John the Baptist…in prison?

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Genesis 30:29 Jacob said to (his father-in-law Laban), “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your cattle have fared with me. 30 For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly; and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned” ….43 Thus (Jacob) grew exceedingly rich, and had large flocks, and male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys.

I usually comment on only one passage each day from the Moravian Daily Texts, but today there were two appointed passages that offer an interesting contrast.

First we have a passage from the Old Testament book of Genesis. Jacob was a bit of a scoundrel, no doubt. Frankly, he came from an entire family of scoundrels who made a habit of deceiving others for their own advantage. Yet the Lord blessed Jacob anyway because God had made a covenant (a promise) with Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. What’s interesting to me today is the form in which the blessing of God was expressed.

43 Thus (Jacob) grew exceedingly rich, and had large flocks, and male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys.

In much of the Old Testament, evidence of God’s blessing tended to take material form. This might have been material wealth (money, livestock, slaves). Blessing also took the form of numerous offspring and/or land to claim as one’s own. Whatever the case may have been, the favor of God was something expressed via blessings IN THIS LIFE. Now, look at a passage from the New Testament gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 11:When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” … (Jesus replied) 11 “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”

John the Baptist was certainly one favored by God. Yet read verse 2 again below:

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples…

Where was John the Baptist? IN PRISON! What ultimately happened to Jesus, the most favored person ever? CRUCIFIED! What the heck? It was hard for the people of Jesus’ day to accept him as the Messiah, in part because Jesus didn’t demonstrate evidence of God’s blessing in the way that was expected. He was clearly not someone of great “wealth” or “power”, at least the sort of wealth or power that people were accustomed to seeing. And, the truth is, this same issue can get in the way of modern believers.

Following after Jesus will not necessarily make you healthy, wealthy, and wise. Sorry. I realize that a gospel of prosperity resonates in our world, but it’s not the gospel Jesus taught or lived out. The gospel of Jesus tells us that many who follow him will suffer for our faith. We will be called to difficult places. We will be asked to do difficult things in Jesus’ name. We may even die for our faith. YET, the life we seek is not this temporary one, but an eternal one. So take heart those of you who struggle today. Do not believe the lie that somehow the Lord has forgotten about you. Know that, despite your adversity, God the Father holds you in the palm of his hand.

Heavenly Father, give us grace to endure the challenges of following after our Lord Jesus. When we are weak, make us strong. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

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