NAMES TELL STORIES

Names tell stories. William the Conqueror. Alexander the Great. Philip the Arab. You read these and naturally conclude that William conquered and Alexander was great and Philip probably wasn’t from around here. And you’d be right.

Unfortunately, not all names tell the truth. The French and Indian War, for example, was not between the French and the Indians; nor did the Hundred Years War last exactly one century.

Likewise with the character history knows as John the Baptist. John wasn’t actually a Baptist—Southern or otherwise. Nor a Presbyterian or Methodist. Our English Bibles use that name, but it could be more accurately rendered “John the Baptizer” or even “John the Dunker” (which is what the Greek word “baptize” actually means in English).

If you asked John himself for his name, here’s all he would say: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.’” That’s all you’d get—this unapologetic, unembarrassed self-understanding: “I am a voice. A messenger. A tool in the hands of God. That’s it.” He didn’t even give his own name. In John’s mind, he was simply a voice, directing attention to Jesus—which means, of course, John wouldn’t actually have cared what you called him or if you even remembered him at all. As long as you remembered Jesus, that’s all John cared about.

John’s whole life was a mission to introduce Jesus to the world. No doubt he’d long pondered what to say in that moment and prayed for grace to say it well. At some point, he settled on the title “Lamb of God.” It’s a common phrase in Christian vocabulary, but not in the Bible. Nowhere in the Old Testament, nowhere else in the New does this phrase appear except on the lips of John the Baptist: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The Voice had delivered his line—and thus lived his life—well. 

I wonder what story your name might tell: ___ the Rich, ___ the Anxious, ___ the Impressive, ___ the Popular. Why not follow John? “I’m just a voice” could be your own self-understanding. “Behold the Lamb” could be your life’s refrain as well.

Better yet, why not take John’s advice? “Behold the Lamb of God.” See Jesus. Trust Christ. Worship and follow only Him.