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Who’s The Greatest GOAT Of All Time?

June 17, 2024

This week, I was thinking about the concept of GOAT. The internet has many opinions about who is the greatest. Muhammad Ali used to say it all the time: “I’m the greatest!” In case you don’t know, GOAT stands for Greatest of All Time. Being the GOAT is a big deal in the sports realm. 

According to one sports site, Michael Jordan is the GOAT in basketball, Muhammad Ali is in boxing, Wayne Gretsky is in ice hockey, and Michael Phelps is in swimming. Babe Ruth still gets the nod of GOAT in the baseball space. And today, many believe that Tom Brady should be the GOAT in football. 

Let me ask you a question: Who is the greatest GOAT in the world? Being the GOAT in one sport and being the GOAT throughout history are two different things. Let’s have Jesus to answer the question. 

Jesus informed the crowd following him in Matthew 11:11a. “In a discourse about John the Baptist, Jesus honored the prophet with these words: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” John certainly did not see himself as “great” - he did not see himself as worthy enough to baptize Jesus (Matthew 3:13–14) or even to carry His sandals (Matthew 3:11). John the Baptist performed no miracles. (John 10:41). Yet, Jesus says, “John the Baptist is the GOAT!”

Think about it. John was greater than all the prophets who were able to perform miracles in the Old Testament. Moses, Elijah, and Elisha were all great men who performed miracles. But they weren't great because of their miracles. They were great because of their assignments and their character. The same is true of John the Baptist. He was the greatest because of who he was on the inside: his humility, submission to God, fearlessness, and spirituality. 

But all his inner character facilitated his outward assignment or reason for being. “There once was a man, John the Baptist, sent by God to point out the way to Jesus. He came to show everyone where to look and who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light, Jesus.” John 1:6-8. John the Baptist came to prepare the people for Christ's coming and point people toward Jesus after his arrival. 

John’s primary assignment from heaven was to baptize Jesus so that all righteousness could be fulfilled. In other words, God’s Thunder in the Desert Baptizer, the GOAT of that time, would baptize God’s Son, the Lamb of God, the GOAT for all eternity. 

I would have loved to have been at Jesus’ baptism. Think of all the spiritual activities going on. The Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus while religious leaders and people watched. The windows of heaven opened, and God spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

How can we apply this baptism to our lives? If baptism was essential for Jesus’ ministry to be initiated and righteousness to be fulfilled, is it ours, too? Many people don’t even know about baptism, so let’s draw a few general principles about baptism that are important for you to know. 

First, baptism is a public event, much like Jesus's. John the Baptist came to show everyone where to look and who to believe in. God wanted an audience and witnesses. It is a ceremony. It's important. There should be witnesses. Baptism is a big step, and people should be there to share it. 

Second, baptism is an outward expression of an inward encounter. When you take the step of baptism, you are saying to the world, “I’m a Christ follower. I believe this in my heart and confess it with my lips in public. What has happened on the inside is coming to the outside.

Third, you go into the water like your old self and emerge from the water as a new creation. Water expresses the death of the old and the life of the new creation. We are not human beings going through a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience. Baptism says something to both you and those around you. You haven't found a new life. Your new life has found you.

Fourth, baptism often opens heaven's windows to people so they can hear God speak more often and clearly. The Holy Spirit’s help (dove-descending) and empowerment make people more spiritually attuned, aware, and confident. Frequently, there is a more personal walk with God. It’s assurance, faith, and reliance on allowing God to lead us.

Fifth, baptism is often a spiritual validation and activation. An identity statement from God marked Jesus’ baptism. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” They all heard it. There was no doubt about it. Jesus was more than the carpenter’s son. A new identity is needed for a new ministry. God verbally launched Jesus into ministry. Your purpose is when your gifting catches up with your assignment. Many times, baptism, when you are old enough to understand it, can be the beginning of a ministry.

I wrote this article for my readers, especially for my then-12-year-old granddaughters, Tessa and Victoria, who insisted on being baptized. They wanted me (‘Ed the Baptist’) to baptize them. Victoria was baptized in Silver Creek, north of Show Low (AZ), with a large contingent of family. Tessa was baptized in her backyard pool with another large contingent of family. Both events blew me away!

When Victoria came out of the creek, I could hear the trout and fishermen saying, “Amen!” And, when Tessa came up from the water, I heard Charley and Moose, her family dogs, bark, “Amen.” 

If you believe in Jesus but have yet to be baptized, it may be time to take the next step. And, if you are ready to receive Christ, you can do both simultaneously.

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com