“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7 v 7
One way I try to parse the many constructive, abbreviated, and often creative thoughts in my mind, is to write. I write either here or elsewhere. And I read as many books and essays as I can, devoted to this Christian life, I hold on to so dearly in my heart. Recently, I have frequently broken thoughts concerning the need for quiet solitude by often meeting for tea with old and new friends who seek to know God more. To know Him in His utmost glory! Although I do not have a church home representing my core faith here in Colorado, to be a part of a place and in the company of people who speak my Christian language is a huge blessing! For this, I am thankful!
This is the last full week of the fifth month of 2022. The weekend before came through with a heavy snowstorm accompanied by boisterous winds. Although the snow is mostly gone today, the wind remains. My prayers concerning these events all adhered to thankfulness for the moisture we urgently needed in this beautiful state, still welcoming me since 25 years ago. In addition, my perennials survived. My heart leaped with joy when I saw them this morning. Aww, the little things, right?
So, friends, the last time I wrote a reflection, the latter part of that reflection began a discussion about the life of John the Baptist and His adoration and respect for Jesus. As I attempt to add to that discussion, I seek to produce some doubt, misunderstanding, understanding, love, guard, and deep care as they intertwined with the relationship of John the Baptist and Jesus.
But before I move to these topics, I touch on John’s wisdom. In Matthew 3 vv. 11,12, John said this, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Above I have emphasized three distinctive of John’s discussion with God’s people. In the Old Testament, cleansing with fire represented God’s supernatural baptism. This is very different than water baptism that most of us are familiar with. And as well, we know that the fire of the Holy Spirit renewed God’s people. This fire renews us! Yet, the Bible also tells us that this fire consumes the wicked as chaff (see Isaiah 4 v. 4; Zechariah 13 v. 9; Malachi 3 vv. 2, 3; 4 v. 1).
Remember also that when John spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees, he was harsh. As we recall from the reflection, which prefaced this topic, John the Baptist told them about the axe and trees. In proper context, he said this to the Pharisees and Sadducees “…Even now, the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 3 v. 10). This verse plays a significant role based on John’s perceptions, misunderstandings, and understanding of Jesus. Hang on!
John continued with his baptisms. Then Jesus appeared. With great enthusiasm, John announced His presence. John begins by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world…” (John 1 vv. 29-31). Jesus, who appeared at the Jordan river! The optimum Savior appeared! Once again today, my heart leaps, and tears approach as I think of this moment. Friends, what a moment this must have been for John the Baptist. Here appeared the person bearing no sin, who came to be baptized in the righteousness of the Father. To honor God’s plans for His world through Jesus, just as Isaiah foretold (see Isaiah 42 v.1). John understood Jesus to be the Son of God who came to destroy the madness John’s world was experiencing. John the Baptist understood Jesus to be the one who brings justice to the nations.
However, as Jesus began His ministry, His love and mercy experienced by those around Him were quite different from the justice John the Baptist had presumed. While John was in prison, we see that he was perplexed by Jesus. For this, Jesus, John thought of, was quite different. The Bible says this “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11 vv. 2, 3). As if to say to Jesus, why aren’t you cutting down trees bearing no good fruit? And of course, Jesus’ response to John is this “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11 vv.4-6).
Jesus was quite aware that John was familiar with the scriptures. He knew John kept up with the writings of the prophet Isaiah. Based on this knowledge, Jesus quoted Isaiah. Here are those verses.
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. (Isaiah 35: 4b-6).
Jesus took the time to gently remind John, of why He really came. He needed to remind John that before what is written in Isaiah 61 was to transpire, firstly He must show kindness, tenderness, and sweet love. Trees did not need to come down then. Fire in words and action was not yet needed. Jesus knew John would not be alive to see it all; therefore, His explanation to John the Baptist was indeed necessary.
Along with many God-appointed prophets, John the Baptist searched the scriptures and knew about Christ. But in essence, after hearing about Jesus’ good deeds, he still held doubts and misunderstandings, then moved to understanding, love, guard, and deep care. Even Jesus knew this of John as He shared about him in Matthew 11 v. 11. John the Baptist searched the scriptures to learn more about Jesus. John the Baptist also experienced Jesus in his lifetime!
Friends, as we carry on, on this beautiful path of knowing Jesus, may we remember to consistently remove the boulders of sin, resentment toward each other, and doubts about God’s intricate words. As John did, let’s make way for Jesus to work in us each day. May we create moments to understand who God is in His every being of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May we seek truth and be bold enough to kindly speak out when something doesn’t seem right, when there are obvious red flags. May we know and journey to experience His sweet love each day. And may we continue to recognize the deep need of those around us.
If you are uncertain how to even begin, follow the words of Christ, written by Matthew “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (7 v. 7). No unknown doctrines needed. Through simple grace, Jesus encourages us to just ask!
Growing together, inside and out!
(All scripture quoted from the English Standard Version, Crossway 2022). Unless noted, Scripture is from this version.),