We know that John was special, as the Gospel of Luke tells us he was born of parents blessed by a miracle which brought about his birth. His family was of a priestly line and his family would have experienced a certain status in their community.
His parents knew from the angelic message that John must be dedicated to God and that his role would be key in the coming of the Lord among the people: that is, the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah.
The facts are that he set aside his birth right, left his family and pursued a life of extreme self-discipline, all this to proclaim the coming judgement loudly and vividly.
John lived his conviction that his role was to attract enough attention to transmit his message; that the time had arrived, the Messiah was close, the moment was now, there was no time to waste!
But John’s appearance and lifestyle were not just a gimmick to attract attention; they were a preparation, a cleansing and a method of living out the very repentance that he preached as essential to others.
God called him, and then worked within John’s apparent wildness and, in doing so, exposed a part of God that we rarely consider, that God too has a ‘wild’ side when the need arises.
The fact is that God does not always operate through the typical Mr & Mrs ‘Nice’, but sometimes chooses people whose attractiveness to some may repel others.
God want to appeal to the whole spectrum of humanity, not just the respectable and already godly, and so calls forth the appropriate types of evangelists to suit all groups and types.
At the start of the ‘Jesus movement’, God needed strong, enthusiastic and sometimes fiery people with stamina and ‘grit’ to energise the new Church, and God still needs such people today, in appropriate times and places.
The seed of God’s own wild spirit planted in John enabled him to prepare the way for Jesus by gathering a group around him who, it is now believed, transferred their allegiance to Jesus when the time came. John was the key to the start of Jesus’ ministry; perhaps such uncomfortable prophets are the key to the regeneration of the Church today?
Living in the desert and eating so frugally is probably not what the practice of Christianity means for us; but stepping outside the mould which society and Church create may well be.
John passed up his respectable life to follow God’s path as his own. He taught by word and example and told his message clearly and without apology.
He lived, and stuck to, his own truth and, through his determination to be himself, showed us how to be the same.
Perhaps it is this combination of attributes to which people are drawn. John lived authentically his vocation as given to him by God. He encourages us to accept the invitation to be wild for God and, in being so, to permit God to be wild in the world, to shake it up; through us.