15 John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’"
Have you ever done an internet search for "John the Baptist"? It is amazing how many different images you will see, of this important person of the Bible. This is a man whose birth was notable; his conception was incredible; his name was divinely chosen; his Relative was omnipotent!
Jesus Himself said of John, “Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist . . .” (Mt. 11:11).
Let's dig in!
John's parents were aged people living in the hill country of Judea, and his mother, Elizabeth, was related to Mary. (Luke 1:5, 36, 39) They were both very devout and Luke notes that they were both "righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (1:6). The angel Gabriel appeared to the elderly Zacharias, as he worked in the temple. He told him that his (equally elderly) wife would bear a son, and detailed the work he would do, and the prophecies that he would fulfill.
If you haven't read the first chapter of Luke lately, you should give it a go.....there's a lot there! I have heard sermons preached on how Zacharias should have responded, but be that as it may (personally, I think I would have been puzzled, too) the angel told him that he'd not speak again until the child was born, and the name "John" stuck to him.
I expect that you know the rest of the story; the babe stirring in Elizabeth's womb at Mary's (and Christ in her) arrival, the maturing in the desert, the strict regimen followed by John, and more. That brings me back to the google search I mentioned. I guess we won't know until we get to heaven, whether or not John resembled some of the wild-eyed images that artists have made; the Bible does note, though, that his apparel was quite simple, and that prophecy foretold his work. (Kinda makes you wonder how Hebrew scholars didn't "get" that he was the very one whom Isaiah and Malachi told about?)
In the third chapter of Matthew, it is noted that John wore a "camel's hair" garment, and that it was secured by a leather belt. Also it notes that his diet was locusts and wild honey. I read in my commentaries that the cloak may have been either a rough fabric woven from camel's hair, or a camel skin itself. Either way, he wasn't a walking ad for being well-dressed. But it does remind you of some of the Old Testament prophets, particularly Elijah. And his diet was the same as that consumed by the poorer sections of society -- all of this made him quite different from the wealthy, proud Jews of his day -- in fact, he was a walking sermon to them!
John was somewhat reclusive, as well. Jesus said in Matthew 11, "John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say he has a demon." In their language of the time, "eating and drinking" stood for socializing. So we see from this that the prophet of Christ wasn't a partier; his lifestyle almost appeared like those who were demon possessed, instead of a zealous man whose focus was "preparing the way."
All of this led to some people misunderstanding him. He didn't try, but he attracted multitudes. His success was based solely on the message he preached -- repentance, in preparation for the coming of Christ.
What a lesson for those he preached to! And what a lesson for us today! We don't have to have the trappings of wealth and affluence to reach others for Christ. We only need the right focus, and God's strength within us!