GOD will USE unlikely PEOPLE who totally SURRENDER to His WILL: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Luke 3:1-3)
The ministry of John the Baptist was an integral part of the historical hinge between two major eras of history: the old age of the Law and the new age of Jesus’ ministry. Luke puts a particular emphasis on the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s plan of redemption. In fact, Luke writes explicitly with the purpose of introducing the gospel for the whole humankind (see Mark 1:1; Acts 10:37), and not just for the Jews as he writes a phrase that is not recorded in the other three Gospels: “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (3:6). The ministry of John the Baptist as an Old Testament prophet is linked to Isaiah 40:3–5, which points to him as the herald of the Messiah.
John the Baptist began his ministry probably about 27–29 A.D., and Luke chronicles his ministry from a historical context when he mentions seven prominent leaders who exercised control over the Jewish society during those days. As a historian, Luke identifies the year that John the Baptist began to preach by naming seven political and religious leaders who were then in power: (1) Tiberius Caesar, the Roman Emperor, who held the power of death and life over his people; (2) Pontius Pilate, who represented the Roman Empire as the Governor of Judea; (3-5) Herod, Philip and Lysanias, who ruled as Tetrarchs of three different regions, and kept the Jews in line at the regional level; and (6-7) Annas and Caiaphas, who jointly served as High Priests and spiritual leaders of the people. The fact that there were two high priests in Israel indicates that the nation was in disorder religiously as well as politically!
Thus, these ‘likely people’ that we would naturally expect God to use as His communication channel include one emperor, one governor, three tetrarchs and two high priests. These political and religious rulers were however ruthless who simply held the nation of Israel in subjugation. Though these were great men in the world’s estimation, they were wicked, unscrupulous men in the eyes of God. Therefore when God wanted to speak to His people, He bypassed the palace and the synagogue and sent His message directly to John, the son of the priest Zacharias, who was being prepared for this very purpose: “So the child (John) grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” (1:80)
John the Baptist was privileged to prepare the nation for the Messiah and then present Him to them just as it was prophesied by Malachi: "Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me" (Mal. 3:1). "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet...and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:5-6). John’s ministry, foretold by the prophet Isaiah (vv. 4–6; Isa. 40:3–5), was in the wilderness, a barren area between the hill country and the Jordan. He preached against sin, told the people to repent, and gave specific instructions to his converts on how to put their faith into practice. Thus, John followed in the train of many other Old Testament prophets like Elijah (I Kings 18:1), Jeremiah (Jer. 1:4), and Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:3).
The lesson to be learned is that God will use unlikely people who totally surrender to His will. God’s message did not come to any of the “great leaders” of that day. It came to John the Baptist, the last and the greatest of God’s prophets. John was an unlikely recipient of being God’s spokesman since normally he should have grown up in Jerusalem and trained himself to become a priest just like his father Zacharias. However, since he was totally surrendered to doing God’s will growing up in the wilderness, he became "great in the sight of the Lord" (1:15) as he turned "many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God" (1:16). Can we also totally surrender ourselves to doing God’s will in our lives?