The people of John the Baptist’s day, like people today, would’ve expected any profound religious announcement to come in its proper place: from the rabbi in the synagogue. Instead, this unorthodox preacher appears in the Judean desert and attracts a crowd. People might be naturally suspicious. He certainly doesn’t use polite language, or worry about disturbing our comfort zones. Yet those too unsettled by this man in camel skin to pay attention might miss an important message. How sad to miss the Christ to whom John the Baptist points!
What unlikely prophets live among us? What surprising spirituality have we encountered where we least expected it? Did it come from someone too young to believe, or someone too oddly dressed to have credibility?
Especially if we’re self-righteous churchgoers, we need a herald like John to shake up our easy assumptions. We may not like the direction in which such leaders point, but their challenge upsets our own infallibility. It’s sadly easy to enshrine our personal opinions and make our preferences into little gods. In the spiritual life, some uncertainty and hesitancy, especially regarding our impeccable selves, is useful.