Tag Archives: John the Baptist

New Year’s with JB

John the Baptist’s message is great for this week between Christmas and New Years.  He calls us back to a simple life-style. After all the feasting we may need repentance.

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:4-5)

The wilderness in Scripture was not some beautiful garden-like place where people went on vacation.  Wilderness was wild, uncivilized, stripped of all niceties and refinement.  Israel had spent forty years in the wilderness during the Exodus to purify themselves from all the toxic Egyptian cultural practices. It was a place for spiritual death and rebirth.

John’s clothes of camel’s hair and leather belt, reminded the people of the Old Testament prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).  Sort of like wearing a red cape to remind people of Superman. But John/Elijah had a stronger purpose than Superman, to call the hearts and lives of people back to God.

John called people to recalibrate their vision of life, success, and values.  They were baptized as a cleansing of their sinful ways so that they could begin anew, fresh and clean.

Now as 2011 concludes, we can come to our Lord seeking a fresh beginning, a new start in 2012.  We can confess our sin, knowing that God forgives us our sin and will give us a clean start.

Try this the next time you take a bath or shower.  As you wash the sweat and dirt of the day, say to yourself as you pray to God, “I am cleansed, body, mind and spirit, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Then step out into the promise of vibrant new life in Christ. Resolve to act as a child of God, seeking God’s path this day.

Lord Jesus, cleanse me and make me new.

Will it be Platter or Basket?

So often we read short sections of the Bible and thereby miss some of the obvious connections between the sections.  For example, I am preparing to preach on Matthew 14:13-21 in which Jesus feeds five thousand.   The story is in all four Gospels and is quite familiar to many Jesus followers.  What I had not really noticed before is the connection to the story prior to it in which John the Baptist is beheaded by King Herod (Matthew 14: 1-12).

"Salome asks for St. Johns' Head" by artist Bernardino Luini, 1510

John had ticked off King Herod when John confronted Herod’s of sin of marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Herod had tried to spare John’s life while he was a “guest” in his prison. But when Herod held a huge birthday bash for himself, Herodias’ dancing daughter coerced the king into serving John’s head on a dining room platter.  How appetizing was that?  The lavish birthday party ends in blood and death.

Then we shift scenes to Jesus and his surprise party.   Instead of a palace feast, it is a deserted lake shore and the only dancing comes when the disciples try to find food for the crowd.  What started as an impromptu healing service turns into a glorious feast with food for all.  “And all ate and were filled” (Matthew 14:20). 

The Basket of Bread by Salvador Dali 1929

Twelve baskets of leftovers for the guests to carry home!  What a sharp contrast to Pilate’s party that ended with a burial and an empty platter.

Yet my guess is, if you or I had received an invitation to attend either the Celebrity Birthday Banquet or the uncertain camp out, we would have chosen the Banquet.   It is only with hind sight that we discover where the real party breaks out.  

How do we, as followers of Jesus, prepare the way for Jesus’ Spirit to break out in a fresh way among us?  How do we take what we have and fill the hungry with good things? Do we expect God’s miracles to be at work among us?

Lord Jesus, show us how to feast with you daily while feeding the hungry around us.

The Certainty of Questions

As the new lead pastor I have been asking lots of questions.  Who prepares the worship folders, the video slides, or the confirmation materials? Who plows the parking lot?  How much money is in the budget for mission outreach? Who cleans the bathrooms?   Like any new hire I am in the midst of a sharp learning curve, realizing everyday that there is more and more I don’t know.   That can be unnerving at times, especially when my personality is one that likes to appear very competent and knowledgable.  I hate looking foolish!

So I am struck by the amount of questions in this Sunday’s scripture lesson, Matthew 11:2-11.  First, John the Baptist has a question for Jesus, “Are you the promised Messiah that so many people are expecting, or should we start looking for someone else?”  Wow!   The fiery, intense John suddenly has cold feet about Jesus.   John questions whether he has prepared the way for the wrong guy. 

Second, Jesus asks the crowd questions about John, “What were you all expecting when you went out to hear John preach?”  Jesus challenges the expectations and assumptions of the people. Could it be that we allow our assumptions to dictate what God should do or be?   Do we at times assume that God’s ways should match our expectations?  Can questions break open a new perspective, a new vision?  Can doubt play a role in shaping faith?

What questions do you wrestle with as you seek to trust, live and serve?