John The Baptist eh? What was he like? If a hero can be someone you admire but in no way want to copy then John the Baptist is one of my heroes. If I was offered the chance to be Nora Ephron – I may have been tempted for a moment. However, John the Baptist is a different proposition. Single minded, strong and a cutting edge in human form. To be given the job the prepare the way for the Son of God – fancy it anyone? Oh and it won’t be like preparing the way for the Olympics like “Twenty Twelve” – all mocha lattes and meetings with Seb Coe. (if you are not following the BBC’s brilliant Twenty Twelve – you do not have the true Jubylimpic spirit and are missing out. I am always thinking of you first as you know and have put a little clip in to help you. I am too good to you.)
No this would mean giving up everything that you and I would call life – partner, family, friends, career and comfort with one purpose – just one – no work life balance here matey. No PR firm to big him up. In fact he began his ministry by retreating into the desert only for people to move heaven and earth to find him and to listen. It is, I think, an encouraging testament to the work he was doing for God that he managed to make it all happen without (a) social networking (b) a book deal or (c) a stadium tour. (Sometimes, when you see preachers nearly always being called by God on to bigger and brighter congregations – do you ever wonder about them going in exactly the opposite direction to John? Is it just me?)
It probably is just me. I am rubbish at self promotion and would love it if I could just send out dispatches from the desert. I’m probably just jealous of people who are good at getting out there. Anyway, back to John The Baptist rather than my meanderings. He was uncompromising, efficient, and single hearted. This was a man who had a calling from the womb – literally. When Jesus was looking for a man to baptise him – there was only one man to go to. Whatever it is that a man needs to be a follower of Christ – John had it in spades.
And yet we see him in Matthew 11. He is in prison. He is about to be the victim of a sordid game of sexual politics which will see him beheaded solely for his integrity. He knows that Jesus is out there and that his ministry has begun. He also knows that if that is so then his is drawing to an end. His whole life has been lived with this in mind. John the Super-Christian should now sit back and sigh and wait for his end. But he doesn’t.
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?”
But he is John – he must get the game? He has seen God move in an extraordinary way in his life. He has baptised Jesus and seen a unique manifestation of God when he did so. Is this a doubt? Is he scared about what will happen to him? Whatever the reason for the question, Jesus’ reaction is well – Jesus like. He doesn’t lecture him – “Well John – with all the stuff you have seen and grown up with – I am surprised you even had to ask. Good grief – call yourself a man of faith…” etc.
He tells John’s followers – paraphrasing – God loves me and he lets me – “Go and tell him all that I’m doing – healing the sick, raising the dead, helping the poor. The evidence is there. All is as planned. It is ok.” Then, when they go, Jesus doesn’t say “Well that was disappointing. I was expecting a bit more from John I must say.” He says just the opposite.
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.”
I think everyone needs to hear a “yes” sometimes. No matter how strong your faith. How much you do for God. However long you have been a Christian. However faithful you have been. Sometimes things happen and you wonder and you worry and you doubt. And you need to ask. Is it still ok? Are things how I have always believed them to be? Am I still secure with you God? Although we know the answer really. I think our kind, sensitive God is just waiting to give you the affirmation that you need. Sometimes we need to hear a “yes” It’s ok to ask. He won’t bite. It’s supposed to be a relationship you know.