John the Baptist is an intriguing person.
He was an extremely fervent and committed individualist who lived a life of austerity and strict discipline. Although he didn’t prophecy anything new he was the last prophet foretelling the Messiah. John was exceptionally holy. He chose to live in the desert, separated from people and the evils of society. He wore clothes made from camel’s hair. Traditionally camel hair was used for making tents and carpets because it was tough and insulative against cold desert nights. I wonder how comfortable it fit as clothes? He ate grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are delicious but they have to be cooked. Raw grasshoppers have parasites that could harm your health. The common manner of serving them is fritters, sautéed, roasted or skewered. It’s also easiest to catch them early in the morning when they are not so lively. It’s also good to eat grasshoppers caught in the desert because they don’t have much contact with pesticides. Some people who are squeamish about eating bugs maintain that John actually survived on the bean pods of the locust (or carob) tree. But whether it was bugs or beans, flavouring them with lots of honey sounds good to me. Except that some connoisseur’s admit that eastern wild honey is bitter. That fits into John’s strict and ascetic life style.
Admittedly John lived a humble and holy life style. He was committed and disciplined to being a godly servant. Yet he proclaimed that the Messiah was so much more superior to him, that he could only lay prostrate at His feet, not even able to raise himself high enough to tie Jesus shoe lace. John couldn’t even begin to compare himself to the calling and mission of his Lord.
But consider, even though John upheld such disciplined life standards, he still had enemies and in his mid-thirties ended up in prison, on death row. During his time in jail he contemplated much about the Jesus he had announced as the Messiah. And his thoughts were not complimentary. Actually he was offended at how Jesus was conducting Himself. Jesus did not measure up to what John conceived that He should be. He wasn’t a vegan; he was a drinker, a party-goer, popular, not stern and ascetic. And John began to ask doubting questions: “Are you actually the Messiah?” He was close to rejecting Jesus and begin looking for the real Messiah because Jesus didn’t measure up to his expectations.
How close was John to quitting?
Research records that only ¼ of the leaders in the Bible finished well. You and I know friends who no longer exhibit fruit of God’s presence in their life. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23) are not evident. Many Scriptures warn us about ‘not finishing the course’. I desire to finish my life’s course well but I do not want to be presumptuous that it is automatic. There are processes at work that continually undermine faith and discipleship. Jesus said: “Things that cause you to stumble or be offended at are bound to come.” (Luke 17:1) It is so easy to become offended at each other, or even at God, when things don’t add up as we presume they should. “After this, many of His disciples drew back (returned to their old associations) and no longer accompanied Him.” (John 6:66) Everyone has someone they are offended by, even close friends and leaders. I even get offended at myself!!
Definition of Offense = annoyance brought on by a perceived disregard of my expectations.
‘Offense’ is a small trigger that causes me to break a relationship because someone does not measure up to my expectations or what I had in mind. Separating from them or battling with them makes reasonable and logical sense.
John had spent thirty years in contemplation of the coming Messiah and now he was questioning what he had come to believe. His beliefs didn’t match up with reality. He was ready to quit.
What motivates me to break a relationship with someone I once loved and deeply cared about? What unanswered prayers do I have that urge me toward being offended at God? Have I analyzed why I feel offended that He hasn’t responded. Do I realize what my own notions, perceptions and dreams are? I expect, hope, and dream that God will respond in truth. But am I like John, measuring Him, not by the truth of His Word but according to my own traditions, understandings or cultural expectations?
May you be blessed as you approve with a renewed mind what your Father’s good, pleasing, and perfect will is. (Rom 12:1)
(original post Dec 6 2015 )