Much like the highway road signs that alert you to what is coming, John the Baptist provides a significant introduction to the ministry of Jesus. In the Gospels, John the Baptist is the first recorded baptizer using water as he stands on the Jordan River. However, he is clear that “after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” What kind of humility and conviction did that take for John the Baptist to point toward the Messiah he knew was to come? Even before baptizing Jesus, John knew that the significance of the Holy Spirit was more glorious than anyone could expect.
Just because Jesus was followed by many, does not mean he was accepted by all. In a return to his hometown of Nazareth as an adult, Jesus begins to teach in the synagogue quoting the scroll of Isaiah. While many were amazed, the murmuring of his childhood acquaintances begin whispering comments of judgement and skepticism. Can’t you hear them wondering…“Who does Jesus think he is? He cannot possibly be THE Messiah! We saw him as an infant, he is one of us!”. As our lives progress, we grow. Where might we notice such growth in those around us… in encouraging and naming the indwelling of the Spirit of the Lord in others.
It is no coincidence that the central peak of Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is the prayer today commonly referred to as ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ Right before teaching his followers the specific verbiage of this prayer, Jesus insists that we must not pray to be ‘seen’. So often, our human tendencies implore us to do certain things in order to be seen. What could this mean that Jesus outlines a way of prayer that is counter-cultural? The Lord’s Prayer is one more way that we are bound to Christ, for we share the same words and hopes that Jesus himself spoke. Prayer does just that – it is the tie that binds.
Trust and faith are two sides of the same coin. A famous instance in the Gospel of Matthew demonstrates this by the Roman Centurion’s interaction with Jesus. For Gentiles and Jews, the tendency to embody the division of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ was just as tempting as we find it today. The Gentiles, people who religiously did not identify as Jewish by worshipping YHWH, populated different geographic regions than most Jews and both sides did not intermingle…on purpose anyway. Upon the arrival of Jesus’ teachings however, the Gospel message drastically flipped the present expectation upside down and new believers were formed.
What does it mean to be called and who exactly is called? In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus makes it clear that he desires for Andrew, Simon, John and James to follow him in discipleship. In fact, it says that ‘without delay’ he called them. Not only do they obey, but without hesitation. Today we are constantly being advertised things, movements, or persons to follow… how do we know which to follow, or where they might lead? Using scripture as our guidepost, we see that Jesus is a reliable source of trust. Jesus is the Word made flesh, the One who is worthy of our worship and discipleship.
“A beatitude simply means a statement of divine blessing; but the most famous Beatitudes are found spoken by Jesus at the onset of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Have you ever noticed that each of the nine blessings of Jesus’ Beatitudes are hinged on traits that are opposite of what the world says is valuable today? These Beatitudes demonstrate the reality of God’s expansive graciousness, and the motivation to continue pursuing the Way of the Lord in the face of a chaotic world.”
Jesus is famously accredited with many healing accounts by radically restoring physical health to many. However, the accompanying quality of such healings is the radical expression of love that flows from Jesus. In the Gospels, Jesus never qualifies the status, age, race, or ability of the person in need of healing – instead, he pursues the individual with intentionality and graciousness. Noticing others is a powerful gift… and offering grace and love to them without qualification is a direct emulation of Jesus.