This chapter is so interesting when you examine the processes that John the Baptist was going through in prison, when he sent messengers to Jesus. This question in the title of this message means something has changed with John in his perception of Jesus, and his expectation of the Messiah.
When you research how John recognises Jesus, as the Messiah you have to go to John 1, to see what God said and revealed to him in the wilderness. God showed him that the One that the Voice of the Father would come, and the descent of the Holy Spirit would be the sign that the Messiah was before him. This would also mark the end of his ministry and the end of the preparation. The next thing we read of John, he is now imprisoned by Herod.
John was offended by the Messianic expectation of his day
John asks a question which must have surprised Jesus, knowing the depth of revelation John walked in concerning his own call and the preparation for the Messiah from Isaiah 40. The Messianic aspiration started out as a true vision from the Lord yet now has been coloured by political and revolutionary expectations. How much theology and Church doctrine concerning Jesus has been coloured by human expectations, by human interpretations. It gets far removed from the true mission God the Father had sent His Son with.
What everyone expected was a warrior not a Servant King. What they got “offended” them all and caused them to stumble. John began to refine his own conviction for this reason he asked Jesus if really He was the One, or wait for another. What a departure!
Right now in the Church we are facing the same challenge. We need to ask ourselves the question what is our vision of Jesus! In my prayers I am encouraged by God to know that even though we are navigating a very dark time of human history God is at work in Christ through His Church. However there is an underlying “offence” coming into the leaders who have prepared themselves many years, but for the offence that they now feel, their vision of Christ, has been obscured by their own personal trials and losses. For John the Baptist it was the loss of his freedom. This would eventually take his life.
This may or may not be connected with his death, but offence does not bode well in God’s people. There is a necessity for a new approach. We have gone through and are going through a great refining in God’s people. The isms and different gospel approaches have not prepared God’s people for hard times, giving them a solid foundation. Yet what happens is that Jesus is working in a way that might be outside of our theology or our expectation.
Our foundation should not be defined by our circumstances
When I see the “joy” on social media of ministries who are enjoying good and favourable circumstances, they speak faith and success like it was a tested and proved theological foundation. This is actually wrong, because once circumstances change, and they do, we can become “offended” by them. Paul brings this to the fore in Philippians 3, when he talks about the losses he endured in coming to Christ, and what he began to ascertain was that what he gained was far greater than what he had lost.
The pandemic has proved that there has been losses throughout society. What that should not do is colour our vision of Jesus and His Mission in our generation. What is happening is that the false doctrines and theologies are being exposed. This is a refining process. We must embrace this. When John the Baptist said “It is advantageous that He grows and I diminish”, not sure if he really knew what this meant. However in our generation how much is that true. It cannot be Church as usual. We cannot control meetings, programmes, and right now in a time of global emergency there must be a real heart searching, intercession to make the Church ready for a global awakening. In that Jesus takes prominence as King and Lord.
Our disillusionment must point to our collective delusion
The Presidential elections highlighted a weakness in the Body, the dependence on the so called prophets and prophecy without making prophecy a testimony of Jesus in the earth. Our disillusionment points to a collective delusion, that we could continue to believe what we believe, the prosperous Church financially, but poor spiritually. The letter of Jesus to the Church of Laodiceia gives us a glimpse to what we are living now. We have so much technologically, financially, possessions galore, materialistic, want for nothing, but poor in every dimension. The main thing that has grown cool is our heart of love for Jesus, it is lukewarm. Our delusion has been that we have been protected from persecution and we have enjoyed the freedoms. However the enemy has used this to allow us to grow lukewarm. This is now being shaken up as society has taken this spiritual vacuum with new ways of living and new ways of thinking. This has put us in the position that if we do not compromise on the Word we will now be closed down and marginalised.
Our preparation to get our place in God will be by sacrifice, the next generation will come in freely
Compare John the Baptist with Jesus. John lived out a Nazarite call. Ascetic and sacrificial. John slept out in the wilderness, saying goodbye to the prestige of the priesthood. He let his hair grow. He had a diet which was rustic and conditioned by where he lived. Yet Jesus goes to a wedding and starts His ministry there, he feasts and gets invited to many dinners in his time. John prepared the way through sacrifice. In Kathie Walter’s book “Bright and Shining Revival” tells of the sacrifices of the saints in the Hebrides who prayed down the revival, where the Presence of God and conviction of sin bathed that island. Those first saints prayed much, interceded much, were not in the glory meetings, yet they prayed over every soul of that island. Many came in to the blessings of salvation, it was extended upon the prayers of those who paid the price, yet many never saw this. John the Baptist lived out Isaiah 40, and who knows what he had to do to prepare the way for the Messiah. Yet when the Messiah came it was like that marriage feast, fulness had come, when water became wine in Cana. Whereas fasting preceded His coming, His coming marks the beginning of feasting! We can easily become offended after others access what took us years to break through in.
This message is one to place us right in the centre where God is moving. He is preparing, refining and reviving. He is bringing us to break our delusions and offences. It is a pivotal moment to press in to understand where and how God is moving in the earth. It cannot and will not be business as usual. If we allow offence to build a prison around us, we know our enemy will cut off our head, and end our lives. We must press into the “offense into knowledge” so that we come into the place where God opens up our understanding, like in Luke 24. It took trauma, took loss to bring the disciples into a vision of Jesus as He really is. We are in that process too, let us embrace it!
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