The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

John the Baptist: Something’s not right about Jesus (readings for Dec. 16, 07)

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John the Baptist - DonatelloAh, John the Baptistnow there’s a prophet a guy can believe in. He’s everything you’d expect a prophet to be. Lives in the desert, forages food, wears homespun, cries “Repent!” and shouts down hypocrites. Exactly right.

And when Jesus shows up, John instantly recognizes “the one.”

But then Jesus doesn’t act like a prophet. John’s been half-fasting on what he can find in the desert; Jesus enjoys the feasts in town. John’s message is “Repent!” while Jesus’ message is “I will give you rest.” John faces-off with sinners; Jesus heals lepers and befriends prostitutes.

And John begins to wonder if he’s made a mistake. Jesus just doesn’t walk the “narrow way” like a prophet should. So John sends the question to Jesus: Are you the one?

And Jesus, without rebuke, reminds John of some Scripture he’d forgotten, gently shifting John’s expectations away from wrath and onto grace as the test of God’s presence from then on.

I wonder: Isn’t this something that still gets mixed-up? Don’t we who follow Jesus sometimes sound more like John, not understanding that those days are past?

That story is part of what I’ll be studying for Sunday. You’ll find the rest, just below.

P.S.: (I heartily recommend Lawrence Moore’s outstanding discussion of John the Baptist and Jesus—and law and grace—at Disclosing New Worlds)

Third Sunday of Advent

December 16, 2007
Matthew 11:2-11; James 5:7-10;Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10

Matthew 11:2-11
2-3John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” 4-6Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
“Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”

7-10When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’

11-14″Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s kingdom. But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom. Looked at in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

James 5:7-10
7-8Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

9Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.

10-11Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Isaiah 35
The Voiceless Break into Song
1-2 Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift.
Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts.
God’s resplendent glory, fully on display.
God awesome, God majestic.

3-4Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

5-7Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.

8-10There will be a highway
called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious
is permitted on this road.
It’s for God’s people exclusively—
impossible to get lost on this road.
Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
no dangerous wild animals—
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed
will come back on this road.
They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 146:5-10
…get help from the God of Jacob,
put your hope in God and know real blessing!
God made sky and soil,
sea and all the fish in it.
He always does what he says—
he defends the wronged,
he feeds the hungry.
God frees prisoners—
he gives sight to the blind,
he lifts up the fallen.
God loves good people, protects strangers,
takes the side of orphans and widows,
but makes short work of the wicked.

10 God’s in charge—always.
Zion’s God is God for good!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Tags: , , , , , , , , Monte Asbury


Written by Monte

December 10, 2007 at 5:37 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Amazing, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking about the “set the prisoners free” prophecies – and how they didn’t find their fulfillment in John’s case.


    January 14, 2008 at 7:01 pm

  2. This is what I preached about on Sunday, how John worked through his doubts honesty, but was still able to point to Jesus. How Jesus blessed John for continuing to follow him even though John was disappointed by him. This realization hit me after working through the passage for several days and I thought it was pretty powerful.

    Donnie Miller

    January 14, 2008 at 2:51 pm

  3. Hi Sharon,

    Who, in your opinion, is “poor in spirit”? And are you really an adequate judge? Perhaps this is the source of your anger and confusion.

    Enjoy the gifts of the season.


    December 21, 2007 at 2:11 pm

  4. Again! I am surprised at how consistent God is. Once again I see me as the prodigal son’s brother, partly angry and mostly confused because the Father breaks out in unconditional regard for the, “poor in Spirit”. Without His saying a word about my attitude, He points to my behavior and feelings that display my understanding of Him. He really is gently allowing me to adjust, or not, my relationship with Him.
    It is the celebration of His birthday. I’m going to find out everything he really likes and give those gifts to Him. Again!
    Thanks M


    December 17, 2007 at 9:24 am

  5. You have mail.


    December 12, 2007 at 8:29 pm

  6. Yes! More grace, less wrath, pretty please. BTW, we had rain last night, and my heart lifted with a great sigh of relief, and not just for the garden. Our house is ours again (Jessica spent her first night last night back in her own home) and we’re packing. Maj’s faxing off a contract today. We’re headed north. And as the rain came down, I knew the Universe was smiling on us and that everything’s going to be alright.

    This is the joy Christ wanted, in the present moment, for each of us.

    Monte Says: I believe it. To Montana, do I remember?


    December 12, 2007 at 12:22 pm

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