All of the Old Testament led up to John the Baptist’s proclamation that Jesus Christ was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah. Amen!
Just when I thought I was caught up, I realized I missed an entire week’s worth of posts. Here ya go …
Matthew 11 gives us a beautiful picture of the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. (Unfortunately, John the Baptist is tragically killed three chapters later by the order of a drunken king and his vindictive wife, but that’s a story for another day.) We know from the account in Luke 1 that Mary (Jesus’ mom) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mom) were related, but the Bible isn’t very clear about their exact relationship. I’ve always heard that Jesus and John were cousins, but perhaps that’s my southern upbringing where “cousin” can be a catch-all term for extended relatives. At any rate, they were related, to some extent or another.
I find it interesting that even though John probably grew up being around Jesus at family gatherings, annual Passover festivities, etc., and he had the distinct honor of baptizing Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry (Matthew 3), John the Baptist still had to come to terms with his own understanding of Jesus as Messiah.
In Matthew 11, we read that John the Baptist is in prison, but he has been receiving word about Jesus’ activities. In verses 2-3, John sends messengers to ask Jesus flat-out: Are you the One? Let that sink in a moment. John the Baptist needed clarification about whether or not Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
There are no shortcuts to salvation, even for insiders. Jesus’ own family had to decide for themselves whether to accept him as Lord and Savior, and so do we. It doesn’t matter if your daddy and your granddaddy and your great-granddaddy were pastors; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if your mom’s best friend’s sister-in-law knows Billy Graham personally; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you attended a private, religious school and memorized prayers and creeds; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you were baptized as a baby or dedicated in a church as a child; you still have to decide for yourself. There are no shortcuts.
Faith is not inherited. Of course, we should pass down our testimonies, teach our children, involve them in church, and encourage them to develop their own relationships with the Lord, but that last step is not something that we can do FOR them. They have to decide for themselves, just as John the Baptist had to reconcile his own beliefs about Jesus. So, who is Jesus to you? Is he the Messiah, the long-awaited One?
(Sunday) I like shortcuts and avoiding traffic as much as any other driver, but when it comes to our faith-journeys, there is only one way via Jesus.
(Monday) Read Matthew 11:11 and let it sink deep into your heart. John the Baptist was a rock star of the faith, yet we can be also!
(Tuesday) You know the cliché about riding an influential person’s coattails to get ahead in life, but faith doesn’t work that way. You alone decide.
(Wednesday) Matt. 11:10 says that John the Baptist was the prophet mentioned in the Old Testament (Malachi), yet even he had to opt in & believe Jesus.
(Thursday) How do we convince ourselves that somehow we could ever be good enough (or at least not too bad) to win God’s approval? It’s all his grace!
(Friday) Whether you’re the first Christian in your family or you come from a long line of faith, the decision to follow Christ was yours to make.
(Saturday) It’s usually a passage reserved for Christmastime, but read Luke 1 and marvel at God’s strategic plan for Jesus & John the Baptist.
I wear many hats, and I’m known by different names & titles to various people. I go by my first name with most colleagues and friends. My students call me by my last initials. A friend I’ve known for nearly 30 years calls me “Bestie.” My brother used to call me his big-little sister (big sister because I’m older, and little sister because he was 6’5”). My favorite custodian at work calls me “sweet baby.” To my kids, I’m just Mom. To their friends, I’m so-and-so’s Mom.
Hopefully, if you were to ask anyone from those circles, “Who would you say that she is?” then they would have similar things to say about my character. The “me” you see on Sunday morning should be the same person you encounter at the office breakroom, grocery store, Facebook, stop light, or anywhere else around town. (If that isn’t the case, then I need to be held accountable.)
The point is that if we are believers in Jesus, then we represent him 24/7. No matter what our name or position may be, we bear the title “Christian” wherever we go.
In Luke 9:18 and following, Jesus asked his disciples what others were saying about him. He referenced the crowds that had been following them around to hear Jesus speak – who did they say that he was? The disciples shared some of what the public was saying, and then Jesus turned the question to them and asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (v. 20).
Peter knew the answer. He knew that Jesus was more than just a public speaker, healer, or even a prophet. Jesus was the real deal – the one the Israelites had been praying about for generations. Philippians 2:9-11 pulls no punches about Jesus’ place in the hierarchy of the universe. He is the Messiah, as Peter answered – the one who loved us so unconditionally that he conquered death for us.
The question I want to ask you today is not just who do you think Jesus is, but who is he to you? Does he mean enough that you aren’t embarrassed to bear his name? Does he mean enough that you are willing to change a few things about your old way of life so that your new life will reflect him better? Those are tough questions, but they are ones that we each need to answer for ourselves, daily.