Read: Matthew 11:2-6
And blessed is the one who is not offended by me. (Matthew 11:6 ESV)
Jesus’ cousin John the Baptizer had already seen proof of Jesus’ identity as the foretold Messiah. John himself was a prophesied child. He was the one sent as a voice that would prepare the people for the coming of The Lord. Still, when John found himself imprisoned he reached out to Jesus for one more confirmation. Jesus did not disappoint.
John’s followers went to Jesus per the Baptizer’s request and returned to share news of the incredible things Jesus was doing. Miracles were happening. The kind of which had never been seen before among the Jews. This was Jesus’ testimony about himself as to the power and confirmation of his true identity as Messiah. As John’s disciples parted Jesus offered one last comment, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus’ words may sound strange at first but they would have been incredibly encouraging to John. John was arrested because his preaching offended a powerful man. Jesus in essence was issuing John a confirming statement. This same message holds true for us today.
We live in an age when many people find the message of the unmitigated Gospel offensive. They don’t know how to handle the truth of the idea that mankind is responsible for their sinfulness, that all have sinned, and that Jesus is the only answer to the sin problem. So people often try to change the message to be less offensive by leaving out or altering the portions which would appear offensive.
Jesus’ words are a clear warning. The Gospel will offend. Those with too much pride will reject its truth for their own comfort. They will harden their hearts. Those who embrace the offensiveness of Jesus will instead be changed by it. They will find freedom in the fact that although we are all sinful, and we are all responsible for our sin, Jesus offers us a way out. Truly blessed indeed are those who are not offended by Jesus.
Read: Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matthew 4:7 ESV)
Testing day was always a day that I dreaded in school. It wasn’t because I didn’t do well, it was because of the underlying question that always accompanied those tests…Are you good enough? I always wrestled with that question growing up and for an insecure kid academic testing always seemed to throw it in my face in the bluntest of ways.
During Jesus’ confrontation with Satan in the wilderness he came face to face to with those same questions of worth, identity, and purpose. Not only did the devil seek to undermine who he was, but he threw out the possibility that God might not actually be powerful or good enough to come to the aid of His son.
I’ve met many people during my years in ministry that often ask the same questions about God and in turn themselves. When faced with difficulty and adversity they begin to wonder if God really is powerful or good enough. I’ve also met those who outright doubt and in turn strive to willfully countermand God’s will for their life in a way to gauge whether or not He might intervene with their free will.
God’s sovereignty and man’s will are not mutually exclusive things. In fact, we have our free will precisely because of His sovereignty. When the test comes its not because God is not good, or God is not powerful. It’s not even because He is trying to determine if we are good enough for Him. God made that decision when He sent His son to die in our place. No, when the test comes it is so that we will do just what Jesus did in the wilderness. We must lean into God, His truth, His Word, His sovereignty, His love, and His will. That is home. That is where we belong.
Read: Luke 4:1-13
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3 ESV)
Jesus was tired and hungry when Satan came to tempt him. He had been fasting for forty days after being led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Physically he was probably weakened. But Jesus showed us through his actions that physical strength can never account for spiritual strength.
It really is just like the enemy of our souls to come at us when we’re already weak. He is sneaky like that. However, like Jesus we can stand on the reality of whose we are. Jesus is the Son of God, and the devil was trying to cast doubt on that. You are a son or daughter of God too, and the devil will no doubt attempt to cast doubt on that. Still, it is the truth of God’s Word and our identity in Him that thwarts the enemy’s plans for our lives.
Sometimes he sneaks in and tries to make something that’s really bad for us look good. Kind of like trying to turn a stone into bread. Jesus could have done that, but he didn’t need to. We probably couldn’t turn a stone into bread, but if we’re not careful in guarding our hearts we may let the devil trick us into thinking we need to.
The simple truth is that we don’t need stones to become bread. We don’t need whatever distraction the enemy offers us, now matter how enticing. All we need is to know who’s son we are.
Read: Mark 1:9-11 & John 1:32-34
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11 ESV)
Growing up one of my favorite feelings was always that experience of knowing that my parents were pleased with me for something. Sometimes it accompanied a task or an accomplishment, but often it was just there. It was a sense of cherished love and value that came simply as a result of being their child.
I really believe we can experience that same kind of affection from God. Yes, it comes in ways that are similar to those of my own childhood experience. Sometimes God is pleased with us and our actions, but usually the feeling of acceptance, love, and appointment is derived simply from belonging to Him.
Both parenthood and childhood are pleasurable experiences when enjoyed through a righteous and wholesome relationship. God is the Father. All who come back into the Father’s family can and will experience the Father’s good pleasure. I hope that the thought of God being pleased with you, His child, will put a smile in your heart and joy in your steps today.
Read: Matthew 3:13-17
John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14 ESV)
John is called The Baptist for a reason, and its not because he was a member of a specific denomination. He baptized people as a sign of repentance and righteousness. It was their way of showing the people around them that they were making an effort to change their lives. So when Jesus showed up to be baptized by John it naturally caused him some inner confusion. John recognized the superiority, and divinity, of Christ. As such, it seemed strange to him that Jesus would seek to be baptized by John. In other words, John saw his need for Jesus.
The first step for us toward a right relationship with God is always the recognition of our need for God. We aren’t big enough, good enough, smart enough, rich enough, or powerful enough to mend the rift between God and man on our own. Mankind created this spiritual disparity, but it is God that fixes it. It is God that wrapped his infinitude with finitude and stepped into history as Jesus.
Our need for Jesus is clear, it is real, and it is fulfillable, but only by Christ, through Christ, and in Christ. Jesus allowed John to baptize him as a testimony to John’s authority and mission, but it was Jesus himself that became John’s way to God. He is also our way to God. The only way to God.
Read: Luke 3:15-22
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. (Luke 3:18 ESV)
John preached to large crowds. He baptized a lot of people. He made a difference where he was through his courageous commitment to God’s plan for mankind. And the message that he delivered was one full of good news.
We all like good news, and lets face it, that’s not always the kind of news we get to hear on a regular basis. If you tune into any kind of prominent media network you are almost instantly confronted by the seemingly harsh nature of a world gone terribly awry. I once even heard a practicing journalist say, “If it bleeds it leads.” For some reason people are entertained and captivated by the macabre, sensational, and despairing events of our world. In stark reality the good news of the day, those feel good stories about the better side of life, rarely seem to carry as much impact.
John’s message of good news was the ultimate message. His message literally was the Good News. It was the message of the Gospel. He was declaring to the PreChristian world the reality of the impending arrival of the Messiah. The one that would save the people from their sins.
Jesus is still the Good News. He still saves people from their sins. He is hope for the hopeless. He is the best news.
Read: John 1:19-28
He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:20 ESV)
The misunderstanding surrounding John the Baptizer’s identity and authority was an epic concern for the chief religious rulers of his day. As a people they were watching and waiting for the Christ, hoping he would come to cleanse their nation of the Imperial Roman presence. But that was not his mission, or his identity.
Much of John’s success in his short lived public ministry came from his understanding of his identity. He knew who he was, what his purpose was, and why he wasn’t the most important part in God’s plan for mankind.
When we take our identity from God the Father and Jesus Christ these paramount questions become important in brand new ways. They often change to include a part of life that we never knew we wanted or needed, and certainly have never thought of in a Christ-centered context. John thought about all of that. He was not Elijah or any other Old Testament prophet, instead he was the one foretold to be a forerunner for Jesus. He was not the Christ, but he knew who was.
So it begs the question. Do you know who you are? Not just your name, or what you do. Do you know your mission? Do know both your identity and the one from whom your identity springs forth.