Will the Real John the Baptist Please Stand Up?

In Leonard Sweet’s latest book, Nudge he introduces a new paradigm for evangelism that is not so much methodology as it is an awareness. He suggests that the role of the follower of Jesus is to be aware of opportunities where we can nudge others toward Jesus and he believes that the use of our senses is the key that unlocks the door to an awareness of how God is already present in a person’s life.

In the chapter on taste, Sweet presents a rather unconventional (Sweet? Unconventional? I’m shocked!) view of John the Baptist. Here are a few excerpts that describe his view:

“If asked to come up with a current image of John the Baptist, most people would conjure up a bearded, unkempt sidewalk protester holding high a handmade sign that warns, “The End Is Near. Repent.” I believe that is about as far from the real John the Baptist as you can get.” (p. 185)

Sweet then explains that since John was in the wilderness people took a risk going to hear him. “John was not an in-your-face prophet.” (p. 186) Sweet points out that the reference to animal hair could also refer to animal fur – something that is more refined than animal hair. At the heart of his argument is Sweet’s description of the food John the Baptist ate:

“Sources of protein were always problematic in the ancient world, and one of the most nutritious and delicious protein sources was locusts. Bugs to this day are popular snacks in 113 nations, especially throughout much of Africa – even to the point where so many people were eating mopane (moh-PAH-nee) worms biologists began worrying that the worms may be headed for extinction.” (p. 186)

“Here’s my thesis that no one believes but that no one has disproven: What if John the Baptist weren’t so much showing what it meant to live an austere, ascetic life in preparation for Jesus’ coming? What if John the Baptist’s diet was less about veganism or xerophagy and more about signs of kingdom food and heavenly banquets? What if locusts and wild honey were the first-century equivalents of prime-rib and Godiva chocolates, in congruence with his “kingdom now” message and as a prophetic sign of the coming Messiah?” (p. 187)

It’s classic Sweet! And I hope that will whet your appetite enough (pun intended) to consider picking up a copy of Nudge!

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