A Mysterious Messenger
A few days back, we read the story of John the Baptist for our family devotion. My 6-year-old curious daughter was unsettled to hear about the strange diet (locusts and wild honey) and uncanny clothing of John the Baptist (Matt 3:4). Her reaction made me wonder why God’s Son would choose such a bizarre man to announce His entry. If this is what the herald looked like, what is one to think of the King whose entry he announced?
But should we not refuse to judge the book by its cover? Luke tells us that this strange man was filled with the Spirit of God even before he was born (Luke 1:15) and became strong in the Spirit as he grew (Luke 1:80). And though he remained “a voice of one calling in the wilderness”, “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him” (Mark 1:3, 5). His lifestyle and his influence stand in stark contrast to the expectations of our generation seeped in prosperity theology, where poverty and being filled with the Holy Spirit are perceived to be antithetical – can a poor man be filled with the Holy Spirit? Can one filled with the Holy Spirit be poor?
For one, John was not a homeless hippie out on a world tour to get an all-time kick; his lifestyle was a part of his calling. His was a call to announce the arrival of a King, whose kingdom was not that of this world. He was the messenger of a carpenter’s son, who lived not in the secured walls of a palace, but ‘made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14). Could God have chosen a better herald?
Lent is a season to draw close to the One who calls us: to deliberately abstain from that which screams for our attention, to withdraw from that which is not God, to God, and to deconstruct and reconstruct our life in obedience to His call. It is a time to open ourselves in His presence to be unsettled, to be disrupted and to be willing to embrace that which may go against the grain. That is what John the Baptist teaches us today.