Who is John the Baptist in today's world?
In this day and age there are many mysterious happenings reported from all around the world. All religions, be they Hindu, Buddhist, New Age, Islam, Christian and so forth, have their stories of visions, healings and strange occurrences. It is not all wild exaggeration or sensationalism. Many have been investigated and are based on actual events.
In Jesus' day it was the same. The healing cult of Asclepius was widespread and many miraculous healings were reported. Apollonius of Tyana was said to have extra sensory perception and able to perform miracles. Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-10) practiced magic and was said to have the power of God, the girl who followed Paul (Acts 16:16) predicted the future and Jesus himself questioned the Jews as to how they cast out demons (Matt. 12:27).
Given the background of the time the people could have considered Jesus to be no more than just another 'miracle worker', maybe more effective than most, but nevertheless just another example of something that was quite widespread.
The same holds true for this day and age. Miracles of healing that take place within a Christian setting are often viewed as just another of those strange inexplicable events that happen from time to time in all cultures and religions.
Which brings us to John the Baptist and what the Bible tells us about his purpose. In the first chapter of John's Gospel we see that he had created a great stir by publicly baptizing people in the Jordan, so much so that the powers that be sent priests and Levites to investigate (verse19). In verses 7 and 8 it says that John came as a witness to Jesus. Then in verses 31 to 34, John says that it was God who told him who Jesus was and that this information should be made manifest to the people.
All the people knew whom John the Baptist was, especially after his arrest and beheading by Herod Antipas. At the start of Jesus' ministry John had publicly proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah, the Prophet predicted by Moses.
There could be no doubt that as Jesus performed supernatural miracle after miracle the people would reflect on who he really was. There was no escaping the fact that John, a recognized prophet of God, had said that Jesus was the Messiah. The people had a clear choice, accept Jesus for who he is or ascribe the miracles and wonders to other supernatural spiritual forces. Theirs was the timeless choice, light or dark, life or death. (Deut. 30: 15 & 19)
The choice is still there for all to make in this day and age. The signs and wonders, the miracles that have their source in Jesus Christ, are not the same as those from the spiritual forces invoked by the New Age culture such as Reiki, channelling, and other imports from Eastern religious mysticism.
However, in order to make the right choice between life and death the uninformed need to be told of the difference. They need a latter day John the Baptist to declare that the living resurrected Christ is here among them. That he is active and at work, healing and restoring bringing life and hope to the despairing and hopeless.
Jesus commands all those who are called by God to receive him to be witnesses as to who he is.