Encounters: Jesus and John the Baptist

John the Baptist. You know all about him. Desert dweller. Different diet. In fact, we’ve seen the Daniel Diet fad and the Paleo Diet grow in popularity, but I’ve never heard anyone do a series of videos on the John the Baptist Diet Plan of locusts and honey. John the Baptist’s outfits were unrefined. He didn’t shop at Macy’s, or Target, or Walmart. He was hipster before it was a thing. He was just a strange guy, but he was on a mission. 

Luke 3 puts it this way:

He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

God chose John the Baptist to prepare the way – what do you think he had in mind for everyone who followed after Jesus? Despite all of his uniquenesses, Jesus tells us “among those born of women there is no one greater than John” (Luke 7:28). Yet, nobody would’ve expected John the Baptist to prepare the way for anything except a convention for weirdos. But John’s story tells us that God can use unexpected things to prepare the way for the most important things. 

And in Luke 7, we get to this place where John sends his followers to ask Jesus something. I love the questions in Scripture. I take note of the things people ask in the Bible. In Luke 7:18 John’s followers ask Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

I heard a message on this question years ago, and the preacher pointed out how odd this question was in light of John’s absolute certainty of Jesus’ identity. John was clear about who Jesus was inside the womb (he jumped inside Elizabeth). At Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist identified Jesus saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world.” He wasn’t looking around asking his followers, “Which one is it?  I can’t tell – all these men are wearing white robes. All these lambs look the same!” God confirmed Jesus’ identity at his baptism. Think about it. Did John have any ambiguity when he saw the dove descend or when the heavens opened and God spoke to Jesus?  Did he think, “Cool effect…I hope this happens more often.”

Why does he ask this question? Because John is still preparing for the most important things. He’s still setting the table for Jesus. He is still pointing people away from his ministry towards the ministry of Jesus. 

We live in a day where Facebook and social media can easily become venues for us to either portray a picture-perfect life or cause disruption and disarray through drama. These mediums are magnetized. And there is a bit of drama as John the Baptist’s followers come to Jesus. They are asking Jesus to confirm his identity. It is somewhat of a public calling out. And Luke leaves out some important details found in the parallel passages from Matthew’s gospel. It focuses most, not on John the Baptist’s predicament (he is in prison, about to be beheaded, conceivably filled with doubt), but on Jesus’ response.
This is the most important thing. 

Luke 7:21-23

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

The miracles and manifestations of God’s power were more than confirmation of Jesus’ identity. The good news preached to the poor was the message of the Most High. Truly, there is no one else. Everything about Jesus pointed to God. 

I want the same to be said of me. As a father, as a husband, as a pastor – I want the same things to be said about me. May my life point the way to God. May God’s power and presence be made manifest in who I am so that others see God, not me. Friends, may the same be said of you. As a parent, spouse, ministry leader, may everything you do point to Jesus. He is our One and Only.

Check out the Spotify playlist we curated for the Encounters Lent Devotional series. Pause and listen to this as you reflect on the Scripture passages today.

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