in that doctrine. I believe that the contact between Mary and my mother was significant. I think it was then that God touched me, even before my birth. My path was clearly marked out. God gave me a job to do, a privileged job – to prepare the way for my Lord Jesus Christ!
I intended to do that with the passion that God had placed in me!
The first words that I spoke in public were to a small crowd of people gathered in the market place. My hands were trembling; my mouth felt full of dust and the strong muscles in my legs, which were intended to support me, seemed in danger of collapse. I sent a silent prayer up to heaven. Then the strangest thing happened. My weak unintelligible voice suddenly became strong and commanding. My back straightened, my head was high and a power, of which I had previously been unaware, suddenly took control.
For the first time, I preached! I issued a warning to people, “Repent, before it is too late, a Saviour is coming.”
The words weren’t mine and I knew they came directly from God. The silence echoed. I watched, I waited, and the people started to come towards me. There were voices all around. “What must we do? How can we be forgiven?” God’s voice had reached them; I was humbled by God using me.
More people had gathered, probably wondering what the commotion was about. My voice was louder than the crowds. I shouted out “Ask God’s forgiveness, come and be baptised, repent and change your ways.” The people and I moved together, going to the River Jordan. The banks were softly sloping down to the brown milky water. The people came in droves; each one was willingly immersed into the flowing waters and they cried with joy as they met with God!
Many had come forward willingly. It was almost mid-day and the blazing sun was high in the sky causing my hand to shield my face. It was then that my gaze met the gentle, passive, compassionate eyes of Jesus. His whole demeanour was one of servant-hood. My heart leapt, just as it had when I was in my mother’s womb. Bowing my head I took a step backwards into the water.
I had an upsurge of love and my heart was overwhelmed. Here was the most pure, sin-free man I had ever come across. Jesus wanted me to baptise Him but I said, “It is you who should be baptising me.” A slight smile played around His lips, as if in secret knowledge. “Let it be so now, it is proper for us to do this, to fulfil all righteousness.” As Jesus stood up out of the water, the presence of God filled that place. I gazed at heaven in wonderment.
I thought of the moment when my gaze first fell on Jesus. I didn’t understand my reaction to Him but I knew He was no ordinary man.
King Herod – the ruler in Jerusalem, had taken Herodias, his brother’s wife, to be his own wife. I had spoken out against his action. Herod seemed to have a fascination in hearing me speak; often I would become aware of his almost secretive presence. I would address him directly, making it quite clear how wrong his actions were in the eyes of God.
One day, when I spotted him at a distance, I, in my usual judgemental way, went too far in humiliating him and it resulted in my being arrested and thrown into prison. The conditions were dire! The dark, uncomfortable cell smelled horrendous in its filth. I could hear the screams of the other prisoners; some in torture, hunger or madness. My wrists and ankles were chained and the shackles ensured that I had very restricted movement. It wasn’t long before the metal began to cruelly cut into my flesh.
I kicked out in the darkness at the rats who were enticed by the smell of fresh blood. They would scuttle away from my flaying limbs into the corners of the cell, only to venture forth again when exhaustion claimed my body. The pain of sharp teeth woke me abruptly as they tore into my bare flesh. I do believe that the rats ate some prisoners alive if they were too weak to defend themselves.
Guards stood at the door of my prison. In the distance I could hear music playing; the beat becoming faster. My mind travelled to Jesus and the humble way in which he had come to me to be baptised. He was a man without sin, I was sure of it.
Time spent in the dungeon had allowed me to mull over my encounter with Jesus. I felt that many of the prophecies had started to be fulfilled. I must find out if this man, Jesus, was indeed the saviour that we were waiting for. I asked my trusted friends to go to Him and ask. I could then go to my death, safe in the knowledge that my work here was done.
Despite that confirmation, when the guards came to take me to my execution, my legs hardly supported me. I did not resist their rough treatment; there would have been little point anyway. Lifting my eyes up to heaven I focused my attention on God. My legs gathered strength as I did this; putting my shoulders back, expanding my chest, I moved with as much freedom as the shackles would allow. Instinct told me that these were my last moments on earth.
Breathing deeply, shouting out to my God, I dropped to my knees and bowed my head for the last time.