Thursday, December 09, 2004

John the Baptist

His life was devoted to one purpose—prepare the way for the coming Messiah. John the Baptist had lived an ascetic life of absolute devotion to God. His burning passion was to see the Anointed One. In one sense, his life brought into focus the intense waiting of all ages for the Coming One: The new David that Isaiah proclaimed would usher in the kingdom of God and restore the world to an Edenic state of innocence.

When Jesus final appears, John the Baptist humbly yields the stage to Him acknowledging Jesus as the “Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.” John takes his leave with a warning announcing that Jesus would “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

In the lonely dungeon, John the Baptist hears reports that the one he proclaimed as Messiah, goes to the parties, does not fast, and surrounds himself with questionable people. He sends words to Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"

Jesus may have loved John the Baptist more than anyone on the earth. He saw John as one of the greatest prophets to ever live. And yet, even John could not see the fullness of the kingdom. Jesus alludes to Isaiah and other testimonies from the Old Testament to describes His call, “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Mtt 11:5; Is 35:5-6).

The kingdom of God has come but in a way, that not even John the Baptist had anticipated. And Jesus says, “(B)lessed is he who is not offended because of Me" (Mtt 11:6). The Messiah comes to the weary, to the waiting, to those lost and struggling in the darkness. The Messiah comes with the kingdom of God bringing joy to the sad, comfort to the mourners, hope to the hopeless, and humiliation to the proud.

The Messiah will come again. Though He tarries, we wait. We anticipate His coming by walking in the reality of His kingdom now. But we also grow weary, and sometimes even doubtful. One of the greatest trials we face in this life is the challenge of time, of waiting. We must wait upon the Lord. Our redemption is near and yet not quite near enough.

Like the children of the Exodus, we are crossing a desert. We are heading home to the presence of the Lord. Yet, the desert saps our energy, our strength, and even our faith. As we wait, we need the grace of God to “strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees” (IS 35:3). Our fearful hearts need to hear, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you" (Is 35:4).

Like John the Baptist, there are times when we may question and wonder, “Are you the coming one or should we look for another?” But He is faithful.
The same power that can cause a desert to blossom (Is 35:1) is at work in our hearts. The grace of God can bring new life and new hope to our weary souls. As we long for home, as we look for the coming of the Son, we also rest in His grace. His can lead by a way we do not know into a place we have never imagined.

1 comment:

Milton Stanley said...

Doug - I can relate to the idea of waiting. I waited all through Advent for Christmas of the liturgical calendar, and now I find that just about everyone I know is so sick of the protracted Commercial Christmas season that they don't want to celebrate the twelve days. In any case, we still have four or five days left. Merry Christmas, brother. Milton