This past week at Senior Youth we read Matthew 3 and discussed it a bit. I had some notes in my Bible from a previous time reading through Matthew, but they really stuck out to me again, so I thought I'd share.
In Matthew 3 we are introduced to John the Baptist, the man preparing the way for the Lord. He is so radical in his life for God that he lives alone in the desert, he eats weird and wacky things, and he isn't afraid to criticize and even insult the leading political and religious party right in public (of course they can't throw him out of synagogue or town because he's already outside of it all...hmmm...maybe a lesson for us. We may speak and act like we have nothing to lose in sharing our faith if we really had nothing to lose. But that's a side point.)
So John has given everything that he is, everything that he has, to follow God's calling on his life and to prepare the way for the Lord, for Jesus. And his message is as such, because he even tells them, "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Imagine that! So here's this guy with all these people coming out to be baptized by him and to hear him speak and his message is, "Hey guys, I'm not the real deal. I'm just the precursor. I'm just here to get you looking and seeking so that you're awake and alert when the real thing comes along." What humility!
And then he does, or should I say, He does. Jesus comes along, he comes right to John where he is baptizing; this man whom John has been speaking about and prophesying, the one who will be great and mighty, who will baptize with the Spirit and fire, and here he is, in front of John, asking John to baptize Him!
And now, when we understand all of this, it makes the next sentence so much more clear. John says, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" I've heard many people puzzle over what this means. Why would John want to be baptized? Jesus wasn't out baptizing people, why would John expect Jesus to baptize him? Because John's message was that Jesus would baptize people. John wanted to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire!!
But he never was.
This is the sad story of John the Baptist from which we each can learn some lessons. Think of John, wasting away in prison, thinking through his life and his message, thinking "Where is the fire and the Holy Spirit?" The one thing that John longed for, the one thing that John preached for, the one thing that he asked Jesus for, he was never to receive. John died before the Spirit came in tongues of fire on Pentecost and the final piece of John's message was fulfilled.
What is it that you long for? What is the one thing that you just wish God would do? What are those things that you find yourself talking about spiritually and wondering if they will ever be accomplished?
Are you getting tired of waiting? Are you getting tired of talking and praying and seeing no fruit? Are you wondering if you were wrong all along, if this is maybe not God's will?
May the story of John the Baptist encourage you to keep pressing on no matter what the outcome. May you never tire of the things that God has placed on your heart but continue to proclaim them and to live them out.