It is difficult to find ministries these days that don’t claim to have it all. They preach the word like no one else, help the needy in their community and are first on the scene of every disaster. I’m not trying to make light of anyone’s ministry in Christ, but it seems at times it is difficult for anyone to admit any weakness, or limitation. In reality, they most likely are proficient at one thing and are connected to and financially support other anonymous, but proficient and separate, ministries who take care the needy and still others who are especially ready to help out in disasters. Nevertheless, to listen to some folks, they are a mega-ministry in the hands of the Lord. Perhaps one or two are, but I simply cannot believe everyone on Christian radio and TV is that big and powerful.
In any event, John the Baptist was very straightforward when it came to his limitations, and I got to tell you that I really appreciate his integrity. When the movers and shakers of Palestine came to him, asking if he were the Messiah or Elijah or “that” Prophet (referred to by Moses), John denied it all. John simply did not inflate his ministry before the Lord. He told those in authority (the Pharisees and Sadducees) that he was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. Later, Jesus would tell his disciples that, for those who could accept it, John was the coming of Elijah, but John was not that aware of himself. Rather, he busily pointed to him who would come after John’s ministry was done.
As I consider this scene, I see a man sent by God preaching to God’s people that the time has come for them to admit failure. They weren’t all that faithful in their mission for God to the gentile world, so now the very One who Created them and called them out from among the gentiles—this One was coming to them. In performing his task, he encouraged most of the folks who had been oppressed by their brethren and those who are easily offended and discouraged, but he also flat-out presented those in authority with a damning critique of their performance before God. Nevertheless, if they had submitted to God’s call, they, too, would have been forgiven and received by the Messiah.
This is the picture I am visualizing at this moment. Is anyone surprised that the authorities rejected John’s message? What authority figure at any time in history ever submitted to the announcement of anyone with these kinds of credentials? John did no miracle and lived an ascetic lifestyle. He wasn’t anyone a person could mistake for one of elite in the society of that day, and he couldn’t be bribed, because he showed no interest in what this world had to offer. In other words, John was not one of them, and he couldn’t be bought—they couldn’t control him.
In the end, the authorities got John the Baptist in trouble with the Herodians, and they in turn informed Herodias about John’s remarks about her marriage. It got the job done; John was beheaded and was no longer offending the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. But what was that someone said about not blaming me—I’m just the messenger? Well, I guess the Pharisees and Sadducees couldn’t see beyond their present dilemma. The removed John, but then they had to face Jesus!
So, what’s the point of this blog? I think John presents us with the ideal messenger ministry. He wasn’t overly impressed with himself, and he wasn’t all that fixated on the power of this world. He was a man of integrity who could not be bought, and he was faithful to the task at hand—the thing the Lord had impressed upon him. He was not the Messiah—“that” Prophet, and he didn’t even take time to consider what his office truly was (the coming of Elijah—according to Jesus). He simply focused on what the Lord told him to tell others: “Hey—the Lord is coming and we need to prepare ourselves. We need to confess our failures and look to him for grace and mercy.” Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing today? John was not fixated on power, nor was he one who was tempted by this world’s goods. Do we really need to be the biggest and most influential ministry in Christianity, or could we just settle for one of integrity, weak but mightily used of God? I’m not a politician—religious or otherwise. I really think it is a mistake to seek to have power with those who involve themselves in the power of this world. But, that’s just me. I simply want to be faithful to the One who called me, aware of my failures and weakness in this world, but looking to Jesus for the needs of the day.