“When John’s disciples had gone, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. ‘Who is this man in the wilderness that you went out to see? Did you find him weak as a reed, moved by every breath of the wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? Those who dress like that live in palaces, not in the wilderness. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger before you, and he will prepare your way before you’ “ Matthew 11:7-10
Have you ever had the experience where you meet a person, and you know you’ve met them before? Unfortunately, you can’t seem to place their face with a name. And not wanting to look silly or foolish, because you have absolutely no recall of their name, you try to bluff your way through.
Has that ever worked for you? It hasn’t worked for me, either. If it is someone I only know sort of casually, I nod and smile and keep on moving. This used to happen to me quite often when I worked as a Route Salesman/Customer Service Rep. When we went into town to do some shopping, I would invariably meet up with one or more of my customers. Most often we would look at each other, wracking our faulty memory banks trying to recall who was who, where we knew them, why we knew them, and end up drawing a complete blank! So we both would nod, smile, and move on as quickly as possible. (I have to give credit for the ‘nod and smile’ to one of our daughter’s friends, whenever she wasn’t sure what was expected, she would just nod and smile. I found that a very handy piece of information.) Of course, several hours later while resting on the sofa in my living room, Bingo! I suddenly remembered who, what, where, when and why, for all the good it did me then!
After several years of trying to discover why this phenomenon occurred over and over, there was a moment of epiphany! I figured out what was happening; I wasn’t wearing my uniform with my identifying name tag and company emblem, and neither were they. In addition, we were not in our usual surroundings which robbed us of the familiar identifiers in which we usually saw each other.
As the disciples of John departed with the message Jesus had for him, Jesus began talking to the gathered crowds about His cousin, John. John the Baptist was in many ways a celebrity of his time. There were not many who were better known than John the Baptist. He was the “Rock Star” of his day, the in thing was going out to the Jordan River for the days entertainment. If you timed it just right, you might watch a Pharisee get what he deserved, or even better, you could throw out a few well chosen words at the “crazy nutter in the wilderness”!
However, many found more than the entertainment they expected. Many came face to face with themselves. They discovered their need for the very message the Holy Spirit launched into their hearts through the words of this man of the wilderness.
John was known as one who respected none, which means that rank held no fascination for him, carried no weight. Whether rich, poor, educated, or uneducated, as far as the Baptist was concerned all people were the same and needed the same thing. Each one needed to repent, turn from their lives of self centered living, and receive baptism as a public declaration of their intent to seek lives glorifying God, not themselves.
A subtlety of sin is how we are drawn in to believe it’s behavior that is at the root of all our failures to live holy, godly, perfect lives! If I could just get rid of all those nasty thoughts, words, actions, and memories, those things I do, the way I treat others, the way I don’t treat others, etc., ad nauseam. But whom does this line of thinking leave in charge of doing the fixing, changing, transforming, and recreating? Who is in the driver’s seat; who is allowed to be the Law Giver? Who stays in control trying to create “mini me’s”?
What the author of sin wants us to forget, or never know, is this. When we connect to God through Jesus Christ, the change in our behavior is guaranteed! You and I cannot have the Holy Spirit come into our hearts and minds and not be in the Grace Process. God’s Grace changes everything. That was the message of John the Baptist, “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” And the Holy Spirit leads us into conviction, confession, and repentance! It is Guaranteed! Oh, and it is the process of Grace that lasts a lifetime!
The issue of Sin has always been, is, and will always be who has the right to be God? Who is the only one that is able to be God? The lie is that I have the right to be in control. The lie is that I have a right to determine how my life is going to be lived, no matter what mayhem my choices may inflict on the lives of others. The lie is that I would even consider myself at the center of the universe. And this same lie is in you, in each of us. Just think back through some of your choices. The truth convicts us. But it is not our place to worry. God is at the center of the universe. God has the answer, and John the Baptist was boldly declaring this Truth!
This is Sin, it’s the god complex that infects everyone born into this world. It’s why we need Jesus, why the people needed John the Baptist. John’s message echoed up and down the mountains and valleys of Palestine. “Someone is coming soon who is far greater than I am—so much greater that I am not even worthy to be His slave (to stoop down and untie His sandals). I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!” Mark 1:7,8
Jesus poses this question, “Who is this man in the wilderness that you went out to see?” Jesus wants them to think. “What caused you to come pouring out of your cities, homes, work places? Was it to listen to the ravings of a Mad Man? Or was there something resonating in your hearts and minds with every word John the Baptist spoke. You didn’t come to have him tickle your ears, he didn’t tell you those with wealth were ‘The Blessed of the Blessed.’ No, he told you wealth meant nothing.” Whether you were poor or rich had nothing whatsoever to do with your spiritual wellbeing. All wealth meant was you had more money than someone else. And likely your riches were causing you to miss out spiritually.
Sin is sin, sin always was and will be sin. Having the god complex gene at the core of our being is a reality, not a guilt trip, not a shameful thing. It is the very thing Jesus took the cross. Jesus took what was and is ours. He gave and gives to us what was and is His, eternal life and freedom from the deadly god complex gene, that vile, self-focused, infected gene that has been causing destruction on this planet for far too long.
Praise God, Jesus is the answer! It’s not you, not me, not what you can or what you can’t do, not what I can or can’t do. It is all about God who loves us. It is all about God who loved us before the foundation of the earth was laid! It is all about God who loved us while we were yet sinners. It is all about God who loved us and remains Faithful even as we are faithless!
Jesus asks the crowds, “Did you find him (John) weak as a reed?” I’m thinking one thing they didn’t find was someone who could be described as weak. This was a man who spent most of his life living in the wilderness of Palestine. Pictures of the region show a harsh, rugged, mostly desolate area where the weak will not survive very long.
Jesus ventures another question, “Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes?” and promptly answers His own question. “Those who dress like that live in palaces, not in the wilderness.”
Jesus wants them to stop, consider their motivation for coming to see John. “Why did you come to see this man?” “What are you doing here?” “Why are you here?” Jesus could be asking the very same questions today. Maybe He already has been asking you, prompting you to stop and consider, what is it you want with Him, from Him, why Him?
The answer has to be more personal than most of us were ever taught. The answer has to be extremely more intimate than most of us have ever thought, because Jesus wants us in an intimate, personal, vibrant, and very challenging relationship. As long as we are here everything will be challenging. We have an enemy who will do everything possible to mess with our hearts our minds, our relationships, with everything that means anything to us and to God! So you can know life will be at the least troubling, and guaranteed the enemy will be a pain. So what! Just be aware there will be stuff, and some days there will be a lot of stuff. However, who is bigger, God or a snake with a crushed head?
It’s serious stuff, but it’s God’s serious stuff. God never leaves us in the dark. John the Baptist was the spotlight for Jesus. It was his responsibility to declare the message of the coming Messiah. We have a responsibility also, inviting people to meet the One who through His Grace is changing our lives. Maybe He isn’t changing our circumstances so much; John did not ever leave the prison alive. But our lives are changing dramatically every day.
There are times when God allows us to remain in our circumstances. When what is happening is positive, I never find myself overly concerned. It’s only when I am not “well pleased” with the negative circumstances God has decided are for me that my circumstances become an issue.
The Apostle Paul tells us one reason God allows the challenging, negative opportunities is we then have a ministry to comfort others who are experiencing similar negatives in their lives. Another reason is, it’s just what God chooses to do (I refer readers to Job) for purposes beyond my ability to understand, cope, or even have a clue! I have experienced God changing my circumstances dramatically. A couple of examples are: 1) losing everything I owned to fire, 2) allowing me to become an ordained pastor and serving for 12 years when many believed it would never happen, me included!
In this and the previous post concerning John the Baptist and his circumstances, I’ve discussed the fact life can be hard. We know life here is hard sometimes. There are times when it isn’t so hard, and there are those moments when we get a glimpse of the Glory of God. For me that glimpse of God’s glory is usually seen in the eyes of one who finds God’s Grace is for them, when I get to see the light of understanding flash across their face, and when for the first time they experience their “taste” of God, discovering He is good! He is very Good!
There will be down days, good days, lousy days, wonderful days, amazing days, and not so amazing days. In all of those days and every other day you may experience, you are never alone. God promised He will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus promised us that He, His Father, and the Comforter all live in us. Along with God, we have a family of believers praying for us, caring for us, lifting us (us means everybody, all inclusive, everyone) all before God. This takes place constantly, 24/7, along with everything else going on that we aren’t even aware is transpiring! Sometimes it is just way too cool knowing there is so much to learn about all we have happening around us!
“Look, I am sending my messenger before you, and he will prepare your way before you.” Malachi 3:1
Jesus has prepared a way for us, He has prepared a place for us. Do you know anyone you want to invite along? Is there anyone you don’t want to miss the celebration when it is all finally done? Now is a good time to invite them!
“My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival. I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together.” John 14:2-3 The Voice
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