God, who takes away the sins of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Just a simple thought:
Here’s John the Baptist standing in the muddy Jordan, shouting his voice hoarse in order to be heard above the crowd, making his back ache with the dipping downs and lifting ups of the baptisms, straining his muscles, rotting his skin with persistent water exposure, defending himself against the verbal attacks of the Pharisees, looking for the Messiah day after day after day in burning sun, chaffing wind, driving rain, and morning chill.
He’s considered crazy–he’s ignoring taunts about his madness. He’s considered holy–he’s ignoring seductions to his ego. He’s considered foolish–he’s ignoring flirtations to his shame.
All of his flesh is at work against him if he is at all human like you or I. He is tired, he is hungry, he is distracted, he is worried, he is angry, he is sad, he is bereft, he is hopeful, he is disappointed, he is determined, he is arrogant, he is lonely, he is sore. He is hinging hope on wrong expectations and then righting his hope again, and again, and again. And every day he looks for the Messiah.
He holds an insane hope, do you see? For 4000 years–or longer–humanity has looked for its Redeemer. Since the Fall of Man, mankind has waited for the Seed to crush the Serpent’s head. For 1000 years Jewish faithful have looked for the Son of David. A thousand years! And yet, John is here baptizing in the very border through which the the Israelites had crossed in order to enter the Promised Land generations and generations ago, baptizing as if at any second that long-awaited and long, oh can I say, long-dissapointing? Messiah will walk on the scene. It’s long past the time when people have given up hope.
But John hangs on.
You know what happens. Jesus comes.
And the thought that jumps out at me a week after writing last Wednesday’s post–a thought I can’t shake from my mind– is that at some point every day John’s feelings probably told him to just. give. up.
Just give up.
You’re crazy. It’s not happening. Jesus is no where to be seen. Rescue is not on its way. Redemption will never take place. Things will never change. C’mon, haven’t you been faithful enough? God’s had time to prove himself. Be done.
I know, I know. I’m projecting. I’m assuming John’s essentially human, flesh and bones and all that, just like you and I. I’m assuming he’s of the race of Adam.
I am assuming that.
Because he is.
Listen: it’s not John’s feelings, nor his circumstances, nor his perfections that make the story. It’s his faithfulness.
John shows up every day to do the thing he’s been given to do, and we are never told how he feels. Do you know why? This isn’t a story about God’s interest in John’s individual experience. There are other stories in the Bible which show us that God cares. Rather, this is a story about Jesus defying the odds and showing up on the scene, and the story only takes place because a dude with a task to accomplish is faithful.
It takes courage to be faithful like that. I know, because it takes courage to be faithful in the daily lives and daily tasks that are daily lived well by anyone, anywhere on this planet.
Hear me. Your faithfulness matters. Your feelings are meant to tell you something. But your faithfulness? Your faithfulness writes the story you tell the world.