Tag Archives: John the Baptist

You See?

Insanity, it is said, is doing the wrong thing again and again, expecting better results each time.  That is also what God calls blindness and deafness.  In effect, God told His people, Israel, “Here’s how life is supposed to be lived.  Do it this way and you will be amazed at how wonderful are the results.  But, make up your own way to live, and you will eventually be in agony, stumbling about in your blindness and deafness.”  Sadly, the people didn’t listen and they couldn’t see.  Time after time they rebelled, God rescued them, restored them and gave them the same message.  Each time the improvements were short lived as the people decided they knew better.

Through Isaiah, God appealed:

18Hear, you deaf;
look, you blind, and see!

20 You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;
your ears are open, but you do not listen.”   (Isaiah 42:18&20)

Remember that choice of words as you see how God described the Messiah Who would come to fix things:

6 “I, the Lord, have called you [i.e. Jesus the Messiah] in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42:6-7)

So Jesus, when asked by John the Baptist if He was the Messiah, sent back this word:

4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  (Matthew 11:4-5)

Jesus wasn’t simply referring to the physically impaired. See the connection?  God hopes so.  He continued speaking to His people through Isaiah with this important question for all of us:

23 Which of you will listen to this
or pay close attention in time to come?  (Isaiah 42:23)

You see?

All the Way

Three small words bring tears to the eyes of parents on Christmas morning:  “Some assembly required.”  (Borrowed that line from my friend; thanks, Bob!)  If you have engaged in “some assembly” you have probably discovered there is a certain order in which everything must be done or it just won’t go together right. If you fasten the connectors on the axle before you have connected the crank, you have to take the whole deal apart and start over. 

John the Baptist was baptizing people as an expression of their repentance from sin and Jesus showed up to be baptized.  John was astonished and said, “No way… You should be baptizing me.”  Here’s how Jesus replied:

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15a)

Translation?  This has to happen first, before I can begin the rest of my ministry, or the whole deal won’t work right.   God made a plan and each piece of the plan must be accomplished in the right order.

Which raises this question: Why would the sinless Son of God need to be baptized as a symbol of repenting from sin? You know He had to come to earth as a human being in order to accomplish the plan.  To leave His privileged position in Heaven and come to earth as a human was a big step down.  But He did it to identify Himself with us, according to the Plan.  He wasn’t born to royalty in a palace, but to a homeless, young couple who improvised a makeshift crib in a feed trough.  Huge step down, to identify with the lowliest of us.

How do you feel in moments when you have openly acknowledged your own need to repent, to turn away from sin?  Have you ever felt lower?  Probably not.  And it was to that place that Jesus descended, in the waters of John’s baptism, to identify with you, when you were at your lowest.  As He explained, It had to be done this way, or the whole deal wouldn’t work right.  “We must do this now to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus came all the way down, to rescue you.

Getting Us Ready

When it came time for God to send His Son to save the world, first He sent a prophet to get us ready.  By doing what?  What would need to be done to get a people ready to receive the Son of the the Creator, ready to fully profit from His coming?

You might think the prophet would take them on spiritual retreats to fast and pray on the top of a mountain.  Perhaps a lot of humming and incense would be involved.  But, according to the last thing written in the Old Testament and the first thing in the New Testament, proclaimed by an angel to the father of this prophet, a major part of what he would do would be:

“… to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”  (Luke 1:17b, quoting from Malachi 4:6)

That seems a pretty basic thing to do to prepare people for God’s arrival.  And it is.  But, as we have experienced in the last several decades, the health and strength of a people is directly proportional to the loving concern of fathers for their children.  And vice versa.  When fathers abandon their children, even emotionally, the whole sound structure of wellbeing begins to crumble. 

Jesus came to bring us eternal life and reconciliation with God.  He came to bring the power of the Holy Spirit to us.  But He also came to repair the broken fabric of how simple, healthy life on earth was designed to be lived.  Starting, even before He showed up, with fathers.

We’d do well to pay attention to that and act accordingly…

Getting Through

How freaked out would you be if God sent you a messenger to tell you, “I heard you when you prayed about…. (fill in the blank with some private prayer)?  I was thinking about that when I read about the angel telling Zechariah,

…“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. ( Luke 1:13b)

Would you pray any differently if you were sure God was listening?  When you send an email you might question if it will be received and read.  But when you pick up the phone and actually speak to someone you can be more sure they are hearing what you say.  Better yet with Skype when you can tell they are actually paying attention.  But how can you know God is listening?

If we want to be heard by God, Jesus taught us to pray privately, simply and sincerely.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  –  ( Mat 6:6-7)

He also taught His disciples to pray directly to God because their prayers would get though without any intercession on His part.  He said:

“In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  (John 16:26-27)

Jesus assured us of a direct line to the Father Who loves us.  Next time you pause to pray, remember:  “your prayers have been heard!”

When You Doubt What You Believe

If Jesus is really the Son of God, why does He let me suffer?  Ever ask that question?  If so, you are in good company.  Even John the Baptist asked that question.  He had been called to prepare the way for Jesus and publicly identified Jesus as the Savior.  John must have imagined that he would be an important figure in Jesus’ band of brothers.  And yet, John was falsely arrested and stuck in prison.   John had doubts, and sent his disciples to double check on Jesus:

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3)

Instead of answering John directly,

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”” (Matthew 11:4-6)

In effect, Jesus told John, “I cannot tell you the answer; you must evaluate the evidence and decide what you believe about Me.”  Jesus says the same thing to each of us.  Our relationship with Jesus is not about having the right answer for the quiz, it’s about what we truly believe.  Belief is not formed by someone telling us the answer.  Belief is our personal conviction about the truth of the answer.  And our belief is dynamic, it is challenged and strengthened by the ebb and flow of life.  It is normal for us to consider our doubts as we develop our belief.  Real belief is not afraid to consider doubt.  It is strengthened as we grapple with doubt.

Jesus knew that John believed.  But He also knew that suffering challenges belief.  And so, Jesus encouraged John to hang on: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”  In effect, “Hang in there, John, hold on to your faith.  Even though suffering challenges your faith, your faith is what will lead you through this suffering.”

Here’s how Peter explained the dynamics of suffering and faith:

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NLT)

 If you are suffering and doubting, hang on; you will be blessed.  But maybe you are still wondering why Jesus left John in prison to die, or why He allows you to suffer what you are going through.  Stay tuned; we’ll take that up next…