Not the Christ: John 1:19-34

Focus Passage: John 1:19-34 (NASB)

In this passage, John, the disciple of Jesus and the author of the gospel that is named after him, shares about John the Baptist – Jesus’ forerunner in ministry. John’s role that we learn in this passage is to help straighten the path of the Messiah, however, this didn’t come as an easy task.

Similar to what would happen with Jesus, John was called to answer for what He was doing in the wilderness by the Jordan River. The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask Him a simple question, “Who are you?” (v. 19)

On the surface, this seems kind of obvious. This man was John the Baptizer. But under the surface is a challenge: “Who are you to be doing what you are doing?” is likely what they were asking. Under the surface, these messengers wanted to have the question answered: “Are you the Messiah? Are you the Christ?”

John responded, “I am not the Christ.” (v. 20)

However, these messengers were not fazed. A number of others prophesied about individuals from Israel’s past, so “they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ And he [John the Baptist] said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’” (v. 21)

This is significant in the minds of those living at that time, because prior to this, God had been silent for close to 400 years. God had not left His people, nor had He stopped stepping in to help, but He had stopped sending prophets with messages from Him to the people.

But then John steps onto the scene in a public way, and he was the son of a priest, which likely perplexed the spiritual community in Jerusalem. If John was not the Messiah, or one of the other prominent men who were prophesied about, then these messengers have a problem. “Then they said to him, ‘Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’” (v. 22)

In John’s reply we discover our big truth. John responds by saying, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (v. 23)

John’s example is important for us today. John knew exactly what his role was in history. He was to be the one to call the people back to God and prepare their hearts and minds to meet the Messiah. Our role in history is similar to John’s. While we cannot prepare for an upcoming Messiah, while we are here on earth, we can point people to Jesus, and help them prepare their hearts and minds for His second coming. In this way, we are all called to be like John the Baptist.

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A Full Day’s Pay: Matthew 20:1-16

Focus Passage: Matthew 20:1-16 (NIV)

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Read Matthew 20:1-16 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

There are a few big ideas I saw in today’s passage, and the big idea I want to focus on today is something that I would be surprised if it will happen at the end of time. In this parable, God, represented by the landowner, pays all of his workers equally, even though they all work for different lengths of time.

It is fairly easy to see a parallel in the people who grew up as Christ-followers and are saved as being those who were “hired” early. We also can see the contrasting parallel in the people who live their whole life not knowing Jesus, but who right before death, turn to Jesus, and are saved (i.e. the thief on the cross).

When we get to Heaven, what this parable implies is that those who followed Jesus all their lives will be jealous and envious of those who lived sinfully for 99.9999999% of their lives. I don’t really see this as happening when we all get to Heaven because we will be thrilled to be there, we will be focused on Jesus, and we will be happy meeting those who we are able to share eternity with.

Why would we be jealous? At that point in time, the past is over, and we’ve won. It really doesn’t matter.

However, what if someone we really didn’t like, or who we thought was a horrible person is in Heaven? Will that bother us? Looking at it from our perspective on earth, while we are still “working in the field”, it is easy to be jealous and/or envious of those who are no longer in the field—especially if we believe they made it to Heaven after something horrible they had done. But when we are looking from the heavenly perspective, and we’re together with them in Heaven, I still have a difficult time thinking I would be jealous.

However, I do feel that this misses the point of the parable. This parable isn’t as much about the reward as it is about God’s generosity. God rewards everyone who worked in the field with a full day’s work even though none of us deserve a full day’s pay. That in my mind is an amazing thought and one that it is hard to feel any jealousy about.

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Revealing Your Secrets: Luke 8:16-18

Focus Passage: Luke 8:16-18 (NASB)

During one of the times that Jesus preached, Jesus points our attention to a very insightful truth that is incredibly challenging to every single person who has ever lived. While Jesus was talking about light, He makes the following statement, “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (v. 17)

In essence, Jesus is saying that no matter how dark your secret is, no matter how far down you have buried it, no matter if everyone has forgotten about it, there will be a point when your secret will be revealed. A shorter way to say this is simply: All secrets will eventually be revealed.

Now this is a challenging truth for every one of us. Many of us have secrets we don’t really want others to know about. Perhaps there are even some secrets that we want no one to discover. However, what we don’t have control over in Jesus’ words is whether these secrets stay hidden.

But we do have control over something: We can let time reveal our secrets on its terms, or we can reveal our own secrets on our own terms. While sharing secrets is never easy, and often times pain and tears follow, almost always is it better to reveal secrets on our own terms, because when we reveal it on our own terms, we give ourselves release from the pressure of keeping the secret.

While it might be a little obvious when I share it, there is another angle to secrets that we have control over. In your life and in my life, we can choose to make choices that are not secret-worthy. If we consistently act in a way that we don’t mind other people being aware of, then there is freedom from the need for secrecy. Some might call this “integrity” – living the same way in private as you do in public.

Jesus promises us that every secret ever kept will eventually be revealed. We have the choice to share our secrets on our own terms now, or let time spontaneously reveal our secrets on its terms.

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Faith Needed: Mark 6:1-6

Focus Passage: Mark 6:1-6 (GNT)

Jesus left that place and went back to his hometown, followed by his disciples. On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue. Many people were there; and when they heard him, they were all amazed. “Where did he get all this?” they asked. “What wisdom is this that has been given him? How does he perform miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters living here?” And so they rejected him.

Jesus said to them, “Prophets are respected everywhere except in their own hometown and by their relatives and their family.”

He was not able to perform any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith.

Then Jesus went to the villages around there, teaching the people.

Read Mark 6:1-6 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of Jesus’ return trips to Nazareth, He visits and teaches at His home synagogue. The people were amazed and impressed with what Jesus had said, but this led them to be skeptical towards Him instead of believing in Him.

Mark tells us that those in the synagogue asked, “Where did he get all this? What wisdom is this that has been given him? How does he perform miracles?” (v. 2b)

These people had a dilemma. They knew Jesus (the boy) and Jesus (the carpenter’s apprentice) very well. They didn’t know Jesus the Messiah. With the group of followers Jesus brought with Him came Jesus’ reputation of being a miracle worker, and this didn’t fit with their picture of a former carpenter. Becoming Messiah was not the next step up above carpenter for these people.

These people were more interested in figuring out the trick Jesus must be pulling than on simply having faith. They wanted to discover the secret to how He could perform miracles rather than accept that His miracles were performed because there was faith present.

This passage concludes in a fascinating way: After the synagogue service, Jesus stayed to help people, but “He was not able to perform any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith.” (v. 5-6)

The people rejected Jesus as being worthy of faith, and because of this, their desire to uncover the source of Jesus’ miraculous ability (the Holy Spirit) was hidden from them. Nothing Jesus could do would be able to break the preconceived ideas about Him that these people had in their minds, and because of this, only a few people out of the hundreds of people needing help were actually helped.

This wasn’t Jesus’ fault. It was the fault of the people present. These people didn’t think a former carpenter was capable of helping them. They lacked faith in God and faith in Jesus, and that is why we read that Jesus “was not able to perform” miracles. (v. 5)

While Jesus knew that God could heal those who were sick and hurting, He needed some faith from the people present, and in Nazareth, there was little to no faith.

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