Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Crisis

"Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:3) These are the words John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus when he heard what Christ was doing, as he (John) sat in prison. In my mind, John's question is even more relevant in our present time as we experience more and more attempts to take Christ out of Christmas. If Jesus is not the one, then we shouldn't follow Him. But if He is, then we should follow Him at all costs. John, of all people, should not need to ask this question. He knew Jesus was the Messiah beyond all doubt.
  • He and Jesus were cousins
  • Mary and Elizabeth (John's mother) were pregnant around the same time
  • We are told in Luke that John leaped in his mother's womb when Mary spoke. (Luke 1:39-45). So, John recognized the Messiah while still in utero!
  • His mission of preparing the way for the Messiah was never a question in John's mind. In John 1: 19-28, John is in a controversial conversation with the religious leaders. It was his job to point others to Christ--not obtain followers of his own. His desire was for his disciple to be completely devoted to the Messiah to come.
  • He pointed Christ out to others as the Messiah. John 1: 35-37, "The next day John was there again with two disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 'Look, the Lamb of God!' When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. (One of the two was Andrew).
John was clear about WHO Jesus was--he was absolutely certain about the identity of Jesus.
  • In John 1:29-34, the time between the two previous encounters, we find John exclaim about Jesus as He approached John, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I meant when I said, 'a man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.' I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel."
  • Then John gave his testimony: "I say the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remained on Him. I would not have known Him, except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'the man on who you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
  • John declared, "I baptize with water...but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." (John 1: 26-27).
How could someone who knew Jesus was "the one" now send his disciples with a question--"are you the one?" All those close to John had heard him declare the supremacy of Jesus. It must have shaken his follower's confidence. I am sure they, too, were waiting to see how Jesus would answer John's question.
John was having a crisis of faith. How I identify with John, because I experience my own crisises of faith. John was in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod's brother, Philip. Herod arrested him for calling his relationship with Herodias an affair. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter danced for him. Herod was so pleased he said he said he would give her what she wanted. Coached by her mother, she requested John's head on a platter. (Mat. 14:1-12). This prompted the crisis--John was in prison about to be beheaded when he sent the message to Jesus. Jesus could rescue him if He so pleased--He was the son of God!
Jesus' response--"Go back and report what you hear and see: the blind see, lame walk, leprosy is cured, deaf hear, dead are raised, good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me." (Mat. 11:4-6).
Not exactly what John expected to hear, I am sure. John already knew all that. Jesus' acts didn't eliminate John's doubts. Why would Jesus tell him, "blessed is the man who does not fall away on my account?"
I think Jesus was telling John, I am not going to spare you what is about to happen to you. I am not going to spare your life. Yes, I have done this for others, but that is not the path I have for you. You will be blessed if this does not cause you to fall away. I imagine that was pretty hard for John to take know Jesus had a different plan than what John wanted. Jesus does not save us from pain and suffering, but from meaninglessness. A life without Jesus is meaningless. For Jesus, John was exactly where he needed to be, fulfilling God's purpose in his life. Jesus' invitation is "follow me." He never lied about he danger or cost associated with becoming His follower. He told them up front, " I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes, and innocent as doves. " (Matthew 10:16).
By the very nature of our present worldly culture, which is counter to Christian doctrine, we are experiencing a crisis of faith. John dared to speak the truth and it resulted with him being imprisoned and eventually beheaded. His cost for following Christ and living his life accordingly cost him dearly. We must...I must be a light in this dark world pointing others to Christ. The birth of Christ is what Christmas is all about. I almost wish we would focus on Christ and what He means to us rather than giving presents to each other. I think our greatest gift we could give each other is a note expressing how we see Christ lived out in their life.
It is Christmas! Make others know beyond doubt that Jesus is the One. He is the Messiah. Like the song says, "Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and every where...that Jesus Christ is born!"


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