Are you a patient person? Or do you start to fidget when you’re waiting, desperately trying to expel nervous energy? Some of us pace when anxious or just move our legs in place. Others simply can’t wait and go about doing instead of waiting for someone else to do what they believe needs to get done.
Those who subscribe to the famous Nike slogan “Just do it!” may be prone to doing rather than waiting. While this sounds admirable, sometimes waiting is the best course of action. Mainly when we’re waiting for someone more qualified. It’s not so wise to take apart whatever isn’t working if you don’t know how to put it back together.
Those known as the descendants of the “people of the Exodus” learned patience, but it took a generation of God’s intervention for it to sink in. Freed at last from cruel oppression in Egypt, the ancestors of those living in first-century Palestine learned to trust God for everything from basic needs to meaning in life.
Perhaps their special status or uncommon practices drew negative attention toward them. Sadly, they should be admired rather than criticized. Or maybe it’s simply that God chose to document their plight as lessons for all humanity. The friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances of Jesus knew both the struggles of their people and the divine promise of a Messiah who would free them once and for all.
God didn’t just speak through one prophet, and some signs signaled God’s plan unfolding. Isaiah told of a voice crying out in the wilderness that all should repent of wrongdoing in preparation. Micah speaks about a Messiah leading the people to freedom. And Malachi promises God’s intervention into human affairs and a day of reckoning.
It feels like Christmas is coming soon whenever I start talking about the person commonly called John the Baptist. He goes by a variety of titles. Some parts of Christianity know him as John the Forerunner, while others call him John the Immerser. In Islam, he is referred to as the Prophet Yahya. Regardless of which modifier we added after his name, John was different.
First, John was a Nazarite. Not much is said about this practice, but according to the Book of Numbers, Nazarites vowed complete dedication to God and abstained from any kind of drink made from grapes or containing alcohol from fermentation. Second, Matthew tells us that John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, he wore a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
John was more than a fashion statement or an entertaining sideshow. He was a charismatic preacher that drew large, diverse crowds from around the region. And John was candid about God’s expectations for people, calling out leaders in particular. His titles, however, come from his practice of immersing persons in water as a sign that they chose to repent of wrongdoing and make changes in their life.
Most important, however, was John’s message that he wasn’t the One that the people were waiting on. Instead, John was just as a messenger. His purpose was revealed to his father, Zechariah, before John was born. And Jesus first met John while in His mother’s womb when Mary visited John’s mother, Elizabeth, when they were both pregnant. God also revealed to their mother’s that something extraordinary was underway. Just watch!
We all know who John refers to since we know what happens next. But as often as I’ve read the stories, I still find surprises whenever I revisit them. So I’ve learned to be patient even though I think I know how the story ends.
I love how Angela Hunt tells the story using conversations between persons not featured in scripture. For example, one of the younger brothers of Jesus tells how their mother shared God’s revelation about her relative’s son. In her book, Jude hopes to find his brother in the crowd gathered to hear John speak.
“Are you the Christ we have been waiting for?” a man shouts from the crowd listening to John speak. “No” was the simple answer. In Angela’s scripture quotation, John the Baptizer responds, “I immerse you in water for repentance. But the One coming after me is mightier than I am; I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will immerse you in the Ruach ha-Kodesh and fire.”
Ruach ha-Kodesh comes from Hebrew. It refers to the Spirit of God. And what it means to be immersed in the Spirit of God continued to unfold throughout history. And the mystery continues today.
One day, Jesus showed up in the crowd as John was speaking and baptizing. And He asked John to immerse Him. John protested at first, sensing that Jesus may very well be the One he was talking about when he said someone else was coming after him.
Jesus answered, “Go back and tell John what you are hearing and seeing…”
Sometime later, John would send messengers from a prison cell asking Jesus straight up. Are you the One? The answer Jesus gave offers insight into the heart of God. Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what you hear and see. The blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor.”
What can we learn from this response? Later, Jesus will tell His followers that they are to continue His work. So our answer lies in how we believe God is calling each of us to participate in continuing His work.
Jesus ended His response to John’s messengers with this promise, “How happy are those who have no doubts about me!”
I invite you to follow along with us during our series. You can obtain a copy of Angela Hunt’s book online, in bookstores, or look for it at the library. Our copies went fast, but you can contact our office if you need help finding a book. We have more copies coming.
You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by Angela Hunt. Daughter of Cana. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2020.